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Tonga Travel Guide

Night Dance
An 18th century night dance by women
at Nomuka, Ha'apai

Southern Ha'apai


One of the world's outstanding natural phenomena, this geographical freak 72 km northwest of Tongatapu was first observed in 1865 by the crew of HMS Falcon. Jack-in-the-box Fonuafo'ou (New Land) alternates between shoal and island. Sometimes this temperamental volcanic mound stands 100 meters high and three km long; other times the sea washes the exposed part away and it's completely under water. If you walk on it you're ankle deep in hot, black scoria (shaggy lava), an extremely desolate, blackened surface. At last report Fonuafo'ou was submerged again for the fifth time in the past 120 years.


Although the main island of the southern Ha'apai group, Nomuka has only 551 inhabitants and the number has fallen steadily in recent years. In the 18th century Nomuka was far from being the backwater it is today, and Tasman, Cook, and Bligh all called here to take on water from one of Nomuka's springs. A large brackish lake called Ano'ava sits in the middle of this triangular, seven-square-km coral island, each of the three sides of which is four km long.


This small island 69 km south of Pangai is notable for Villa Mamana,, a luxurious two-bedroom guesthouse with a large lounge and verandah. This "paparazzi-free" hideaway is available for a few thousand pa'anga a night for up to four persons (five-night minimum stay). All meals and boat transfers from Pangai are included. Recreational facilities include an outrigger sailing canoe, sport fishing, surfing excursions, and nature walks through the island.


Ha'afeva, 42 km southwest of Pangai, is sometimes visited in the night by the ferry plying between Lifuka and Nuku'alofa. Around 310 people live on this 181-hectare island but there's little reason for anyone else to get off here.