On January 25, 2011, Tropical cyclone Wilma ravaged the tiny South Pacific Island of Ha'apai in TONGA.

A tsunami hit the island and wiped out a large percentage of the fruit crops and many homes, not to mention Matafonua Resort who had four of their beach fales destroyed.

Coming to visit this island just over a year later, there was really no sign of any cyclone or tsunami. Just a tranquil tropical paradise like no other I have ever seen.

Of all the places I have visited in the world in my lifetime, Tonga was somewhere I was really excited to get to.

I just had this feeling it was going to be some place very special.

There is a reason Tonga is named “the Friendly Islands”, and it was to be very obvious why !

Arriving in Foa on our 18 seater “pencil thin" plane, we were met by our hosts Pat and Paddy from Sandy Beach Resort. It was pure chance, or as it turns out, pure luck that we fell into the hands of Sandy Beach.

A Google search and brief email enquiry answered quickly by their incredibly friendly local office assistant Peta, was the selling point in choosing this location to stay. Their customer service was beyond excellent. I was loving Tonga before I even got there.......

Little did we know that Ha'apai is not the first choice of holiday destination in Tonga for most due to its incredibly remote location and very slow pace. There are no shops, no bars, we had no TV’s, no noise and hardly any cars ......just tropical paradise serenity.

I went to sleep early and woke each day early and it was always to the sound of waves lapping at the shore......

This is a place I could return to over and over, knowing that they will fight tooth and nail to preserve it in its natural form. They don't want a big booming 5 star tourist industry here, and I for one hope that it never happens.

This is the "real Tonga" and it was heaven on earth. Malo Foa, thank you for having me......

Click here to read her other story and Matafonua Whaleswim.

Story by: Emma Hicks; email: emma.hicks@avon.com

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