The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, directly south of Samoa and consists of over 170 islands, many of them uninhabited. Vava’u, with a population of around 15,000 inhabitants, is an island group consisting of one large island and 40 smaller ones. As our tender approached the shore we could hear a youth brass band playing and a group of kindergarten aged children, singing and dancing to raise money for their schools. Beautifully crafted goods were being sold by the locals, hoping to make the most of our short stop.
We drove through the main town and then headed over to the Tongan Beach Resort, around 20 minutes from the port. The return taxi drive cost us 50 Tongan Pa’anga and entry to the resort (including a delicious barbeque lunch) 90 Tongan Pa’anga. We passed by little houses, some of them so small you could barely swing a cat in them. This was the poorest of all the islands we’ve visited so far. Pigs of all sizes run around freely and you need to keep your eye out for the odd lost cow wandering across the road.
Tongan Beach Resort is a peaceful, private and cosy retreat made up of rustic bungalows, a half-filled swimming pool and a very basic restaurant and bar. Yet, it’s popular with visitors from all over the world because right off the jetty lies a spectacular lagoon, abundant with fish. As we lay under the trees, we watched as diver after diver returned from their daily adventures and it was clear that this was what travellers came here for. We spent the rest of the day swimming and snorkelling in the lagoon. The marine life was good here but there wasn’t much reef. Watch out for sea urchins and stone fish, reef shoes are essential. If you’ve ever wanted to swim with a humpback whale, this is the place to do it. Trip Advisor’s number 1 tour is run by ‘Tongan Expedition Dive and Whale Watching’ and offers a safe and truly unforgettable experience.
Our next stop was scheduled to be Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital. Unfortunately, the wind picked up the night before our expected arrival and our ship was unable to safely pass between the reef to enter the harbour, the captain made the decision to cancel this stop. We ended up spending an extra day at sea but it wasn’t a big deal. By now we were comfortable with being on the ship for longer periods of time and the kids had some home-schooling catch up to do.
Next stop: Dravuni Island, Fiji.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” Anonymous