Welcome to Tofua & Kao
Tofua is a flat-topped volcanic island that, like Niuafo’ou in the Niua Group, looks not unlike a huge floating life ring when viewed from above. It started life as a classic cone-shaped volcano but the top blew off in a violent eruption, creating a caldera, in the middle of which is a freshwater lake 38m above sea level. The crater rim is a tough one-hour climb from the Hokala landing site on the northern side of the island.
Adding to Tofua’s intrigue, champion Swiss snowboarder Xavier Rosset decided to play modern-day Robinson Crusoe here in 2008 and spent 10 months on the island in survival mode. He took a satellite phone and blogged about his adventures – have a look online at www.xavierrosset.ch.
The four-hour hike up uninhabited Kao, a perfect volcanic cone 4km north of Tofua, is not recommended without a guide. The summit is the highest point in Tonga, but there is no marked track and the vegetation closes in around you in a green tropical embrace.
Unless you're on a yacht, reaching Tofua and Kao is not easy. Talk to the Pangai Visitor Information Centre or the or boat-tour operators around Lifuka if you're keen. It should be considered a major expedition, not a day trip: taking along a local guide is a smart move.