Friday, April 28, 2017

Tonga August/September2016


Neiafu Harbor – Vava’u Kingdom of Tonga
The Kingdom of Tonga is the only remaining Polynesian monarchy.  It is one of the very first countries to see the dawn of every new day, as we discovered we were one day ahead of Niue, and most everyone else in the world, once we reached Tonga.  The Tongan archipelago consists of 176 islands, which only 40 are inhabited.  There are the low lying groups of Tongatapu, where the capital Nuku’alofa is located and where the Royal Palace is located.  The middle Ha’apai group, consisting of volcanic and coral islands, then the Vava’u group, with raised and mountainous coral islands.  There is also a very far north volcanic island group called Niuas. 

Tonga has never been colonized by a foreign power, but like most of the South Pacific, saw lots of missionaries, and is heavily Christian and very conservative.  All sporting activities are banned on Sundays and so is work, so almost all stores are closed including the airport.  Sundays are devoted to church and family.  The only thing we have found opened are the very few restaurants for the tourists. 

We had a two day passage from Niue to Vava’u.  Due to slowing of wind and big swell, we ended up coming into Vavau at night, or really, very early morning, 2 am.  We arrived at the pass entrance around 1:30 am, but it took about 30 minutes to navigate what seemed like a long winding canal into the harbor.  We typically do not ever come into a harbor or anchorage at night due to, of course, everything being very dark and the inability to see anything, especially obstructions in the water, but we had heard from friends on other boats that had come into Neiafu Harbor at night and they had said it was not obstructed and could be easily navigated.  With no moon or stars and very few harbor lights, we did manage to make our way into the harbor and grab a mooring ball without hitting any other boats that did not have their anchor lights on!  By 2:15 am we were fast asleep!

We could not believe how many boats were in the harbor when we woke up.  With only about 5 other boats in Niue with us, it was a shock to see about 20 boats in the mooring field in Neiafu Harbor.   We know that there are many anchorages throughout Vava’u, as there are 176 islands throughout all of Tonga, with 80% of them being in Vava’u, so we knew there were many other boats anchored throughout the islands, also.  Being in Neiafu felt like we were back in La Cruz, Mexico.  They have their own Cruiser’s Net every morning at 8:30.  The local businesses that support the cruisers run the Net and are incredibly helpful with daily if not several times daily weather reports, diving, whales watching activities, dining/restaurant menu questions, boat repair support and anything else.  It was weird being back in a large boat cruising community.

Neifu Harbor at sunset

Niefu mooring field

Like most new place when we arrive, we like to stretch our legs and get a feel for the town.  It did not take long to walk the main road in Neifu, about 10-15 minutes at the most if you were looking around.  We saw a beautiful church and the local fresh veggie and fruit market (which is open all day as opposed to opening very early morning and closing by mid-morning).  There are about 6 café/restaurants and about the same for local grocery stores.  The small grocery stores are all the same with a few exceptions that you might find one or two items that each store carries different from another, so you really need to shop at each one!  One might have really good cheese, one might have good bread, one might carry granola or muesli, etc.  It was fun to discover all the differences in the stores.

We spent almost two months in Tonga and really enjoyed the tranquility of the islands and the friendliness of the locals.  We spent lots of time in different anchorages and enjoyed the beauty of the clear water.  We spent lots of time with SV Jade, whom we had only met when we arrived in Tonga and have become fast friends.  I think kid boats tend to gravitate toward each other for the sake of our children and our sanity! 

Holy Door of Mercy Catholic church

Local produce market

School boys hanging out after school

School children waiting for their ride home after school

We celebrated Noah’s 10th birthday with our friends from S/V Nogal at the Mango restaurant.  It was really nice to catch up with Nogal and have a nice dinner.  The kids had pizza and the adults each had very nice fish or meat dishes.
10 Candles!



Vavau is known for the many spectacular islands with lots of diving and swimming.  The first stop was Port Maurelle.  Great sand beach for a bonfire and a kid’s camp out.

The Noah's standing in front of their lean-to tent.

Eating beans out of a can in front of the fire

Beach bonfire and potluck

Just monkeying around

Horatio caught a rainbow runner on our way to another anchorage

Lunch with Nogal and Jade at the Dancing Rooster restaurant

We decided to try a tapas restaurant called Maria’s on the island of Tapana.  It was about a 1 hour sail and east from Port Maurelle.   They have one mooring ball in front of their beach, but plenty of places to anchor.  The kids went for a swim in the clear water the minute we anchored and found hundreds of starfish all around our boat.  Beautiful!  We had dinner in the evening with our friends from Nogal and Jade at Maria’s Tapana Island Tapas.  It truly delicious and what a find to have tapas in Tonga!  The children got to play with a new baby goat and we enjoyed Maria and her husband perform music for us.  A great experience and highly recommended.
Amazingly large starfish at the anchorage in front of Maria's Paella restaurant

Starfish bigger than Horatio's head

Enough, Jade and Nogal kids at Maria's Paella restaurant

Even the local baby goat came to visit

Flash mob at the local market.  Beautiful singing.

View of Neifu harbor from a hike up the hill

Lots of pigs running free throughout the islands

We participated in the Vava’u Blue Water Festival which was sponsored by New Zealand marinas (Bay of Islands and Whangarei) to benefit the Blue Water School in Vava’u.  The Blue Water school in Vava’u is an organization that helps the children of Vava’u learn and raise awareness about their water eco-system, water safety and of course sailing.  They raise money so the children can have dinghies to sail.  One of the local pre-schools held a parade and then had a very nice parent sponsored lunch and performances by the local preschoolers.  It was one of the nicest events as it was truly local and family supported.

Local school children welcoming us to Vavau

Singing and dancing in traditional clothing.

Horatio pinning a $2 bill (tradition) onto their clothing

Such cute children and beautiful handmade outfits.

Local school band performing at the Bluewater Festival

Dinner with Velic and Jade during Bluewater Festival at the Aquarium restaurant

The kids enjoying pizza!

Ferne from SV Jade saying "Hello" from up high

SV Velic during moonrise

Kid Fun -
SV Jade's Alex pulling Ferne around the anchorage

Fetoko Island.  Tree house cabins on a very tiny island.  So awesome.

Enough anchored in front of Fetoko Island

One of the tree houses on Fetoko Island.

We spent almost 2 months in Tonga visiting different islands in Vava’u group.  In the beginning we thought it would not be very exciting, because there was not a lot to offer in terms of provisioning or things to do in town, but the islands are truly wonderful to visit and snorkel and hike.
We knew we would have to make our way to New Zealand soon as the weather for cyclone season was soon approaching.  Everyone says that you need to be out of Tonga by mid-late November.  So, we decided we should make our way south and see the Ha’apai Group and then Tongatapu to check out.

Halloween on SV Jade while in the Ha'apai Group

Pigs on the beach on the island of Oua in the Ha'apai group

We dropped school supplies of at the local school in Oua.

Horatio and Noah getting some shade on the school grounds.

Beach fun with SV Jade

Pita, local farmer on Oua, gave us so much fruit and veg.  
So generous and very informative. We saw how all of these were grown - kumara (sweet potato), spinach, onions, tobacco, mango, papaya, bananas, cassava, lotus root and more.

Tongatapu - Big Mama's Yacht club
The kids jumping off the shipwreck


Belinda from SV Free Spirit with the kids in front of the Royal Palace

The palace is not open for tours so we could only take pictures from outside


Next - On our way to New Zealand via Minerva Reef





















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