Samoa and Tonga

For those looking to get away…..really away!

Let Journey Pacific help you create your personalized dream vacation to the island Nations of Samoa or Tonga. Click on Samoa & Tonga Map, for regions to explore.

Whether you are looking to browse through Samoa or Tonga Resorts for a general vacation or would like recommendations for resorts suitable for a Samoa or Tonga Honeymoons we can help. Just give our Samoa and Tonga specialist Carol Cook a call or shoot her an e-mail and she will be glad to help.

Samoa is popular with travelers looking for Diving, Golfing and Surfing. Tonga is popular for travelers looking for Diving and Whale Watching.

About Samoa

Culture

Samoa is a traditional society with a distinctive Polynesian cultural heritage. There are over 362 villages in Samoa with a total of 18,000 matai (chiefs). Villages are made up of customary land owned by the extended family units called aiga, whose head is a matai (chief). Traditional authority is vested in the matai of the village. The central structure in each village is the church as well as the Fale Fono, where the matais meet to discuss village matters.

Protocols

The Samoan culture, ‘Faa Samoa’ has a h2 focus on welcoming visitors. However, it is important that you follow protocol when you enter villages and use village resources, including beaches. Avoid walking through villages during the evening prayer curfew (usually between 6pm and 7pm). This usually lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is often marked at the beginning and end by a bell or the blowing of a conch shell. Respect Sunday. While many visitor attractions are open on Sunday, you are expected to behave quietly and to travel slowly through villages. Skimpy clothing is not recommended in villages, and will cause offence. Women are recommended to wear a lavalava (sarong) rather than shorts or pants, especially if they attend church. Almost all shops are shut on Sunday, so buy what you need the day before. No nude or topless (for women) swimming or sunbathing. Shoes should be removed before entering a fale. Never stand within a fale when elders are seated. When sitting in a fale, avoid pointing your feet at others. Either tuck them away, cross them (yoga style) or cover them with a lavalava or mat. Always ask permission from your host before taking photos in a village. Don’t offer children money, even if they ask. If in any doubt, ask your host or a village member.

History

Samoans are believed to have migrated from the West, (the East Indies, the Malay Peninsula or the Philippines). The oldest known site of human occupation in Samoa is Mulifanua on Upolu dating back to about 1000 BC (about 3000 years ago). By far the most important agents of change in Samoa were the Western missionaries. The missionary influence on Samoan life was so h2 they are now a devoutly religious people with much time devoted to church activities. After the outbreak of World War I, New Zealand took administrational control of Samoa from 1914 up to the day of independence in January 1962. Between 1962 and 1997 Samoa was known as the Independent State of Western Samoa (or more simply Western Samoa), but has since dropped the ‘Western’ from its name.

Robert Louis Stevenson

This great Scottish author of such books as Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde to name a few, settled in Samoa in the early 1890s with his family. The Samoan’s gave him the name ‘Tusitala’ – meaning ‘teller of tales’. After his death he was buried with a ceremony normally reserved for royalty. You can visit his beautiful island plantation home, which is now a museum. The home and grounds have been restored to reflect the glory and grandeur of past eras.

Geography

Samoa is located east of the International Dateline between longitudes 171 and 172 degrees west and latitudes 13 and 14 degrees south of the Equator. It is about 2890km from Auckland, 1200km from Suva, 4400km from Sydney and 8400km from Los Angeles. Samoa is comprised of two relatively large islands, Upolu and Savaii (which account for approximately 96% of the total land area) and eight smaller islands. The capital Apia and Faleolo International Airport are located on the island of Upolu. Total land area is 2934 sq km. The islands are volcanic and dominated by rugged mountain ranges with a fringe of coral reefs and lagoons which surround the islands.

Flora & Fauna

Samoa’s tropical climate and fertile soils offer a wide range of flora from tropical rainforests to scrublands, marshes and swamps. Animal species include flying foxes, land and sea birds, skinks and geckos. In the surrounding ocean, dolphins, whales and porpoises migrate through Samoa’s waters, while turtles are regular visitors to our islands. The surrounding reefs around the islands are home to some 900 fish species and over 200 varieties of coral.

Weather

Samoa has two distinct seasons – the dry season, which runs from May – October and the wet season from November to April. Average monthly minimum temperatures are in the low 20′s (Celcius, 70′s Farenheit), with maximums in the high 20′s (Celsius, up to 86 Farenheit) all year round.

People

Samoa’s population is approximately 180,000. Samoans are the most populous full-blooded Polynesian race in the world.

Language

Samoan is the national language, but English is the official language of business. Most Samoans are competent in English. Below are some useful Samoan words to learn:
English Samoan Pronunciation
Hello Talofa Tah-low-far
Goodbye Tofa Tor-far
Thank you Fa’afetai Far-ah-fay-tie
Please Fa’amolemole Fah-ah-more-le-more-le
Yes Ioe Ee-or-e
No Leai Le-eh
Maybe Masalo Mar-sar-lor

Dress

Light summer clothing is appropriate all year round, with perhaps a light sweater for the cooler evenings. Smart casual evening wear is appropriate for hotels and restaurants. Visitors are requested not to wear bathing suits in Apia or in the villages. No nude or topless (for women) swimming or sunbathing. Women are recommended to wear a lavalava (sarong) or dress, rather than shorts or trousers, if they attend church.

Religion & Church

The main religious denominations in Samoa are Congregational, Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Seven Day Adventist, Bahai, Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witness. Sundays in Samoa are dedicated to God, with families usually attending church in the mornings followed by a family to’onai (lunch) and resting for the remainder of the day. You are welcome to attend the services. Please ask at your hotel reception for service times.

Public Holidays

New Year’s Day, January 1st
Day after New Year’s Day, January 2nd
Head of State’s Birthday, January 4th
Good Friday, April 14th
Easter Sunday, April 16th
Easter Monday, April 17th
ANZAC Day, April 25th
Mother’s Day, May 15th
Independence Day, June 1st
Independence Day Celebration, June 2nd
Father’s Day, August 14th
Lotu a Tamaiti (White Sunday), October 9th
Arbor Day, November 3rd
Christmas Day, December 25th
Boxing Day, December 26th

Taxes

There is a 15% tax (VAGST) on accommodation, food and drinks.

Visas and Entry Requirements

Visitors to Samoa do not require an entry permit for stays of less than 60 days, however you must have an onward or return ticket and valid passport (six months or more). An entry permit is required for visits longer than 60 days.

Faleolo International Airport

All visitors arriving in Samoa by air touch down at Faleolo International Airport, which is about 35km (1 hour drive) to the west of the nation’s capital, Apia.

Currency Exchange / Visitor Information

ATMs and money exchange services are available after clearing customs and immigration, providing convenient access to the local currency. The Samoa Tourism Authority also operates a visitor information booth, which is open for all arriving flights, no matter what time they get in.

Electricity

The Samoan electricity supply provides 240 Volt / 50 Hz AC power through the same three-pronged style of plug that is used in Australia and New Zealand. Use of American appliances will require an adapter and a voltage converter, which can be supplied in some of the hotels, although to be safe, it is best to bring your own.

About The Islands of Tonga

Tonga, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean south of Samoa, also known as the Friendly Islands, it comprises 176 islands, 36 of them are inhabited. Tonga is the only monarchy in the Pacific since Taufa’ahau (King George) in 1875 declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy; he also gave Tonga its first constitution. In 1970 the former British protectorate acquired its independence. Almost two-thirds of Tonga’s population live on the main island Tongatapu, on which the capital city Nuku’alofa is located.

Culture

Welcome to life in the slow lane. Here, time dances to the rhythms of the oceans and the sound of church bells on Sunday. In fact, on a trip to Tonga you’d sometimes be forgiven for thinking time has stood still. That’s because, despite embracing many elements of the contemporary world, Tongans still proudly retain their authentic culture and traditions. Couple this with a Polynesian monarchy that dates back many centuries, and you have a country that remains as close to the ‘true’ Polynesia as you’re likely to find. Many Tongans still live in village communities following traditional customs, especially on the outer islands. The distinctive traditional dress ‘ta’ovala’ – woven waist mats – are commonly worn. Fish and vegetables are still cooked in earth ovens called Umus and the ceremonial tradition of kava drinking, the traditional Polynesian drink, is a very real part of Tongan life. This is partly because Tonga is the only Pacific Island nation never colonized by a foreign power. Uniquely, Tonga has also never lost its indigenous governance. After over 1000 years of rule, today’s monarchy and its structure still remain the most powerful and influential entity in Tonga. Tongatapu’s stone trillithon, gateway Ha’amoga ‘A Maui, dating back many centuries, stands as a powerful reminder of the legacy of this ancient and proud royal culture. In more recent times time, Tonga has also been h2ly influenced by Christianity and now probably boasts more churches per head of population than anywhere else on earth. The islands resonate with hymns and harmonies every Sunday, a day of rest by law on the islands, and visitors are welcome to attend the services. Many do and leave with special memories of the experience. Tongan arts and handicrafts, including bone carving, wood carving, basket making and fine weaving made using techniques passed down through generations of Tongan craftspeople, are everywhere too. Readily available at stalls and markets all over the islands, they make beautiful keepsakes to remind travellers of time spent here. Probably the most famous local craft is the making of Tapa, a decorative bark cloth painted with traditional symbols and designs. Tapa is usually offered as a gift of respect at weddings, births and funerals. Another vibrant and colourful experience for many visitors to Tonga is the graceful and dignified dancing of the Kingdom. Dancers step their feet and move their arms in intricate gestures, complemented by decoration such as beautiful bracelets, neck garlands and the tekiteki (a feather headpiece), creating another memorable expression of local tradition. So make sure you pack plenty of memory for your camera to capture these special moments for the future. Because, across over 170 of the most beautiful islands on earth you’ll find people connected by unity and a respect for tradition you simply won’t find anywhere else.

People

The population of Tonga is estimated at 104,000 (no one knows for sure). Approximately 98% of the inhabitants are pure Polynesians, closely akin to the Samoans in physical appearance, language, and culture. As in Samoa, the bedrock of the Tongan social structure is the traditional way of life — faka Tonga — and the extended family. Parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews all have the same sense of obligation to each other as is felt in Western nuclear families. The extended-family system makes sure that no one ever goes hungry or without a place to live.

The Tongan System

The extended family aside, some striking differences exist between Tonga, Samoa, and the other Polynesian islands. Unlike the others, in which there is a certain degree of upward mobility, Tonga has a rigid two-tier caste system. The king and 33 “Nobles of the Realm” — plus their families — make up a privileged class at the top of society. Everyone else is a commoner, and although commoners can hold positions in the government (a commoner serves as prime minister), it’s impossible for them to move into the nobility even by marriage. Titles of the nobility are inherited, but the king can strip members of their positions if they fail to live up to their obligations (presumably including loyalty to the royal family).
Technically the king owns all the land in Tonga, which in effect makes the country his feudal estate. Although the nobles each rule over a section of the kingdom, they have an obligation to provide for the welfare of the serfs rather than the other way around. The nobles administer the villages, look after the people’s welfare, and apportion the land among the commoners.

Tongan Dress

Even traditional dress reflects the Tongan social structure. Western-style clothes have made deep inroads in recent years, especially among young persons, but many Tongans still wear wraparound skirts known as valas. These come to well below the knee on men and to the ankles on women. To show their respect for the royal family and to each other, traditional men and women wear finely woven mats known as ta’ovalas over their valas. Men hold these up with waistbands of coconut fiber; women wear decorative waistbands known as kiekies. Tongans have ta’ovalas for everyday wear, but on special occasions they break out mats that are family heirlooms, some of them tattered and worn. The king owns ta’ovalas that have been in his family for more than 500 years. Tongan custom is to wear black for months to mourn the death of a relative or close friend. Because Tongan extended families are large and friends numerous, almost everyone in traditional Tonga dress wears black. Because Tonga and Samoa lie east of the 180th meridian, both countries should logically be in the same day. But Tonga wanted to have the same date as Australia and New Zealand, so the line was drawn arbitrarily east of Tonga, putting it 1 day ahead of Samoa. To travelers, it’s even more confusing because the time of day is the same in Tonga and Samoa. When traveling from one to the other, only the date changes. For example, if everyone is going to church at 10am on Sunday in Tonga, everyone’s at work on Saturday in Samoa. Tonga’s Seventh-day Adventists, who celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday but work on Sunday, have taken advantage of this abnormality to avoid running afoul of Tonga’s tough Sunday blue laws. In God’s eyes, they say, Sunday in Tonga really is Saturday. Accordingly, Tonga is the only place in the world where Seventh-day Adventists observe their Sabbath on Sunday.

Religion

Tongans converted to Christianity in the old days — apparently an easy transition, as Tongan legend holds that their own king is a descendant of a supreme Polynesian god and a beautiful earthly virgin. Today about half of all Tongans belong to the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, founded by early Methodist missionaries and headed by the king. The Free Church of Tonga is an offshoot that is allied with the Methodist synods in Australia and New Zealand. There are also considerable numbers of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Seventh-day Adventists, and Mormons. Church services are usually held at 10am on Sunday, but few are conducted in English. St. Paul’s Anglican Church, on the corner of Fafatehi and Wellington roads, usually has communion in English on Sunday at 8am. The royal family worships at 10am in Centenary Church, the Free Wesleyan Church on Wellington Road, a block behind the Royal Palace.
The red national flag has a cross on a white field in its upper corner to signify the country’s h2 Christian foundation. As was the case throughout Polynesia, the Tongans accepted most of the puritanical beliefs taught by the early missionaries but stopped short of adopting their strict sexual mores. Today Tongan society is very conservative in outlook and practice in almost every aspect of life except the sexual activities of unmarried young men and women. Tongan families without enough female offspring will raise boys as they would girls. They are known in Tongan as fakaleitis (like a woman) and live lives similar to those of the mahus in Tahiti and the fa’afafines in the Samoas. In Tonga they have a reputation for sexual promiscuity and for persistently approaching Western male visitors in search of sexual liaisons.

History

The dates of the initial settlement of Tonga are still subject to debate, nonetheless one of the oldest occupied sites is found in the village of Pea on Tongatapu. Based on radiocarbon dating of a shell found at the site dates the occupation at 3180 ± 100 BP (Before Present).[5] Some of the oldest sites pertaining to the first occupants of the Tongan Islands are found on Tongatapu which is also where the first Lapita ceramics were found by WC McKern in 1921.[6] Nonetheless, reaching the Tongan islands (without Western navigational tools and techniques) was a remarkable feat accomplished by the Lapita peoples. Not much is known about Tonga before European contact because of the lack of a writing system during prehistoric times other than the oral history told to the early European explorers. The first time the Tongan people encountered Europeans was in 1616 when the Dutch vessel Eendracht made a short visit to the islands to trade.

Tongan Maritime empire

By the 12th century, Tongans, and the Tongan kings, the Tu’i Tonga, were known across the Pacific, from Niuē, Samoa to Tikopia they ruled these nations for over 400 years, sparking some historians to refer to a “Tongan Empire,” although it was more so a network of interacting navigators, chiefs, and adventurers. It is unclear whether chiefs of the other islands actually came to Tonga regularly to acknowledge their sovereign. Distinctive pottery and Tapa cloth designs also show that the Tongans have travelled from the far reaches of Micronesia, all the way to Fiji and even Hawaii.

European arrival and Christianisation

In the 15th century and again in the 17th, civil war erupted. It was in this context that the first Europeans arrived, beginning with Dutch explorers Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire. Between April 21 to 23, 1616 they moored at the Northern Tongan islands “Cocos Island” (Tafahi) and “Traitors Island” (Niuatoputapu), respectively. The kings of both of these islands boarded the ships and Le Maire drew up a list of Niuatoputapu words, a language now extinct. On April 24, 1616 they tried to moor at the “Island of Good Hope” (Niuafo’ou), but a less welcoming reception there made them decide to sail on. On January 21, 1643, the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to visit the main island (Tongatapu) and Haʻapai after rounding Australia and New Zealand. The most significant impact had the visits of Captain Cook visits in 1773, 1774, and 1777, followed by the first London missionaries in 1797, and the Wesleyan Methodist Walter Lawry in 1822. Around that time most Tongans converted en masse to the Wesleyan (Methodist) or Catholic faiths. Later other denominations followed like Pentecostals, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and most recently the Bahá’í faith.

Unification

In 1799 the 14th q Tuʻi Kanokupolu, Tukuʻaho was murdered, which sent Tonga into a civil war for fifty years. Finally the islands were united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845 by the ambitious young warrior, strategist, and orator Tāufaʻāhau. He held the chiefly title of Tu’i Kanokupolu, but was baptised with the name King George Tupou I. In 1875, with the help of missionary Shirley Baker, he declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy, at which time he emancipated the ‘serfs’, enshrined a code of law, land tenure, and freedom of the press, and limited the power of the chiefs. Tonga became a British protected state under a Treaty of Friendship on May 18, 1900, when European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs tried to oust the second king. The Treaty of Friendship and protected state status ended in 1970 under arrangements established prior to her death by the third monarch, Queen Sālote. Tonga joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970, and the United Nations in 1999. While exposed to colonial forces, Tonga has never lost indigenous governance, a fact that makes Tonga unique in the Pacific and gives Tongans much pride, as well as confidence in the monarchical system. The British High Commission in Tonga closed in March 2006. Tonga’s current king, Tupou VI, traces his line directly back through six generations of monarchs. The previous king, George Tupou V born in 1948, continued to have ultimate control of the government until July 2008. At that point, concerns over financial irregularities and calls for democracy led to his relinquishing most of his day-to-day powers over the government.

Climate

Despite its great latitudinal range, Tonga does not experience dramatically diverse climatic conditions. Vava’u and the Niuas are noticeably warmer than Tongatapu, and ‘Eua is noticeably cooler.

Currency

In Tonga their currency is pa’anga. ATMs and money exchange services are available after clearing customs and immigration, providing convenient access to the local currency.

Taxes

There is a 15% tax Tonga Government Consumption Tax on accommodation, food and drinks.

Language

In Tonga the languages spoken are English and Tongan.

Electricity

Electricity in Tonga is 240 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to Tonga with a device that does not accept 240 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. There are three main types of voltage converter. Resistor-network converters will usually be advertised as supporting something like 50-1600 Watts. They are light-weight and support high-wattage electrical appliances like hair dryers and irons. However, they can only be used for short periods of time and are not ideal for digital devices. Transformers will have a much lower maximum Watt rating, usually 50 or 100. Transformers can often be used continuously and provide better electricity for low wattage appliances like battery chargers, radios, laptop computers, cameras, mp3 players and camcorders. However, they are heavy because they contain large iron rods and lots of copper wire. Some companies sell combination converters that include both a resistor network and a transformer in the same package. This kind of converter will usually come with a switch that switches between the two modes. If you absolutely need both types of converter, then this is the type to buy.