Our search for a vet to administer the annual vaccinations for Chui & Scrumpy took us to the Ha’apai group of islands, about 70 miles south of Vava’u.
We had a great overnight sail down to Pangai, the main island in the Ha’apai group. Once we had checked in there, we relocated around to Uoleva to find Kristen, the vet. By an incredible coincidence, Kristen, the vet we had been in contact with (courtesy of our friends Gaylyn & Thomas on Qi) just happened to be the partner of Craig, a guy we had known 20 years earlier in Dar es Salaam! Craig arrived in Tonga some 9 or 10 years ago and had been running a couple of businesses here over the years, the latest being the lodge, which he & Kristen had just sold! It was great to finally get the dogs’ vaccinations sorted out and to reconnect with Craig and meet Kristen. Small, small world and a BIG thank you to Kristen for braving Chui and updating the boys’ vaccinations!
After a couple of days anchored off Uoleva we decided to explore some of the islands further south. The Ha’apai was beautiful with a long fringing reef stretching all the way down the eastern edge of the group and a variety of small islands and sand banks dotted to the west of the reef.
During our time in these islands we saw whales every day. Nothing can describe the thrill or privilege of watching these enormous creatures just metres away from the anchorage simply having the time of their lives. Tonga is one of the only places in the world where you can actually swim with whales on an organised tour. Back in Vava’u we had met some researchers who were studying the impact of this tourist activity on the behaviour patterns of the whales. We were reminded of the research charter we did back in 2002 when we were the base station for a pilot study in Zanzibar on whales and dolphins and the scientists onboard collected DNA from the whales in order to identify habitat and behaviour patterns.
Another of Tonga’s treasures is the diving/ snorkelling, especially around the Ha’apai group. The only downside was the weather. For much of the time it was unseasonably COLD and often wet, overcast and windy! The mostly small reef fish there are beautiful and the coral is as pristine as we have seen in a very long time. Even more special is listening to the sounds of whales off in the distance as we enjoyed the diving and snorkelling. It was really quite eerie and we half expected to turn around and look straight into their eyes, but no such luck.
Unfortunately, again due to the weather, we weren’t able to do much diving, but the highlights were Wickham reef on one of the few calm, sunny days that we had and snorkelling around the wreck off Ha’afeva island’s west coast.
Further south in the Ha’apai group there are plenty of islands to explore, but again, due to weather we had some challenges with the anchorages, so the best advice for Ha’apai (like the Tuamotus in French Polynesia) is PICK your weather, if at all possible, and go there with plenty of time to enjoy these gorgeous places…… We hope you enjoy the photos of Mango, Ha’afeva and Nomuka islands, plus the general photos that we posted on Facebook and do please let us know if you CANNOT access these pages. I believe they are accessible even if you do not use Facebook??
After 3 weeks in the Ha’apai group, we sailed back to Vava’u to explore more of the anchorages, meet up with other cruising friends and join in with the Blue Water Regatta, which is held in the first week of October, somewhat inconvenient for me, as I was back on my Sober for October challenge again, so I diligently remained teetotal for the whole event, and indeed for the whole of October!! Oh, and on that note,…… you can STILL sponsor me until the end of November! Come on George, cough up. I did it!! 😉 Thanks to everyone who did sponsor me and also to those who chose to support The Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti (in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew) in support of my efforts. All very much appreciated!
Back to the Treasures of Tonga blog post.