The Ha’apai Group consists of low coral atolls set amongst coral reefs, spectacular in their colour and variety, however channels can only be navigated by smaller passenger vessels. The villages are neat and carefully set out on manicured lawns.

Ha’apai’s administrative centre, Lifuka, is the sort of place which some people come to for a couple of days and wish they could stay a couple of months, while others wish themselves elsewhere after a couple of hours. If tranquility, an almost stationary pace of life, and an indication of how most of the South Seas once was are what you seek then this is the place for you.

Ha’apai is rarely visited and it would be no surprise if you find yourself in Ha’apai as the only visitor. You may find there a number of foreigners, but they will most likely be there either as volunteers or some similar capacity.

‘Ulukalala Finau captured and sunk the Port au Prince here in Ha’apai and the young William Mariner was spared during the sacking. Mr. Mariner’s recording of his four years in Tonga is a classic work on early Polynesian life.

The English explorer Captain James Cook visited Lifuka in 1777 and from the festivities and cordial nature of the people named the island the “Friendly Island”. The name has since been applied to the entire Kingdom.

In Ha’apai it is almost obligatory to show gestures of greeting as you pass by people on the road, or hear their greetings from their dwellings. A nice friendly, relaxing environment for the visitor who mostly wants to relax.

The Sandy Beach resort and Juergen Stavenow have become part of the Ha’apai landscape. I always thought the sign of a good establishment is when the locals also congregate to it. We have family who on visits to Tonga have often chosen Sandy Beach’s accommodation if not their water activities.

Beautiful views of marine life in Ha’apai.

And the adventurous, near local, getting there on the inter-island ferries, is an experience all of it’s own.

The Travel Tips from one of the near locals

Uoleva, one of the islands of the Ha’apai Group is in ‘walking’ distance from the main island. You just have to wait fo the low tide (unless you have a horse to pull you along.)

Rory Travels Anwhere did the walk and the view was amazing.