Photos: Kingdom of Tonga Vava'u- Part 1 of 3

Sea Mist > Sold to New Owners July 2016
John and Cheryl Ellsworth
Fri 3 Sep 2010 19:30

The Kingdom of Tonga



Tonga is the only Pacific nation never to have been controlled by foreign nation and is the last remaining Polynesian monarchy.  Captain Cook, who was a familiar face in Polynesia, nicknamed Tonga as the “Friendly Islands”.  The current ruler is King Tupou; King George Tupou 1 started the dynasty.  He was educated at Sandhurst and still walks around Nuku’alofa sporting his monocle.


There are approximately 170 islands but only 36 are inhabited.  Thinking about a little Pacific get-a-way, you have your choice of 170 islands!


Tonga is divided into four main island groups.  In the south is Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku’alofa is.  Eua to the south-east, to the north, Ha’apai and further north is Vav’u where we are and where the traditional way of life still thrives.  We are looking forward to the snorkeling, diving, hiking and photo taking as there is a profusion of flowers, birds, flying fox, fruit bats, parrots, humpback whales, dolphins and porpoises.


Malo e Lelei Tonga


Neiafu, Vav'u


We had very lumpy seas on our passage to Tonga; we were looking forward to calm seas in the harbor and a good night’s sleep.  Our first order of business was to visit the Bank so we would have Tonga dollars or Tops to pay for our entrance visa, garbage, etc.  We met with…

Quarantine, Health, Customs and finally Immigration, we also had to bring any garbage bags we had on board so they could quarantine those as well, oh yes and we were oh so thrilled to pay him $25 for our two garbage bags, at least we were allowed to enter Tonga…I remember Niue.



Our first look at Neiafu.


We are on the island of Vav’u and the town is Neiafu, the Port of Refuge harbor is a major entry point for yachts.  The town is not very big, a few craft stores, restaurants, dive shops, a pharmacy and lots of charter shops. The grocery stores are small and simply stocked, the local market which is open daily provides a good selection of fruits and vegetables and there is a craft market as well.  I hope to get some photos of the Tongans weaving baskets.  We will do better in the south in Nuku’Alofa, they have supermarkets there and we are kicking off from Nuku’alofa to go to New Zealand.  Oh well, I guess we will have to try out some of the restaurants…Aquarium Restaurant was our first experience.  Tomorrow we are going to enjoy some of the bays before we come back into town to meet Michael and Jeanette.










Our first stop is Lape Island where the islanders are holding a traditional Tongan feast with local dishes like Lu pulu.  They are trying to get money to rebuild their dock, here is a fact I am sure you don’t know, the Canadian government will donate $One Top for every $Three Top collected at the feast.  Our hosts were very gracious and welcoming, they even had Kava drink, what does it taste like, well, according to some of the yachties who have tasted it, somewhat like pee, and even better your lips become numb after a few sips.  There were 36 guests at their feast and they collect a grand total of $3000 Tops which should put a dent into the money needed to repair the dock.  They need the dock to have a place for the fishermen to unload their fish and for the delivery boats to deliver food and supplies.  Right now you land on coral and attach your painter to a large piece of coral.  They cooked a young pig in the ‘umu or underground oven, a variety of salads, fish dishes and local dishes.  A great time was had by all.  Sorry no photos, my camera is not doing well after twilight…


We gave them one good night’s sleep, and then we were all awakened by a fire.  It was a small motel, only two people in the building and they got out safely, they were able to save the buildings next door as there was no wind.  The next day we went over to see the damage and one tree was truly burnt but the Laughing Rooster next door was saved.  Quite awesome in it’s majesty.

The photos I took were not the beginning of the fire, we didn’t wake up when it started, we only got up after we heard the crackling and fire sirens.  The smoke was so thick you actually thought it would encompass the whole harbor, but the winds over the water were in our favour, they blew the winds away from our boat for a while a least, then the ashes started to fall and we were included.



This gives you a good idea how close the fire was to other buildings.



A fire is very noisy, you hear all of the building groaning and parts of it breaking apart, glass shatters, metal bends, and yes you hear it bend, there is so much noise your senses are assaulted between the fire itself, the sounds and the smells.  The biggest sensory is the tragedy that fire creates.




The Palm tree survived.  to.  You could feel the heat waves coming off the fire, actually not totally correct, you could see them and then thought you could feel the heat.  My camera couldn’t get all of the shots I wanted, sometimes the image was fuzzy.



Change over



Swallow's Cave


We left Lape Island and went to Kapu Island, Bay 17, they number the bays as they are too difficult to pronounce.  We took our dinghy and Passages and Bluebottle went together over to swallow’s Cave where hundreds of white-rumped swift lets live in the cave.  There are other odd things in the cave…oh wait, it is the motley crew!  We always send the youngest one into the water to check it out before we go in.


What a handsome group,not….


The Motley Crew


Here we are in Swallow’s Cave, and truly look like a motley crew, at least we had shirts that were not torn or stained on for the phtooo shoot…

We posed in the dinghy, why well because we might look like this if we didn’t


We actually needed these photos for one of the contests for the Full Moon Pary

Going In

Coming Out


This sign was on one of the rocks, so very true and accurate.  I would say that most boat owners would agree - they have the same locker on board, rather than in a cave and behaves about the same.



We left the cave and saw something floating in the water and went over to investigate what it was…