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Photo of the Month - exploring the Story behind the Image...

Sunset in the Garden of the Hideaway Hotel

Sunset in the Garden of the Hideaway Hotel

Year: 2014, Month: June

Tonga > Eua Island > Ohonua

Continuing on with the theme of lush green vegetation, this month's photo sees me moving on from Fiji and arriving in the next country to the east: the Kingdom of Tonga. Split into a number of island groups, Tonga has a variety of cliamtic and vegetative regions, each quite different. The most astonishing of all, and my personal favourite, is the island of Eua, a short three hour trip by ferry from the capital Tongatapu, or a ridiculously brief nine minute flight from the main airport, making it one of the world's shortest scheduled airline flights. Passengers probably shouldn’t expect an inflight meal. Unlike most of Tonga, Eua Island is hilly and covered in lush rainforest, and its combination of breathtaking beauty and rugged, idiosyncratic landscapes is the perfect destination for travellers in search of adventure and eco experiences.

Geographically Eua is the Kingdom’s oldest island, and is renowned in Tongan legend as where the Polynesian god Maui stood when he fished up the islands of Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Vava’u from the deep Pacific blue. Look forward to the Kingdom’s best trekking with well-marked trails criss-crossing the pristine Eua National Park. Strike out on your own, or join a guided walk with the friendly locals, learning about Tongan history and culture as you explore. Experience the spectacular cliffs, caves and sinkholes of northern Eua, or venture to the rocky southern coastline. Watch sea birds soaring atop the thermal currents swirling around Eua’s dramatic cliffs, or descend through verdant rainforest to the ocean below. Markedly larger wildlife includes visiting Humpback whales from June to November, often cruising remarkably close to Eua’s rocky shoreline. For divers, Eua’s most spectacular highlight is one of the Pacific’s largest underwater caverns, with natural light illuminating a huge amphitheatre at a depth of almost 30 metres.

Eua is a hilly island, the highest peaks are the Te'emoa (chicken manure) 312 m, with the grave of the soldier on top, and the Vaiangina (watersprings) 305 m. The island is not volcanic, but was shaped by the rubbing of the Tonga plate against the Pacific plate, pushing Eua up and leaving the 7 km deep Tonga trench on the bottom of the ocean, a short distance towards the east. The soil of Eua is volcanic, as is that of Tongatapu, but only the top layer, deposited by eruptions of nearby volcanoes ten thousands years ago. Under it are the solid rocks of pushed-up coral. Eua counts many huge caves and holes, not all of which have yet been explored. Eua is the only island in Tonga that has a river.

So, with all these wonders to explore, you might think that Eua Island is packed with tourist resorts and fancy hotels. Actially, this isn't the case, and Eua is surprisingly under-developed. There really aren't that many places to stay at all on Eua, so it pays to book ahead if you are planning a visit. My favourite is the Hideaway Hotel, a pleasant collection of rooms and bungalows located not far from the only town, in a very scenic location on the west coast. This photo was taken in the garden, just before sunset, and shows the path that leads down to a small cabana on the western shore - a perfect place to watch the spectacular color show that Eua does so well.

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