Harry and Meghan's island-hopping royal tour hits Tonga

2 min

Nuku'alofa (Tonga) (AFP)

Prince Harry and Meghan's tour of the Pacific continued Thursday when the British royals arrived to a lavish welcome in the island kingdom of Tonga, the region's only monarchy.

After jetting in from Fiji, the couple were greeted at the airport by Princess Angelika Latufuipeka and quickly departed for a private audience with Tonga's King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau'u.

Meghan, who is pregnant with their first child, immediately won over locals by wearing a bright red dress, the same colour as the Tongan flag.

Thousands of children, many wearing traditional ta'ovala mats around their waists, lined the 13 kilometre (eight mile) route into the capital Nuku'alofa, dancing and cheering as the royal motorcade passed.

Harry and his American-born wife then met Tonga's rulers, whose royal lineage stretches back 1,000 years, eclipsing Britain's House of Windsor.

A reception featuring Tongan dance and culture followed, with the British royals set to attend a string of engagements Friday before leaving after spending less than 24 hours in the country.

Earlier, they wrapped up a three-day visit to Fiji when Harry unveiled a statue to local war hero Talaiasi Labalaba at Nadi airport.

Labalaba, a sergeant in Britain's elite SAS, held off more than 200 communist rebels in Oman in the 1972 Battle of Mirbat.

He single-handedly manoeuvred a field howitzer to engage the rebels and pounded them with artillery rounds before being fatally shot as his colleagues tried to rescue him.

Harry, who spent 10 years in the British military, praised the warm welcome he and his wife had received in Fiji.

"We will leave with special memories of your beautiful country and look forward to returning in the future," he said.

Fiji President Jioji Konrote said he hoped to see the royal couple and their child in the future.

"You go with the love and best wishes of every Fijian and especially as you begin your own family with the arrival of your baby in the new year," he said.

"Thank you for gracing our shores during your short visit, it's good to know that you've promised to come back."

The royals opened their tour with a week-long visit to Australia and will return there briefly on Friday before ending the 16-day trip with a visit to New Zealand.