Cruising North to the Bay of Islands, NZ

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The Bay of Islands, recognized as one of New Zealand’s most popular summer destinations and you can see why with its natural beauty. We had travelled NZ by car previously so it was time to see it on Seismic Wave.

Vista from Russell

Rare Bay, Whangaroa Harbour

 

Dukes Nose in Whangaroa

There’s lots of islands with lots of beautiful anchorages, incredible scenery, dolphins in some of the bay’s and nothing is ever far away, so for us it was a great cruising ground. Even managed to find some nice anchorages with no one around.

Whangamumu Harbour an old whaling station with good hiking

A stunning vista from Robertson Island

Cavalli Islands bay anchorage

The weather while here in Feb/ March was cooler than we expected, a little drizzly at times so got some good boat washes and with the odd cyclone remnants pushing through they added to the excitement. YES Cyclones and here we thought we were getting away from all of that! The La Niña weather pattern apparently is a hint that Cyclones are common here in NZ and while we were here had 3 blow through. Who would have known.

kayaking near Deep Cove

 

 

All up we were able to get outdoors and enjoy some good weather; kayaking and hiking but alas the colder water here kept us from swimming.

Kayaking a river in Whangaroa Harbour

The Department of Conservation has put in lots of walking tracks, which is a fantastic way of getting out for some exercise and seeing the countryside. Most days we would get out and find a track which was typically sheltered from the sun meandering through the bush so you got to see lots of native plants or stunning coastal views. A couple of our favorites were:
Cape Brett Track from Deep Water Cove (2hours 10min one way to the Cape).
This track traverses through the bush (so shade) with stunning vistas all along the way with steep cliffs and rocky bays below.

Looking back at where we had come from

Brett at the Cape Brett lighthouse

Urupukapuka Island Walks
An island out near Cape Brett which has various tracks to different bays all of which joins up so you can do a loop to see beautiful vistas of neighboring islands and the stunning coastline.

Paihia to Haruru Falls (1 hour 15 min one way)
An easy track from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to the waterfall follows the Waitangi River so is nice and flat and in the bush with plenty of shade. Haruru means “big noise” and you understand why when you get to the horseshoe shaped falls at the end which are rumbling. Wish we’d kayaked up the river, which some people were doing.

Haruru Falls the only falls in NZ with a horseshoe shape

There’s plenty of tourists abound enjoying the area as well. Cruise ships anchor off Russell and provide a spectacular view and help the economy here. An incredible
view one morning of the top of a cruise ship.

After the fog cleared it was the Queen Mary II in town

The R Tucker Thompson looked like a great way for tourists to see the bay’s

Getting food provisions was very easy. Russell and Paihia had decent grocery stores so we could stock up with fresh produce and both towns are easy to wander around and enjoy the views. Eating out is always a treat and we had a few celebrations so did venture out.

– Duke of Marlborough in Russell was a treat and very popular as its on the waterfront and so a really nice location

– Russell Boating Club has an excellent roast on Sunday’s and great entertainment care of the locals. We could have seen Belinda our sailing friend here for sure singing away.

– The Gum Store Bar & Grill in Totara North after a hike along the Wairakau Stream from Lane Cove was a surprise with lots of memrobelia of the earlier era here. The fast water taxi ride back to Lane Cove was a treat.

 

 

 

 

– Parua Bay Tavern out near Whangarei Heads with its spectacular views over the bay and good food – can’t forget fresh NZ scallops from a friend Max who we’d met in Aitutaki, yummo!

 

We had heard about the Twin Coast Cycle Trail from Opua along the old railway and tripped upon it one day when out hiking the trail between Paihia and Opua. Will have to do his next time as its right up our alley.

 

 

 

 

Before we knew it it was time to head back around Cape Brett and the Famous “Hole in the Rock”, which the tourist boats drive thru, and back down towards Whangarei for our haul out.


 

 

 

 

Heidi & Bevan our windsurfing friends from Tonga arrived at Whangarei Heads on their sea kayaks to catch up for the long weekend, so was great to see them again.
Has been fun enjoying the northern bays but for us we’ve come a long way and we want to see more of NZ next season so it’s time for a rest from sailing as winter is arriving here. We’ve got a few boat projects planned so time to be hauled.

5 Year anniversary on SW🎉🍾

It has surprised us that we have now been full time on our catamaran for 5 years. February 9, 2013 we arrived in Trinidad in the Eastern Caribbean to meet Johan and Marlene the previous owners who would be our mentors teaching us to sail and operate our new boat. WOW, how time flies. 5 years later and we are now in New Zealand with our boat and have learnt and experienced far more than we thought we would.
Initially we were planning on just cruising the Caribbean for 2-3 years but the lifestyle appealed to us what with the freedom to explore beautiful parts of the world so we just kept going.

With catching up with our friends and family in New Zealand and Australia it’s been difficult to explain the lifestyle. I think everyone thinks we are crazy and wonders what we do all day. The lifestyle is definitely not for all!
Highlights
– the amazing cruisers you meet along the way that you share a bond of this lifestyle with
– the variety of places you can travel to by boat and experience for as long as you want
– the underwater world with all sorts of creatures and colors
– freedom
Lowlights
– the amount of rubbish you find on some beaches
– saying goodbye to friends you have met along the way as you don’t always cross paths again
– for me being seasick but something I’ve been able to control with medication when needed, thank goodness

Our pace of life has definitely slowed down from the 8 to 5 grind but we keep active cycling, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling and hiking on islands to see what’s around the next corner. Life’s an adventure and to me it’s what you do to make it fun. But it’s not all fun; there’s still plenty of work and planning to cross oceans and ensure we get places safely.

We enjoy the diving when we get the opportunity

Incredible close up encounters with fish life

The people you meet and interact with on the islands makes the experience even better. We have met some real characters and gone on some big adventures with some.

 

Fresh fish is always appreciated and we love catching our own.

On the islands you don’t always get food products you are used to. Not a bad thing as we’ve experienced foods we wouldn’t otherwise.

 

 

 

Brett has become a handyman who now knows every inch of our boat and with regular maintenance work we seem to be on top of things. Here’s hoping it stays like that. As one of our friends always says “you’re fixing things in Paradise how bad can that be”.
We have never treated the boat as a prison so when we need a break we take time out from the lifestyle and become land lovers again treating ourselves to long hot showers, more space and a car that gets us somewhere really fast! Afterwards we always appreciated getting back aboard to set the sails and see where we are off to next. The countries we have visited are all different but I think Ecuador and Peru was an amazing cultural experience we took by land.

Sailing into New York and seeing the Statue of Liberty on our own boat was definitely a highlight for us. New York was so different to the Caribbean Islands and we enjoyed getting out to the theatre and seeing the City on our bikes.

Transport, no car here! Our dinghy is our car to get to land and luckily we have not had any problems with it. Once on land we quite often use our Brompton folding bikes to get out and about to get groceries, see the sights and explore. The best thing we could have bought to help us get about and stay active. Locals from the island are intrigued with how it folds up so we have lots of dialogue with people about our strange looking bikes.

After traveling across the Pacific to New Zealand in 2017, over 9000nm we’ll be spending the next year in these waters and doing some work aboard Seismic Wave in the off season. I think we deserve a break. 😉

Here’s to more beautiful anchorages

 

 

We’re hoping we have continued success fishing in the Pacific. Yes I caught this one, Brett is not the only fisher person aboard.

Hope this provided an insight into our lifestyle.

Fun times ahead! Enjoy 2018 😊

 

Holiday in Australia

We’ve spent the last couple of months in Queensland, Australia catching up with my family for the holidays.
Brisbane is a city with lots to do and even better for us we have family living here. The river winds its way inland from the coast with the city built along it so there’s lots to see and do. Stu, my brother in law took us out on the Brisbane River to see the sights. Nice! Even spotted a fellow Maverick owner; S/V Island Home anchored in the river. Small world.

Stu, Ruben, Daniel & Louise with the Story Bridge in the background

The boys Stu, Daniel, Ruben & Brett with S/V Island Home and the City in the background

There’s a long walking/ biking path along the river with all sorts of activities especially over the holidays, so no chance for being bored here (ah Ruben!).

At a Xmas concert in a Brisbane park on the river

The beaches in Queensland are amazing with beautiful long white sandy beaches and good surf. We spent quite a bit of time in the Gold Coast and loved walking along them for exercise, getting into a habit of going every day.

Ruben & Daniel came to Surfers to meet us for a little body surfing

We got our exercise walking the beaches here; Surfers Paradise in the distance

My sister, Louise organized a house in Kingscliff, New South Wales to celebrate the festivities. Great location on the Coast with a nice long beach but the pool at the house was appreciated as it was hot while we were there. Even managed a trip into the inland to the hinterland to see the Springbrook National Park.

The pool was a blessing, it was hot!

Hiking a trail to see the Natural Arch in Springbrook National Park

Stu & Louise at the Waterfall near the Natural Arch

We’ve enjoyed some time off the boat, the extra space and luxuries of being on land. Heading back to NZ to enjoy some of the NZ summer, and will cruise the Bay of Islands for a couple of months.

Lots of beautiful anchorages to be found in the Bay of Islands

Here’s to a great year in 2018.

Where to for cyclone season?

Had been waiting for a weather window and after 2 weeks finally got one. While we waited in Ile des Pins we enjoyed good weather and the company of other cruisers….

A protected bay with powder soft sand and crystal clear water. Do I have to leave?

Nice hike from the jail or water tower along the ridge to Pic Nga for the views

Can you guess where we have decided to go for cyclone season? 

On our trip south we had lively seas as we were tight to the wind the whole way. Did not stop us fishing and caught a couple of tuna to replenish our freezer supplies.

 

We arrived into Opua in the Bay of a Islands on Saturday 25 November, 2017 seeing lots of familiar faces at the Opua cruising club. A party with music and fancy dress was a great welcome into NZ. Time to rest and recover from our passage.

Grand Terre (Mainland), New Caledonia

After leaving the Loyalty Islands we sailed over to Canala, on the East Coast of Grand Terre, a base for the nickel mining in the area. Canala is in a very picturesque valley with mountains all around. We went by dinghy up the river spotting mines on the way to the town, a great stop to get some much needed groceries and see some local artwork and wood carvings all scattered around town.

we have our Baguettes and Brie; with a view down the river to our anchorage

The whole coastline has some amazing mountain scenery of rich oranges, reds and greens.

perfect anchorage with friends Oceana1 at Neumeni

Great place to get off the boat and go for a walk up into them there hills.

Lunch stop with a view to our next anchorage at Port Boqete

At Port Boqete we stopped at the marine park at Ile Némou for some snorkeling at the reef and along the shoreline around the anchorage. A lot of soft and hard corals but not many fish. Saw the biggest conque shell, which was still alive and great to see given everyone likes to collect shells.

with Bretts hand to give perspective.

On the shoreline we spotted a brightly colored church so went into the small Kanak village of Lémia, where 80 people live. Houses and the church only. The local store is 20km away.
Necis; a friendly guy with lots of personality, who liked to sing and tell us stories, showed us around the village. There was a well manicured walkway that separated the houses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our final stop on the SE coast was Yaté where we took the dinghy up the river to the hydroelectric plant to find the grocery store for ice cream, beer and wine. Not sure where it goes!

Seas and winds were calm so we decided to head straight to Gadji, in Ile des Pins, (see separate blog entry).

After enjoying the Kuto area in Ile des Pins we had a quick downwind sail to Baie de Prony on the South Coast of the mainland, catching a nice sized tuna along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baie de Prony has lots of anchorages where you could spend time seeing the sights from the many hilltops by hiking the never ending trails here or go kayaking and snorkeling.

a view of Baie de Prony from a hike we did to the lighthouse from Anse Majic anchorage

 

 

 

Up at the lighthouse Brett & Aline are admiring the views out to the lagoon.

 

 

 

Moose is an abandoned dog on Ilot Casey in Prony, who cruisers all seem to hear about. He reminded us an old friend and was very friendly and likes to go hiking with you around the island. A marked trail takes you around the island in about 1.5hrs and has some nice scenery. Moose along the way shows you how he survives on the island digging crabs and eating sea cucumbers! Of course all the cruisers feed him and give him water.

nice anchorage with mooring balls to protect the coral

a view over to the nickel mining operation in the Baie

Snorkeling at Illot Casey had some little gems amongst the mostly white hard antler type coral.

Amadee Island, South of Noumea has a 56m tall lighthouse built in 1862 in France and was disassembled and transported to Noumea for its opening here in 1865. Nice views of the marine park after climbing the 247 steps.

 

 

 

 

Illot Maître is a small island with a resort 3nm south of Noumea and a Mecca for kiteboarding. In the weekends there are upward of 100 kites out. There were lots of turtles floating around our boat, which was cool.

Kiteboarders getting ready with Noumea in the background

It was finally onto Noumea where we were lucky and got a berth at the Port Moselle Marina. There are hundreds of boats here in Noumea! We’ve been so lucky with the weather while here. Time to investigate the city, reprovision, make some passage meals, do oil changes, wash clothes ready for cooler weather and check out.

Load and loads of boats

A visit to the Museum near the marina showed the history of the people here. Really interesting with great exhibits and English signs, yeah! Some of these garments below must have been very scratchy on the skin!
We cycled out to Baie de Citron on a bike path to see everyone out enjoying the good weather. Lots of restaurants, clubs, hotels and a nice beach, you could see why it was popular.
The bar at the Moselle marina was a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy the music in the evenings. 

Sadly time to say goodbye to Aline and Luc who are heading to Sydney. Always tough saying goodbye to people you have had a good time with, but then this is part of this lifestyle. Will miss Aline’s fishing skills!
Happy Halloween everyone.

At Barca brewery at Baie de Citron and Halloween decorations are everywhere.

Oct 31 here so time for us to move on too.

Ile des Pins, New Caledonia

We’d heard so much about the Southern Lagoon and in particular Ile des Pins with its crystal clear blue water, white sand beaches and lots of reefs with colorful coral gardens.

Views up at Pic N’ga near Kuto

 

On a sadder note, from 1872 – 1913 Ile des Pins was a political convict settlement where France sent by ship its prisoners (3000 Frenchmen & 12 women) to the island. Ruins can be seen around the island and in particular the Kuto area.
Brett at one of the many prison ruins near Kuto built in 1881.

 

 

Gadji
What a beautiful spot! There are a few small islands and lots of mushroom limestone formations; a great place to kayak and snorkel.

this is not color enhanced, the sun was out & the lagoon here had incredible colored water

It’s the snorkeling here we will remember as it was awesome, other than the cold water to which our long wet suits had to come out. There was a good variety of coral with vibrant different colors and textures and plenty of fish about.
Kuto
Kuto Bay is nicely protected with a soft white sand beach and a resort with a restaurant right on the beach (serving very expensive food and alcohol). Interestingly no alcohol can be purchased at the local stores here you have to buy it at the hotel!

Anchorage with Pic N’ga Mountain in the background

We ended up staying in Kuto to wait out some strong gusty winds but it was a great place to be as the bay was protected, the bakery and store were down the road, there was a Dugong swimming around to watch out for and there were a lot of places to go hiking. Always interesting what you come across when out hiking.

Wandering around some ruins Brett & Luc came across some Prisoner cells; very small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

private beaches tucked away

A hike up the mountainous Pic N’ga trek (262m), the islands highest point with Luc & Aline had to be made to see the fantastic views. Great having a cruise ship in to give us perspective for how big the bay was.

the trail up the side of the mountain was well maintained and good exercise

Boats heading to NZ seem to use this as a jump off point for when they see a good weather window so we’ll probably take advantage of this protected bay for a good nights sleep before we head south.

A truely beautiful area with lots of outlying islands and reefs to visit. There are a lot more small islands with excellent snorkeling and diving so we will have to return. Until next time! Back to the mainland to see more sights. Time is flying……

The Lovely Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia

John & Leanne from the Down Under Rally (www.downunderrally.com) organized for 7 boats to clear in at Lifou in the Loyalty Islands, which was excellent and very easy. They even organized a van so we could all get a SIM card for Internet access and groceries after emptying our fridge and freezers of food for bio-security clearance. There were great supermarkets in Lifou for stocking up with fresh veg again and Brie and baguettes; yum!

back with all our groceries

Leanne from Ooroo and I hanging out on some interesting tables near the dock

We were then free to cruise the islands and reefs on our way to Noumea the main port for clearance. The Loyalty Islands are made up of 3 main Islands; Ouvéa, Lifou and Maré. We were lucky to see how special and different it was here compared to any of the French Polynesian islands we have been to. Not a lot of cruisers come this way after clearing in.

traditional Melanasian huts that local people live and congregate in

 

 

These islands still have a lot of culture and tradition alive in their everyday lives. Weaving, sculpturing, fishing all very common activities here.

 

 

 

Most of the population speaks French, very little English and the local language is a different dialect of Melanesian on each island. The women here wear very brightly colored long flowing dresses, which after being here in this heat with the sun beating down for a few days, I could see the benefits of. Everyone we met was very friendly.

Local Ladies cleaning the beach

Lifou and Maré are uplifted limestone plateaus covered in pine trees with big bays, crystal clear blue water and colorful coral close to shore. At Lifou, we walked to Notre-Damn de Lourdes chapel built in 1898 sitting high on the cliff at the entrance to the Bay near where we anchored.
The roads on both Ouvéa and Lifou were sealed and flat so perfect for getting the bikes out to see parts of the islands. A 25km plus return trip on Ouvéa to find baguettes had us passing lots of traditional homes and people coming to see what these strange folding bikes were. Shame our French is soooo bad!

Entering the Grand Chefferie in Mouli, Ouvéa to obtain permission to be here and visit the island

traditional homesteads on Ouvéa

the graveyards here are colorfully decorated

Lots of interesting looking churches.

Ouvéa was stunning with its long white sand beach. “Tres Jolie”. Time to relax, walk and enjoy the 25km beach with shells galore. Luc & Aline S/V Oceana1 after hearing how beautiful it was made the overnight trip from Noumea to join us and help us with our French!
The bridge between Mouli and Lekiny on Ouvéa had spectacular views within the lagoon and lots of fish, eagle rays and big turtles swimming in the current.

We’d also heard about the Lekiny Caves but it’s only possible to visit with a guide and only on certain days in conjunction with low tide. Was definitely worth the visit. Loved our transport to the caves along with friends S/V Oceana1 & Second Wind. Luc & Aline were great interpreters for all us English speaking people.

Lekiny Caves behind us, yes we cross this river.

great views back to the Mouli bridge

In 1953 a cyclone hit the island of Ouvéa and the local people all went to the Lekiny Caves to seek protection. They all survived even though the island suffered a lot of damage so the people built an alter in the main cave and special ceremonies have been held here since.
This has definitely been a special place to visit with very few cars, beautiful beaches, friendly locals and incredible sunsets again.
Off to see more of New Caledonia.

Fiji’s Western Islands

Lots of islands with stunning beaches, friendly people and cute kids who entertained us. No wonder a lot of cruisers return to these waters.

After a quick stop at Beqa Lagoon we continued onto the SW coast of Viti Levu where we stopped at Likuri Island for Robinson Crusoé Island night, which was a lot of fun with good entertainment and food.

Brett welcomed at the SavuSavu ceremony by drinking kava from the communal mug

fire dancers

The finale

The Mamanuca Islands on Fijis west coast of Viti Levu had some beautiful islands with beautiful white sand beaches.
On Malolo Liki we joined the Musket Cove Marina & Resort for FJ$15, with all its facilities available to us. Nice!

The pool at Musket Cove was so nice!

Mana Island had a nice protected lagoon and a hike up over the island had some amazing views down to our anchorage. The snorkeling was good with all sorts of colors and fish. This is where 2017 Survivor Fiji was recently filmed.

Friends Luc & Aileen with Mana Lagoon in background

local kids playing the drums down on the beach, adorable!

First giant clam we saw out snorkeling near the reef

the water was lovely and clear with plenty of fish & coral that’s coming back to life

Modriki (or Monuriki on some charts) was where Tom Hanks film, Castaway, was filmed. Spectacular views over the island from the top.

great views down over anchorage.

The bay at Navadra was a little rolly with a big swell coming into the bay. Brett managed to get ashore and hiked to the top of the rock below for some pretty nice views.

Brett is coming down the yellow grass path on the rocks side

On Waya Island at Nalauwaki Bay we went ashore to meet the head administrator for the SavuSavu ceremony where we presented kava as a gift and were permitted to anchor in their bay and welcome to walk in the village. Everyone was so friendly stopping to say bula and ask where we were from.

Kava Bought at the markets around Fiji for presentation to the chiefs of a village

Kava (nicely bundled) is presented to the chief or head administrator in this case for the SavuSavu ceremony

 

The Primary school teacher (ages 5-8 yrs) showing us her class room where 22 children attend from 8am – 1pm.

The children were adorable. They showed us around the village and helped us with our dinghy when it was time to leave.

Moses paddled out to the Boat to sell us pawpaw in exchange for coke and a little pocket money

The Musket cove regatta was on with loads of fun events, races and time to socialize.

Pirates Day race to Beachcomber’s with Ted & Jenny on SV Elixir

Hobby cat racing.

racing around Malalo Island race onboard Cactus Island with Gerald & Maree, competitors behind us!

Good times but we are off as we have the opportunity to check in at the Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia. Rafted up beside Oceana1 at Vuda Point Marina to check out, as customs wanted to inspect boats that day! Each day is different and it just depends on who you get.

Friendly Fiji, in Suva

Bula! (hello) from Suva, Fiji. Bula is heard everywhere here. It’s awesome. We found the people here in Fiji very friendly, smiling and saying bula as we passed each other.

We checked into Suva, the capital of Fiji and a busy port but made easy for yachties with the help of the Royal Suva Yacht Club (RSYC) who bring the officials out to your boat. Friends Luc & Aileen on S/V Oceana1 came in from the Tongan Ha’apai group at the same time and so once we were done with the officials the RYSC was a great place to relax, catch up, enjoy a beer and listen to live music.

Port on one side of us

Mountains on our other side

The following day was spent finishing the check in process wandering the streets, doing a little shopping and taking in the vibe of this metropolitan city.

1st order of business get a SIM made easy right on the street with digicel

Lots of busy one way streets but easy to get around

Brett, Luc & Aileen outside a mall!

lots of choice in Chinese & Indian restaurants our favorite being the Curry House

Yes Bretts shopping for clothes on his first day here! The shopping here was good.

At the Parliamentary buildings while getting our cruising permit we were shown the grounds and in particular where the Island Chiefs meet monthly.
We did do a few touristy things while in the big City:
The Grand Pacific Hotel originally built in 1908 by the Union Steamship Company of NZ to cater for passengers on their South Pacific route was totally rebuilt and reopened in 2014. Impressive!
Suva’s fresh vegetable market was huge and incredible with lots of fresh produce at reasonable prices. The Pacific islands up till now have been very expensive for fruit & vege.
The Governors Mansion sits high on a hill with beautiful gardens that would have been nice to enjoy other than the huge gate surrounding the property.
Fijis National Museum had lots of exhibits on the various communities and their arrival in Fiji and impact, arrival of the missionaries, first government of Fiji and fishing equipment & canoes of the past. Very interesting and for us was a good thing to do on a rainy day here.

The Drua sailing canoe still used was perfected in the 1700s can travel at speeds up to 25 knots!

 

Barkcloth or Masi produced from the outer bark of the paper mulberry tree is made into all sorts of textiles and worn / presented in ceremonies as a gift. It is sold in lots of shops in town for house textiles.

 

 

 

Time to head to the islands.

A taste of Tonga in the Vava’u group

After 2 days at sea we arrived into the sheltered bay of Neiafu where we rafted up to a boat on the fishing wharf, had friends raft to us and we all cleared into Tonga. We have come across the date line so lost a day, arriving on a Friday; perfect timing as customs/ immigration is closed on the weekend. After completing the mass of repetitive forms we moved along the bay to a mooring so we could see town.

View to Neiafu and the Eastern Islands from Mt Talau

We just missed the King of Tonga who had been here a month ago hence flags on fences, new rubbish bins scattered around town and new signage for tourist sights. Neiafu is a small place with an interesting blend of people; local Tongans who are very relaxed and friendly, expats who have set up businesses here (cafes, restaurants, bars and tours), cruisers on yachts and tourists. Unfortunately there’s a fair bit of rubbish about, which we really noticed after super clean Niue and Aitutaki.

Saturday is market day where town is alive, music is playing from boom boxes and people are out socializing. Booths are set up along one of the 2 main roads in town selling fruit & veges, 2nd hand clothing and personal products. It all closes down at mid day and everyone disappears and town is then deserted.

The main market at the docks is a buzz of activity with lots of fresh produce

Sunday on the other hand is the complete opposite. Businesses are closed so it’s a ghost town; Tongans do not work, it’s time for family. Churches of which there are many are busy with Tongans dressed in traditional costume and singing happily inside. Tongan men and women wear a long skirt with a waist mat called a ta’ovala, made of a woven material, which is similar to wearing a tie in western cultures.
We walked up to Mt Talau National Park to see the views over the Vava’u island chain. Very pretty so it was time to head out and investigate other anchorages.

View out to some of the Western islands from Mt Talau

Port Mourelle is a nice cove on Kapa Island with a white sandy beach and trails to get out for a walk where you find 2 small villages, lots of free roaming pigs, some agriculture fields and a small tourist resort. The villages have been supplied with solar panels, care of Japan to light pathways between homes and their houses. Support for Tonga seems to come from NZ, Australia, Japan & the USA.

Swallows Cave was a short dinghy ride from Port Mourelle and in the late afternoon has the sun shining thru the entrance showing the colors in the cave and the schools of fish below. Once inside, the cave was bigger than we expected with some nice colors that got better as the sun shone in.

Luc & Aileen inside the cave, amazing colors

 

Brett snorkeling inside the entrance to the cave with schools of fish below

Kole from Matamaka Village on Nuapapu Island invited us for a traditional Tongan feast where the money for the feast goes to the local school. With all the Oyster Rally boats in Vava’u, the anchorage became very busy with some of them coming to enjoy the feast too. Matamaka was a bigger community with the local people also coming to join in the entertainment and sing for us.

Kole getting vege and firewood for the feast

Kole discussing the Tongan ta’ovala

Across the Bay was Vaka’eitu Island where we snorkeled the Coral Garden and luckily had a brilliantly clear day making the hard corals glisten. This was the best snorkeling we found in Vava’u.

A splash of color with a blue starfish, which we found in various anchorages

It was then across the channel to the southern island of Hunga and the Blue Lagoon for the morning, where we spotted a couple of whales but these guys weren’t stopping. We met Bevan & Heidi from NZ who are sailing between the islands on their Wind surfer/ paddle boards and camping on beaches. Quite the adventurous holiday. You could see the lagoon would be a nice place on a calm day given the colors of the water in the lagoon but there was a chop as the wind was up while we were there. The snorkeling here was disappointing given what we have seen in French Polynesia.

Nice white sandy beach at the Blue Lagoon talking to Bevan & Heidi

The central Hunga Lagoon, an extinct volcano crater looked a lot more sheltered on the map so we moved in off a beach and tied to shore in crystal clear calm water. It was a great place for kayaking that we decided to stay for a few more days to let a trough blow thru. Perfect place and away from the crowds in Neiafu which were growing what with a rally in town.

On anchor in Hunga, soooo calm and we had the place to ourselves 😀

Vaha from Hunga village brought fruit in exchange for milk powder, perfect.

Bevan & Heidi ended up paddling in to this nice sheltered lagoon for shelter from expected rain so joined us aboard Seismic Wave for a few social nights and in return gave us wind surfing lessons. Brett did well but I’d never tried it before and so thank goodness Heidi was patient.

boards with all their sail / camping gear

 

I’m finally up! Yes Heidi’s on the back giving me instruction.

 

 

much better form; for some of us it was easy!

The sky finally cleared and the sun came out so we headed out into the channel to find a new island. It was goodbye to Bevan & Heidi who sailed off back to Neiafu.
Tepana wasn’t too crowded and was a great place to get the kayaks out and investigate the area. There were lots of small islands with nice white sandy beaches and boats going in all directions.

on one of the many beaches at Tepana

Our final stop was off Nuku near Kapa Island. A picture perfect beach, just one of many in the Vava’u group with a nice anchorage behind a reef.

It’s not all sunshine here but some cruisers were out enjoying the winds

We considered going down to the Ha’apai group but friends told us that the snorkeling in Fiji was good so we were keen to head on hoping for better weather and to see whales along the way.