Families embraced and cried tears of joy on Monday as they reunited at Tonga's airport -- the inaugural arrivals to the Pacific nation after it lifted Covid restrictions for the first time since the pandemic struck.
After Tonga shut its borders in March 2020, the government had tightly controlled a select list of people who were approved to fly into the kingdom -- leaving over 3,000 Tongans stuck overseas.
But with restrictions lifted, Monday's first batch of tourists and returning Tongans -- greeted with colourful garlands and serenaded by a band at the Fua'amotu International Airport -- will not have to undergo quarantine.
The first plane to land was an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland carrying around 200 passengers.
"It's good to be back," said 'Etu Palu, eager to see family again with his mother Finau Palu, who said it was "good to visit the motherland!"
Another passenger, Siosaia Filikitonga, said this was his first visit to Tonga in more than two years because of the pandemic.
"I am happy and emotional. Once Tonga announced the border re-opening, I booked to come," Filikitonga said.