Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vava'u by water

After 3 days in Neiafu, we were ready to explore some of Vava'u's other attractions. We spent our first day near Kapa Island, which has several anchorages and lots of snorkeling  and diving possibilities. Our first stop was the tiny island of Nuku, with a nice beach and clear water.
After lunch, we decided to anchor at Port Maurelle, and use the dinghy for exploring. With flat seas, we decided to don our scuba gear and dive Swallows' Cave. Outside the cave was a vertical wall going down over 200 feet. For our safety stop, we explored the inside of the cave. Oops, forgot the camera for this one. The next day, the wind went light as predicted. My first priority was Mariner's Cave, whose entrance is 6 feet underwater and 20 feet long. Vicki stood off in Southern Cross, as there is nowhere to anchor within a couple of miles. This cave is justly famous for being airtight. Swells compress the air inside the cave, popping your ears and forming a momentary fog as the humidity condenses. Unique in my experience.
Next, we anchored at Luamoko, a nearby island, for some snorkeling along a shallow reef. Wow, amazingly healthy coral!
From here, we motored all the way to the eastern edge of the archipelago, making use of the calm conditions to explore some of the trickiest and most exposed areas. Fanua Tapu pass would not have been too difficult, had not all 3 nav aids gone missing! We tiptoed through, dead slow, with a constant lookout for coral bommies. Our destination was Kenutu Island, approached through a zigzag maze of coral and clear water. The main attraction here was a hike to the windward side, where we gazed out over the open Pacific from high cliffs.
The pandanus trees looked like something from a Dr. Seuss book.
The next day, Saturday, the winds were even lighter, so we decided to continue our exploration of Vava'u's reef-strewn eastern side. We motored south to Fonua Unga Pass. Even with reliable waypoints, this was a tricky pass to navigate. Just south of the pass, we anchored off the shore of tiny Fonua Fo'ou, where the only inhabitants were black noddies, black-naped terns, and a single eastern curlew.
We motored back to Kapa Island and anchored off Falevai ("water house") village. A walk in the village reminded us that Tonga is a far less prosperous place than French Polynesia.
Now we're back to Neiafu for a few days. Here's a typical sight in the harbor, a water taxi bringing in people from one of the outlying islands.

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