diving Vavau

Tonga, the last kingdom in the Pacific – we are enjoying Vava’u

Vavau, Tonga

Cool, so finally we are here in Tonga. It feels so different from the countries we have been before. Of course, the procedure of checking in that took us more than 4 hours was really an interesting first experience…

Also we finally have crossed the date line as in Niue we still had -12 and in Tonga it is currently UTC +13. As a result the 9th of September didn’t exist for us… In addition, we are “officially on our way home”, since just the day before we have passed the point that is on the other side of our home town Trimmis 😉


Mecki just comes on board of She San in order to hide from the rain – shortly after he gives Reto an Ukulele lesson…
Market Neiafu
The market in Neiafu, finally buying fruit and vegetables is fun again 😉
Also “our” customs officer get his ration of vitamins in the form of taro leaves…
Neiafu -only a few meter outside the center of town it gets quite rural…
… and everywhere we see hords of young pigs!
The graves of important persons can be identified by their coulorful decoration.

On our second day in Neiafu a men comes up to our boat – “it’s raining and I will come up and get shelter” he tells me and does so… I leave him with Reto alone and it doesn’t take long that he spots the Ukulele and asks to play. Reto takes his guitar and shortly after learns how they play Ukulele in Tonga 😉

The first thing I really enjoy here is the Market and the choice (and prices) of fruit and vegetables. The tomatoes are still not cheap with approx. US 3.-/kg, but for a few dollars I get Pak Choi, white cabbage and taro leaves to feed us with vegetables for two weeks.

The taro leaves are excellent as a curry just like spinach, but attention, they have to be cooked well, otherwise they are poisonous! Reto at one time accidentally picks one piece and eats it raw, then he has a numb mouth for 2 days and a funny feeling in the stomach…

Exploring the island of Vavau with the mountain bike

A bunch of curious kids talk to us while we are taking a break in their village
Tu’anuku, the southernmost village of the island
The Computer Center in Longomapu
and another heap of young pigs
The view from the Mount Talau down to Neiafu
To the left the “harbour” with the dock for clearing in
The sunday church is once again a beautiful event…
…everybody is dressed up festively…
…especially new for us is the waist decaoration and that also the men wear skirts

After a few days of rain we take out the bikes and explore the main island. It feels good to pass by all the friendly people in the villages who great us all with a smile. Also the kids are great, they happily wave at us and when we stop, they come up and introduce themselves.

Then we hide from the rain at a bus stop together with two teenagers. After a small chat they ask us  “you like to eat pig?”. We assume that was an invitation and say “no, thanks”, but we do think that it is quite special, that they have asked us.

…and even the smallest are earing their best skirt and flowers…

On Sunday morning the church is full with people, everybody in their best dresses.

We quickly realize that the traditional mat around the hips that mainly the men wear is replaced by a sort of waist belt with stripes for the women.

The Polynesian singing is once again amazing, but though we don’t understand a word, the songs sound familiar.

Snorkeling in Swallows cave

Swallows Cave
The entrance to the Swallows Cave in the north of Kapa island..
Swallows Cave
…the inside is impressive from below and above the water..
Swallows Cave
…and as well as we snorkeling…
…also a huge school of fish enjoy the cave.

Right afterwards we sail the few miles west to the very protected bay called Port Maurelle.

Since the snorkeling there is not very special we check out the north of the neighboring island A’a, but also there most of the coral is dead. Then we head up to the Swallows cave and we enjoy the views above and underneath the water.

Diving and Snorkeling from Vaka’eitu, No 16

The same afternoon we move further west to the anchorage of Vaka’eitu, since from here we can reach many dive or snorkel spots.

diving Vavau
We discover some for us new farns..
diving Vavau
…and dive between some large yellow coral heads…
diving Vavau
…but also many small corals and fish are there to be looked at.
diving Vavau
In the middle of this school of blue fish the clown fish just above the anemone…
diving Vavau
… and in the back another clown 😉 ;-).
diving Vavau
also the violet corals are very pretty
diving Vavau
..or this yellow hat which reminds Reto his swiss military helmet
diving Vavau
I also liked this one but didn’t get the fish to look into the camera…
the south beach of Vaka’eitu with a few of Mounu and Euakafa
the bay of Vaka’eitu with Lape in the back

The next two days we dive the Pagodas, two small reefs in the middle of the channel between Vaka’eitu and Ovaka. There are some spectacular large coral heads and plates and many small things to look at. Unfortunately also here a large part of the coral is dead.

Just a bit north of our anchorage in Vaka’eitu is the Coral Garden. Unfortunately it is necessary to cross over the reef and that is only possible at around high tide and by swimming with quite some effort.

Therefore we are happy every time we make it without injuries through the waves over the reef and don’t even take the Go Pro with us…

But the Coral Garden is worth the effort, we find a lot of colourful corals of different shapes, like the blue and green “romanesco” corals.

Tongan Feast

In the bay of Vaka’eitu Hika and David live with their younger kids. The elder sons are in Tongatapu  going to college.

In order to finance that Hika and David make regularly a Tongan feast for the sailors, all including the famous Tongan roasted pig and dance show.

Tongan Feast Vavau
Preparations for the Tongan Feast at Hika and David’s place in Vaka’eitu – Fred has to turn the pig for some hours…

The food is excellent, although the pig is not our favorite dish. I prefer Hika’s chicken curries and the raw fish as well as the Taro leaves dishes. After the meal Rosmary (5) and Roslyn (9) gracefully perform some typical Tongan dances or us, they are lovely.

Tongan Feast Vavau
Hika and David call for the feast, the food is very tasty and there is enough for everyone
Tongan Feast Vavau
Rosemary and Roslyn are showing us the graceful tongan dancing that traditionally the young children start to learn
Fred quickly goes up the coconut palm in order to pick a few drinking nuts for us.

Diving the Mariners Cave

After almost a week in Vaka’eitu we move on. We would like to check out the dive spots next to Euakafa, but our anchor doesn’t hold.

Mariners cave diving Vavau
We dive in through the entrance of the Mariners Cave…
Mariners cave diving Vavau
…and 13 meter further down we go back out again
…and more and more we get used to diving in caves ;-).

Therefore we move back up next to Kapa island and although the sky is grey we take out our dive stuff in order to dive the Mariners cave. And just as we are on the way to the cave wtih the dinghy the sun comes out and we have an amazing dive in and out of the cave.

The forecast for the following days is strong winds and showers, so we move to Tapana, where we safely hide in the protected bay. But the bad weather and wind doesn’t come on Tuesday, on Wednesday and not on Thursday, but instead Reto is sick and has to stay in bed….

Alone in Kenutu

Kenutu Vavau
The west coast of Kenutu is on the outer reef of Vavau
Kenutu Vavau
The little pass between Kenutu und Lolo is supposed to be a good snorkel and dive spot, but with these waves coming in we decide not to try…
Kenutu Vavau
She San all by herself in the anchorage of Kenutu

Only on Friday morning a 4 hour front moves over us, and afterwards the sun is out again. We are happy about it and immediately leave for Kenutu all the way to the east of Vava’u, where we have the anchorage for ourselves.

Blue Water Festival in Neiafu

Blue Water Festival Vavau
The band is not only making good music, but also singing, dancing, and making some show for us
Neiafu Vavau
In the south of Neiafu…
Mala Vavau
…we bike to the beach across from Mala Island – you see the pig family in the left?
Pangaimotu Vavau
well decorated house in Pangaimotu – we learn what can be done with old tires

On Sunday we sail back to Neiafu, plan to get filled up with Diesel and veggies, and sail down to Hapai, the next group to the south.

But again the weather is not in favor, so we wait and join the Blue Water festival, where we get a lot of food, some Tongan cultures and a lot of information about New Zealand.

Blue Water Festival Vavau
The children of the Hosean Christian school great us proudly ..
Blue Water Festival Vavau
…and their moms did an excellent job in making the decoration.
Blue Water Festival Vavau
then everybody sings for us…
Blue Water Festival Vavau
…and dances!
Blue Water Festival Vavau
Our favorite girl is always smiling
Blue Water Festival Vavau
Then the older class is performing their dance…
Blue Water Festival Vavau
…and in the end the whole school is singing with all their hearts 🙂

The highlight is the visit of the Cultural Show and Fest at the Hosean Christian School. Children from Kindergarden to Teenager age sing and dance the typical Tongan dances for us, where mainly the hands are moved. In the end they all together sing for us a farewell song with “we love you and we wish that you stay save during your voyage”.

Understanding about Biosecurity in New Zealand

Another highlight for me is to finally find out what food I can bring to NZ and what not. Mike form the Whangarei Quaranteen office is there during the festival and answers all our questions, it is great. Reto says for him it is not so great, because instead of the cans containing meet and the frozen fish he has to eat lentils and chickpeas now everyday for several weeks ;-). See also my notes on this topic on our page: What to bring to NZ

Then we finally see a good weather for the daysail to Hapai, so we set off to south. Starting at 5 am from Ngau south of Taunga we sail the 60 miles down to Foam where a huge shower goes over us, just after we have passed over the reef into the anchorage. We almost hit a coral head following the waypoints that we found in the guidebook, so from now on we also don’t trust these anymore…

Now we plan to cruise in the Hapai group for some time and when the next good slot to NZ comes up we might as well take it and do that sometimes difficult passage in hopefully good conditions.

Cruising and Diving in Vavau Group in Tonga

2 thoughts on “Tonga, the last kingdom in the Pacific – we are enjoying Vava’u”

  1. Wonderful and exciting trip! Look forward to reading the next installment.

    1. Dear Shiona,
      thanks for your feedback!
      I skipped the English for a few months, since most of the people reading the English blog were also able to read it in German.
      Also in French Polynesia the Internet was really bad, so it took me hours in the middle of the night to upload the pictures…Now in Tonga it is a lot better, so it is fun again 😉

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