Tonga & Lau Group
17 June 2016
We arrived in the Vava'u island group in the Kingdom of Tonga on May 31st after a two day sail from Niue. Vava'u is picturesque at every turn, made up of spectacular islands intertwined with turquoise waterways and encircling reefs that have created one of the most popular, and sheltered, cruising grounds on the planet. There are several charter boats companies there who do a brisk business but given Tonga's relative remoteness, the islands are a far cry from the commercialism of the Caribbean. The town of Neiafu caterers to sail boats and has several wonderful restaurants and bars and they have a fabulous public market. We explored several land and sea caves, snorkeled, hiked, had cookouts on the beach, and enjoyed cruising around to different islands. Vava'u is a city of pigs and puppies- they were everywhere! Mama pigs and their piglets walked through the heart of Neiafu as if they owned it. After a lovely 10 day visit we prepared to depart for Fiji. But wait...
A large low trough parked itself between Tonga and Fiji so we delayed leaving Tonga, preferring to hide out (as we had already cleared customs and were supposed to have left the country) for two days while over 15 inches of rain fell on us and we saw some very gusty winds. As our watermaker has gone on strike, the rainwater we collected nicely filled up our watertanks and gave Blue Summit a lovely bath.
We cleared into Fiji in Vanua Balavu, in the Lau group, and had a fabulous three days there. The World Arc arranged for a customs and immigration team to be flown there from Suva, the capitol, so we could check in there without having to go 130 miles further west, then beat back 130 miles to see the Lau group. Thank you World Arc! The Lau chain was devastated by cyclone Winston earlier this year and an armada of sailors are volunteering their time, talents, and resources to help rebuild the islands. "Seamercy" is the group overseeing this work and we wereable to donate four bags of food and kitchen utensils. Unfortunately because we had a delayed departure from Tonga we missed the "work days" where members of the fleet helped dig a garden, repair a roof and visit a school.
The snorkeling in Vanua Balavu was mediocre but the water was gorgeous and topography stunning. Not a beach in sight, all rocky, cliff-like limestone coasts (I'll send pics when we get internet)that rise vertically from the water with fascinating mushroom shaped rocks, eroded from the sea. Alas, we only spent three days there as there are so many places to see, and so little time. The World Arc fleet leaves Fiji on July 9 for Vanutua so we're moving quickly through some places in the Fiji to try to stay with our friends until they continue west with the fleet- and we stay put.
The reefs off Taveuni are renowned as some of the best dive sites in the world so we're looking forward to snokeling what we can there. The highlands of the island are a rainforest and there are numerous black sand beaches there, as well as hiking trails. Alas, yet another island that we will just skim the surface of but we need to make it to Savusavu for internet, food, and water in the very near future. Rumor has it that there's a cable connecting Australia and Fiji- which provides Fiji with cheap and high speed internet so we are all salivating over that prospect. :)