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Sunday, January 11, 2009


Tonga's 176 islands range from steep, active volcanoes to low coral forms, most of which are uninhabited.Sightseeing highlights include the Royal Palace on the waterfront in Nuku’alofa, the Mala’ekula (Royal Tombs) and the Anahulu Cave, an underground cavern of stalactites and stalagmites. The islanders enjoy a laidback pace of life which visitors find easy to adopt, whether relaxing on one of the magnificent white sand beaches, diving among the stunning coral reefs or watching the migratory whales return to their breeding grounds from June to November.The islands were first visited by the Dutch in the early 17th century, and later by the British seafarer Captain Cook, who dubbed the archipelago the ‘friendly islands' in 1773. The adoption of Christianity by the ruling family - which followed the arrival of Methodist missionaries in the 1820s - and an overall policy of accommodation with the British - then the principal imperial power in the area - meant that the islands were not formally colonised. The ruling family of Tonga, the last remaining Polynesian Kingdom, can be traced back more than 1,000 years.