Tonga, Part 1: 24 August - 1 September 2018
We spent 7 weeks cruising the Vava’u group of Tonga and I can’t quite figure out where the time went. The islands are beautiful, each less than a day sail away. Neiafu is the primary town with shops, a very nice market, and multiple restaurants and bars along the harbor set up to cater to the cruising yachts.
August 24 - September 1 - Moored Neiafu
Once arrived and checked into customs we hit the market and breakfast to begin planning our stay. It was lovely being on a mooring with a quick row to shore. Even I was able to row us in and back and made just a few trips on my own. We took advantage by participating in many of the bar activities, Rugby at Refuge (lots of All Black fans), Movie Night at Dancing Rooster, Electricity and WIFI with a view at Bella Vista, laundry by Tropicana, Fish and Chips at the Hideaway.
We soon discovered it was cheaper to drink out as opposed to buying ice that would melt before we got it back to the boat. We took walks out of town with many local kids asking us where we were off to along the way (if only we knew). We discovered the Kilikilitefua rock wall and also found and hiked up to the tallest spot on the island - Mt Talau. The legend of Mt Talau is pretty entertaining.
We did some excursions from town as well. Our buddy boat and moored neighbor Kuan Yin took us out to Swallow’s Cave for a day sail and snorkel.
By far one of the most amazing activities and experiences in Tonga is a whale swim. Although expensive, the excursion was more than worth the money ($400 TOP/ person). Tonga is one of a few rare places that allows this close interaction with the humpback whales and the water is so very clear. They arrive July through October to give birth and mate. We spent an entire day out with Captain Easy and our guide Meddie. Check out the charter’s website with pics of the whales and the boat.
We didn’t take our camera with us, we really wanted to enjoy the moment. There are a ton of great pictures from Tonga Instagram and really show how close and personal you get with these amazing animals.
We spotted whales fairly early in the day in the southern part of the island group. These were males and it was a quick in and out in our snorkel gear as they swam by in a hurry. They were in no mood to put on a show or slow down for us. Hours later we were fortunate to come upon a mom, baby and escort. The guides are careful to only take in 4 people at a time and very respectful of the whales. My heart nearly stopped when we came face to face with mom and baby. Dave was scolded for stopping too far back and away from the group as he was intrigued by the very large male escort below mom and baby. Baby was asleep and using mom as a guide to surface very frequently in order to breathe. We were told the calf was about 2 weeks old. Truly breathtaking and a moving experience.
After such an experience on Friday we used the weekend to recover and provision before heading out to some anchorages away from town.