Vava’u is a group of islands surrounded by warm, tropical water and a steady easterly breeze. What makes the Tongan Islands so unique is the close proximity of pristine and unspoiled islets and isolated anchorages – a cruiser’s paradise.
The lack of western development brings the feel of authenticity, and the genuine hospitality of the locals makes a traveler feel a sense of welcome and safety both ashore and afloat. Clear azure waters with shades of aquamarine fringe each lush tropical island. The archipelago covers 20 miles and includes dozens of safe, sandy anchorages.
In May the anchorages hold few other boats, the majority being charter yachts enjoying a few weeks of isolation from the rest of the world. There is little sight or sound of habitation from our aquatic perch, so it is easy to feel away from the typical hustle and bustle that so many holiday destinations attract. Rather than the whistle of hawkers, life cries out through distinguishable calls from the forest: large bats that stalk prey hours before sunset until the sun is high, the mixed melody of the variety of birds that fringe the surrounding bays, the grunt of pig and the crow of cock, monkeys chattering from their perch, the splash of the fish as they fly to outrun predator… I’ve never seen so many fish dancing on the water’s surface, of a variety of size, shape, colour.
There are few villages in the area, the largest of which is Neiafu Town. This provides the only base in which to stock up on fresh veg and other supplies, with a smattering of shops that run down the central main street. It also provides a number of simple restaurants with one common theme: Excellent seafood. Each morning you can listen to the cruisers information net on the radio and get an update of your daily specials, in addition to the local chat within the community. If wanting a walk about town for a bit of sight seeing, don’t worry about changing out of your jandals…. you’ve covered the town end-to-end in ten minutes. And don’t pass the church without stopping by for a visit – if you get there during a service you should pop in to listen to the beautiful singing that rings out over the harbour.
Now that we can truly claim holiday on this excursion, our days are dominated by rest and relaxation. We fill our days with simple routine: morning swims off the boat and paddle boarding around the bay, snorkeling in the surrounding caves and around coral heads, a quick haul of anchor and an afternoon jaunt to a new idyllic spot. We celebrated my birthday with a no-egg cake (you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to get your hands on a dozen eggs – best be at the market by 7AM or you will be leaving empty handed) and a treasure hunt that led to a beautiful diamond ring. We saw off our passage crew and welcomed new arrivals.
We connected with a good friend Stephen, recently arrived on his new boat from Tahiti. We went over to meet him on his boat for morning coffee, and were still there at 6:00PM. Such is the flexibility of this life!! One of our evenings together we enjoyed a Tongan feast in a local seaside village. We were treated to local dancing by a teenage contingent followed by local food served local style, topped off with a session of music and kava (local grog). Despite being put on for a collection of yachties, the fact that this feast was prepared and presented by local villagers has made it the most authentic experience by far. The food was superb, a large spread of traditionally cooked dishes individually wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in coconut milk, served in stems of bamboo and fruit skins to be eaten by hand.
We’ve explored many different anchorages and have enjoyed the leisure that defines island cruising. And we pinch ourselves. Not half a year ago this wasn’t even a consideration, and here we sit in our island paradise watching the sleepy days tick by, loving every minute of our new reality.
This is La Pura Vida!!!!