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Vava’u in the Heart of Tonga

September 16, 2013

We are sitting on a mooring off the town of Neiafu in the Vava’u group of Tonga (lat 18 39.4S, long 173 59.0W). We have spent the last four weeks enjoying many of the dozens of quite anchorages and dive sites tucked in amongst the sheltering islands. Neiafu is a bustling town that offers good provisioning, a large open produce market, and excellent restaurants. The anchorages are all within a couple of hours of Neiafu which we visit once a week to stock up on fresh food.

Neiafu also has a hospital where Brian had surgery to remove a growth on his finger that has been bothering him for two months. None of the doctors had ever seen this malady before and the tissue was sent to Tongatapu for lab analysis; results are pending. Brian had to stay out of the water for ten days which was incredibly difficult!

We spent one evening at the village of Utulei which recently started offering Tongan feasts. The event is the brain child of Tupo who returned last year after a long absence to find her village suffering from poor health, poor economy, and a loss of cultural heritage. She meets each week with the women of the village to work on solutions to these problems. The feast includes demonstrations of nearly forgotten activities such as dancing, kava preparation, creating tapa cloth and art, and basket weaving which has helped instill community pride and provide income for the village. Tupo has arranged for periodic diabetes testing and health education. They no longer offer roast pig in their feasts (high in cholesterol) and smoking is only allowed on the beach. Tupo is truly an amazing woman.

The Vava’u Lions Club had their inaugural dinner for installing their first set of officers while we were in Neiafu and we were able to attend, Sandie being a member of the Super Almaden Lions Club. She presented the president and regional governor with shirts from her chapter.
The diving has been excellent with the best coral since the Tuamotus. The water is so clear it’s hard to sneak up on fish to spear them, but the scallops have been fantastic. We split our dives pretty evenly between snorkeling and scuba.

The anchorages have beautiful sandy beaches and we spend hours “shelling”. Some of the islands are inhabited and the families are eager to meet us and share their local grown coconuts, mangos, and bananas. We in turn share what we have, gasoline being a real hot commodity. We met David and Hika on Vaka’eitu Island where his family has a 150 year lease. The island has been deserted for over 20 years, but when they visited the island they knew that this is where they want to live and raise their family. They are like the Swiss family Robinson.

The annual Tonga bill fishing tournament is currently under way. We listen to VHF channel 26 as the fishermen report their hookups and sad losses. The weigh-in station is at the Mango Restaurant by our mooring and we joined the festivities last night as the leading fish was weighed, a 238 Kg blue marlin. Most fish are tagged and released, but this fish was dead by the time it was brought to the boat so it was brought in.

We will stay in Vava’u for another week and then look for good weather to head south to the remote Haapai group. It is doubtful that we will find Internet there so we probably won’t post again until we reach Tongatapu in a month or so.

View of Neiafu harbor from the anchorage across the bay

View of Neiafu harbor from the anchorage across the bay

Neiafu harbor

Neiafu harbor

Brian drugged out after finger operation

Brian drugged out after finger operation

Large lion fish at cave entrance (Luafatu Island)

Large lion fish at cave entrance (Luafatu Island)

Sandie on Pagoda Reef

Sandie on Pagoda Reef

Schooling reef fish (Ava Island)

Schooling reef fish (Ava Island)

Giant clam on Pagoda Reef

Giant clam on Pagoda Reef

Pagoda Reef

Pagoda Reef

Sandie, Magda, and James at cave entrance (Luafatu Island)

Sandie, Magda, and James at cave entrance (Luafatu Island)

Sandie visits Hika at their island home under a giant banyan tree

Sandie visits Hika at their island home under a giant banyan tree

Sandie on the lookout for coral heads

Sandie on the lookout for coral heads

Hike to the windward side of Kenutu Island

Hike to the windward side of Kenutu Island

Beginning of our hike on Kenutu Island

Beginning of our hike on Kenutu Island

Walking the reef at low tide (Umuna Island)

Walking the reef at low tide (Umuna Island)

“Shelling” on Umuna Island

“Shelling” on Umuna Island

Persephone anchored off Kapa Island

Persephone anchored off Kapa Island

Fresh scallops in beer batter, compliments of Brian’s diving

Fresh scallops in beer batter, compliments of Brian’s diving

Narrow pass at Hunga Island

Narrow pass at Hunga Island

Sandie presents gift t-shirts at Neiafu’s Lions Club inaugural dinner

Sandie presents gift t-shirts at Neiafu’s Lions Club inaugural dinner

Enjoying tapas with Bob and Karyn from the yacht Realtime

Enjoying tapas with Bob and Karyn from the yacht Realtime

Tapas come with live entertainment

Tapas come with live entertainment

Slabs of coral are used for crypts

Slabs of coral are used for crypts

Approaching Swallows Cave (Kapa Island)

Approaching Swallows Cave (Kapa Island)

Swallows Cave

Swallows Cave

A piece of coral fouls our anchor

A piece of coral fouls our anchor

Singing and bazaar at Utulei Village

Singing and bazaar at Utulei Village

Sandie and her young friends (Utulei Village)

Sandie and her young friends (Utulei Village)

Young dancers perform for us (Utulei Village)

Young dancers perform for us (Utulei Village)

This girl stole the show (Utulei Village)

This girl stole the show (Utulei Village)

Adam and John from the infamous “4 Lei Men” rowing team (missing Mike)

Adam and John from the infamous “4 Lei Men” rowing team (missing Mike)

238 Kg blue marlin leads in the tournament

238 Kg blue marlin leads in the tournament

From → Travel

One Comment
  1. Michael McCleery permalink

    Tonga looks nice.    Brian, I hope your finger has healed by now.    Who is Tupo?   She sounds famous.

    Mike

    ________________________________

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