PHOTO: Aerial Nuapapu Island in Vava'u. Matamaka is located
at the bottom end of the large island in the middle.
Chathams Pacific is the friendly island's official airlines. It is the only domestic air carrier for Tonga. Air travel is the fastest way to explore all of Tonga's island groups if you have a limited amount of time in the country. The airline began operating April of 2008 and had only one major mishap since I my PC service began in Tonga (one of their smaller plane's bound to Ha'apai couldn't get the landing gear down, so it went back to Tongatapu and had a crash landing--no one died). Regardless, their other planes are vintage and comfortable. I have flown on it numerous times, so no need to doubt the airline--YES, the planes really do fly and are safe.
PHOTOS: Inside the seven seater plane and one of the large planes of Chathams.
I was able to ride one of the seven seater plane from Vava'u to Ha'apai (I'm currently in Ha'apai at the time of writing). It was quite an experience. The aerial views were absolutely amazing when riding a smaller plane. One person may even be the lucky one to sit up next to the pilot up front. Flight time from Vava'u to Ha'apai is only 25 minutes and only about an hour from Tongatapu to Vava'u. Chathams Pacific also holds the record for the shortest commercial flight in the world. The flight from Tongatapu to 'Eua is only seven minutes! "Ladies and gentlemen please keep your seatbelt fastened for the duration of the flight...1...2...3...4...5...6...7, okay we're here."
For more information about Chathams Pacific, check out their website at www.chathamspacific.com. They have special "Kingdom Passes" for travel throughout Tonga that may be worth checking out. The other option to get around Tonga is via sea. The new boat has arrived in Nuku'alofa and will be operating very soon. It will commence as soon as all the wharf expansion are completed in all of the island groups.
PHOTOS: Aerial shots of the Port of Refuge and the village of Holonga in Vava'u.