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                               VAVA'U, TONGA GROUP Part 1

September 20

We arrived in the Vava'u Group almost 24 hours after we left Niuatoputapu, after a brisk sail on the forward beam. Since Ascension likes going upwind, the passage was very quick, although not all that comfortable. We were in the company of Endless, Stardust, CamIra, and Outer Limits.

Our first impression of the Central Tongan group of islands was complete deja-vu.... it looked very much like the Gulf Islands/San Juans (except with palm trees). The weather is even similar to the Pacific Northwest in the summertime. It almost felt like coming home!

This group of islands is very popular for cruisers because there are a number of anchorages to visit, all within a short distance of one another (much the same as in the San Juans) and all within the protection of the outer reef.


NEIAFU

We headed straight for the largest village of Neiafu, where we needed to check in. The body of water on which the town of Neiafu is situated is a five mile long bay and is well protected. All of our cruising friends were already in the anchorage, having partied for at least a week at the infamous Mermaid Bar before we arrived.

That evening, we met up with the gang at the Mermaid Waterfront Bar that is also a local favorite hangout. The bar is always packed and hopping. 

The next morning we made a trip to Neiafu and explored the town, did our check-in and some grocery shopping. The people in Neiafu were very friendly and the town was very clean. You could get most everything you needed with a little searching.


Kick Ass Kiwi Kickoff Party

September 25

We had been looking forward to the huge reunion party for all the Puddle Jumpers and others that we have met who will be doing the crossing to New Zealand. It was good to see people we hadn't seen in a while as many went a different route to end up in Tonga. Mermaids hosted a BBQ and we even had "Kiwi Kick-Off" shirts. Later there were awards presented to all the Cruisers. Ascension got an award for being the longest rafted after a passage!

Below are some highlights from the party. 

Marv, Donna, Ginny, Gord & Donna

MJ Master of Ceremonies

Admiral Rick presenting awards

KT's award for falling off the wall

Donna gets an
award 

Flo presents award to Mia

More photos of the Kick Ass Kiwi Kick-Off Party. 


September 27
A meeting was held to discuss strategies for the upcoming passage to New Zealand. Many are leaving directly from Nieafu, others will explore the Ha'apai Group to Nuku'alofa and leave from there (which we would like to do) but time is running out as we need to think about making the crossing before the onset of cyclone season. There are many anchorages here to explore but it is so easy to just relax and stay in one for too long. 

PORT MAURELLE

October 1
We decided to sail to one of the beautiful Vava'u anchorage so we chose one several hours away at Port Maurelle. We anchored in a calm picturesque bay along with several other boats. 


Swallow's Cave

Despite windy conditions we ventured down the coast in our dinghy to visit Swallow's Caves. Although the cave is named Swallow's Cave, it is actually inhabited by dozens of starlings (and bats). The water in the cave was an intense blue color and you could see the coral formations far below the surface.

We were hoping to do some snorkeling on the way back to the boat but opted for a walk on the beach because the water was so rough. Afterwards we were approached a boat traveling from cruiser to cruiser selling fruit and various crafts.

On the beach, there were some well used  trails leading through the jungle so we hiked to the next village and came upon more beautiful beaches. The hues of blue color in the water were so stunning.

TAUNGA

October 3
Our next stop was an anchorage at Taunga, one of the smallest inhabited islands of the group. We dropped the hook in front of the most gorgeous sandy beach, and we were completely alone.

After a walk around the island, we hopped into the dinghy and motored out to some of the tiny outer islands surrounding the anchorage. Each little island was an  idyllic tropical paradise, with deserted sandy beaches. We did some snorkeling although we were quite disappointed that most of the reefs in Tonga are damaged and live coral is very hard to find.


Shelling

was rewarding and we found a perfectly preserved little blue starfish on the beach.

POPAO ISLAND BEACH RESORT

October 6
Time to move on. This time we headed for an anchorage a couple of hours away where there is a resort recently taken over by a Canadian couple from Vancouver. The anchorage itself is very popular for its protection and excellent snorkeling. 

The dock leading to the resort was very interesting indeed, but you wanted to be sure that you were paying attention when you attempted to walk its length!

Popao Resort

A steep hike up the hill brought us to the quaint outdoor bar of the Popao Resort where we met Lisa and Matt. Lisa, who does all the cooking, showed us around the fales. These little huts are perched high above the bay and the views are spectacular. She offered us fruit from her trees and gave us a loaf of home baked bread to take back to the boat!

Overlooking the anchorage from one of the fale

Acupuncture for Gord

It turned out that Matt was a registered acupuncturist in Vancouver so he offered to give Gord a treatment in hopes of improving his chronic shoulder pains. It was entertaining for me to watch and Matt seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Unfortunately more than just one treatment is required to get the maximum benefits.

Great Snorkeling

This was one of our favourite anchorages and the snorkeling near the boat was great, with lots of antler coral and a huge variety of fish. We walked to the other side of the island to a little sandy beach where there was lots of tidal pools.

 


We had made reservations for an upcoming 'Tongan Feast, so we pulled anchor and set sail for Ano Beach.

Continued VAVA'U TONGA Part 2>>>>

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