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.