Where the heck is Tonga…?

South Pacific, South Pacific Sailing, Tonga — By on June 14, 2011 9:22 PM


several people asked me after I announced I had arrived here a few weeks back.

The Kingdom of Tonga is a group of 171 islands located in the South Pacific southeast of Fiji. It is the oldest and last remaining Polynesian monarchy and the only South Pacific nation never to be brought under foreign rule. Captain Cook nicknamed the “Friendly Islands” unaware of a plot by the Tongans on Lifuka to murder him. He escaped none the wiser.

The islands are grouped into four regions.
1. Tongatapu Group – housing the capital Nukualofa. After hearing only poor reviews we opted to skip.
2. Ha’apai Group – cluster of low coral islands, some volcanic boasting of long stretches of deserted beaches and very few tourists. We enjoyed kitesurfing here.
3. Vava’u Group – immense land locked harbor, best explored by boat.
4. Niuas – most remote island in Tonga, uplifted volcanic atolls in the far north – I will be visiting on a sailing trip to Fiji next week.

We arrived in Vava’u (vah vah – ooh) by sailboat and anchored in the Port of Refuge with all the other yachts in Neiafu. The first five days were spent seeking shelter from monsoon like rains. We were able to sneak in a few hikes and visited a few local beaches in between downpours.

Views from Mt. Talau

Vava’u is considered the most scenic region of Tonga, a labyrinth of waterways wind between limestone cliffs and thickly forested islands. Yachties are in paradise with many secluded anchorages and hidden caves.

Vava'u Island Group

Port of Refuge - Neiafu

The main town of Neiafu was a ghost town on the day of rest and “Amazing Grace” blasted through loudspeakers throughout town. Locals piled into the churches wearing their weaved ta’ovala skirts over their clothes. Missionaries baptized the king of Tonga in 1831 and are responsible for the Christian laws that still govern the country today.

While I quite like the cute little pigs roaming about town, I am still not sure how I feel about Neifau or Vava’u in general. Perhaps the crappy weather negatively affected our perception, as did the strange divide between the visiting yachties and the locals. If felt wrong to sit down at a cafe in Tonga and be surrounded by westerners watching the NBA finals playing on a television. I am disappointed that so far I have not been able to experience the real Tonga thus far and hope the culture is more alive outside of this town.

Many of the shops and cafes are run by foreigners who seem to be very unhappy to have immigrated to this country. I can’t figure out why they seem so unhappy to be living on a beautiful tropical island? I also found it quite interesting that every couple we met who moved to Tonga to start a business had since broken up but still run the business together. Perhaps paradise isn’t so great when you have to work beside your ex everyday?

We recognized quite a few faces around town of the yacht owners we had spoke to in New Zealand. We were surprised how easy it was to find a new boat to crew on to Fiji now that we have an ocean passage under our belts. We had a few offers to crew and will be sailing on Forteleza, which is part of a rally of  over 30 boats that originated in New Zealand and are cruising the South Pacific over the next few months.

We were both feeling quite restless after being stuck inside a small boat for over two weeks only to be then stuck inside cafes and our hostel room to avoid the rain. I felt the urge to run anywhere. We were more than ready to leave Niafu when the ferry to Ha’apai finally arrived two days late …

To see more photos of Vava’u CLICK HERE.

Tags: , , ,

1 Comment

  1. Dasha says:

    What is with the couples breaking up and working together and being so dissatisfied? We are the masters of lives, hello!

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge

Get Adobe Flash player