Tonga? Wear-The-Fox-Hat? by Robert Bryce

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Tonga Islands

Right, where is Tonga anyway?

You rarely hear of Tonga, more appropriately, “The Kingdom of Tonga,” because the Tongan government is not disposed to promote the country that much, at least not willingly. The recent tsunami made some waves that got some press, unfortunate as that event was for some. Fortunately, the area of Tonga where much of the tourism occurs was unscathed. The tsunami was a non-event in the Vava’u Island Group, save for the shark found 13 feet up in a tree on the protecting 600-foot cliff side of the group. Other evidence of a tsunami observed included an extra tide that same day. The sum of the events in Vava’u seems to have earned this haven the entitlement of “tsunami proof.”

No one here is complaining about the lack of limelight since there are some advantages to finding an unspoiled haven in today’s over cooked and burnt out world. Without any fanfare quite a few of us have found this secure hideaway of natural beauty and freedom beyond comprehension. Our expat community is steadily growing with little prompting. With this growth so has the opportunity improved here.

I have been the catalyst in developing the country having the distinction of being the first to really attempt it and presented with the first license to do so. The setting is particularly stunning in the Vava’u and Ha’apai Island Groups and, being a sharing kind of guy, it was difficult for me to keep such a treasure a secret. Now it has become a bit of a business. I tend to it with the same consideration I would with my own revered family, quite honestly and forthrightly.

No, this Tonga is not in Africa in spite of what the US Post Office seems to insist; forever sending our packages to the Tonga there. This gentle Tonga is located in the southern hemisphere in the middle of the South Pacific near Fiji and equally south of Samoa. Tonga is a remarkably safe, free and beautiful place to reside, particularly in the Vava’u Island Group choice of Tonga’s 3 major island groups. That huge tsunami proof reef system protects these emerald island jewels of Vava’u with their white sandy beaches from about anything Mother Nature might serve up. We reside in a rather lake-like water wonderland, safe for small boats and insulating us from the big sea outside. Here you can own a home on the water with a boat on your own dock out front on placid waters and still be only a few minutes drive from the main town and the airport. Tonga has it all, hospitals, building supplies, fresh food, satellite TV, Internet, and even an Ace Hardware. Vava’u is situated about perfectly in the latitude of 18 degrees south of the equator; not too hot and not too cold; not too big and not too small, a storybook place for us all.

History abounds in these islands. The islands were dubbed “The Friendly Islands” by Captain Cook as he sailed through here in the mid 1700’s; and the name still aptly applies. The famous mutiny on the Bounty occurred in Tonga in 1789. Those of us living here now better understand that incident for the underlying factors that may have been the true motivation for mutiny. Even if Captain Bligh were a sweetheart, the absorbed in Tonga crew confronted with the choice of remaining in our paradise or returning to (not so) jolly old England may have been compelled to choose paradise. In the face of it you might consider mutiny too. To some degree, all of us living here have I suppose.

Tonga is a kingdom but unlike the storybook Kingdoms where tyrants rule, Tonga’s government is tempered by a lot of English, Australian and New Zealand influence. Tonga is an independent Kingdom with a remarkably free and open society and wisely with English law, English language and English judges, which tends to secure not only investments here, but life in general in this benign Constitutional Monarchy. Crime is virtually nonexistent in Vava’u, the crown jewel of the Tongan island groups. The police have no guns and no need for them and the jail requires inmates to return before 6 pm, or, as the sign used to say, they are “locked out.”

However, like some of the storybook kingdoms, we do have our Alice in Wonderland moments and “Mad Hatter” kinds of interesting and humorous experiences, but no one has ever had to paint the roses red. It is hard to relate the whole living experience here in a short blog, but the summary of it is; it is like coming out from under ether. As you wake up you come to some realizations that, prior to Tonga, you have not been living life on all eight cylinders. Life has more horsepower when unthrottled. The saying, “you can’t see the forest through the trees” takes on a new understanding when you look back at what we were and from whence we came; introduced to new and enlightened perspectives. Admittedly, some have abused the lack of restriction in this lovely place, just as some kids might when the teacher leaves the classroom. All in all, the experience is worth the “selling out” back home and joining this progressive group of seekers of a lifestyle denied the masses in most of the overly proscribed world.

TV, yes we have it, satellite and all, but most of us have noted that real life here seems to occupy us affording little time or interest for sitting in front of a tube watching someone else’s faked episodes that fall short compared to our own newly enriched lives. Somehow watching lowly politicians make fools of themselves and scenes of war and terror lose out to watching the whales swim by from your veranda, or a short boat ride or drive to a secluded island beach for a picnic with friends and family. We seem to have no idea of how much influence that wretched box of programmed media of demented minutia has upon us. Getting out from under the tube and cleansing your mind of fears and subliminal controls is very therapeutic.

In summary; Tonga has a great deal to offer in the way of lifestyle, opportunity and just plain retirement living. Its growing expat community is attracted in part by the inviting condition that you can retire with residency here with just $8,000 USD per year of “assured income.” There are investment opportunities from high interest deposit accounts to land investments that track 100% increases in less than one year periods. Building rental homes is one market that is growing nicely. You can live inexpensively or in affordable luxury, relaxed and with no fear of being over taxed or axed.

Living in an ancient and friendly culture has its advantages. It is a bit of a hideaway from the uncertainties and perils of dubious governments and rabid leaders unleashed. Many here have sold out of their homelands opting for what dreams are made of and not letting the big bad wolf get in the way. In Tonga, our real freedom and life in an environment secure and serene makes a mockery of where they package and have to repeatedly sell this freedom package to the public in concealed bondage. The proceeds from our sale of the house and expensive car back there have some of us living good here. Very few of us miss or long to return to the scene of the crimes, but to do so is only a day’s flying back at the worst. It is a small world truly, so why not move across the pond where the grass is truly greener? That is a rhetorical question that shouldn’t need an answer, just action. Just do it. You will be glad you did.

Robert Bryce is the original “realtor” of Tonga, lured into real estate by expat demand and willing to lend a hand to the good folks who wish to grace these shores. Let us all be friends. tongaproperty@yahoo.com