Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Tonga, a study in contrasts

Five weeks in Tonga and the answer to the question "What is Tonga like?" is not an easy question to answer. For us Tonga was a series of contrasting events.  Let's start with the weather. Tonga was either cloudy and grey, with high wind warnings, or calm and absolutely beautiful.  When the sun was out the contrast between the green hills, the blue skies and the turquoise waters was stunning. 
A watercolor I did of our anchorage at Port Maurelle, one of the many anchorages in the Vava'u group of Tonga. Many of the islands have undercut limestone cliffs and caves.

The water cutting away the limestone created stunning overhangs and caves. Swallow's cave is one of the caves we got to explore.

It is only accessible by boat, or swimming

Looking back out from inside the cave

We alternated our time in Tonga with hunkering down on the boat, waiting for the wind and the waves to subside, or hiking, diving, snorkeling and spending time with other people. 

Another cave we got to explore was Mariner's Cave.

The entrance to this cave is underwater. We dove down, swam through the entrance and surfaced inside, above the water. The cave was only lit by the sunlight filtering through the water at the entrance. It was absolutely beautiful. 

Tonga consists of some 170 islands divided into three main island groups: Tongatapu in the south, Ha'apai in the centre, and Vava'u in the north. 170 miles north to south

We spent our time  in the Northern section, or the Vava'u group. The Ha'api group is the group that was devastated by the volcano in 2022, and the Tongatapu group is what is usually labeled as Tonga on maps.

The Vava'u group is comprised of one large island and 40 smaller ones with waterways twisting between them . It is easy to find areas of protection when the strong winds are blowing.

Bob organized a wonderful birthday celebration for me with some really great folks,

and later we participated in our first "boat crawl"

Rhapsody was the first boat in the lineup.  We had 8 boats total participating. BYOB, hors d'oeuvres provided by the boat owners. We have never had so many people in the cockpit of Rhapsody! We could actually sense the weight tipping Rhapsody slightly towards the stern!

All the wind and the rain produced some spectacular sunsets.

Next up: swimming with the whales!

We love to hear your comments.

Dancing on the Edge said...

Small World! I know some of the folks--Susimi and Midnight Breeze!
Love the pics and update. Melissa Dancing on the Edge

Sarah said...

The cruising world is a small world indeed. We just met most of these folks, and I believe all of them, or almost all, are either in New Zealand already, or are poised to go, waiting for a better weather window. We are going on a different path, but hope to meet up with them again next season, in Fiji.