The Kingdom of Tonga – a summary

21st May 2023 – 3rd July 2023

A few musings from the notes Lesley wrote down:

We have arrived safely in Tonga!

We have now completed our shakedown sail after relaunching Ocean Blue. 1133 miles from New Zealand to Tonga with 3 nights at Minerva reef. Not much to see there, since it’s all under water at high tide! Excellent place to stop for a rest though – quite unique.

Hopefully we can start to explore Tonga tomorrow.

There are 176 islands in the Tongan archipelago which are divided into four main groups. From south to north – Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vav’u and Niuatoputapu groups.

Initially we were very happy to be here and looking forward to sundowners on the beach!


We hired a car and took ourselves off on an island tour. We discovered Abel Tasmin’s landing site; it must looks much the same as after the tsunami the resorts have gone and the sand and plants have reclaimed everything.

Tongatapu was hit by a tsunami in 2022 after an underwater volcano eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano. Waves of up to 15 meters struck the west coast of the island and wiped out several resorts. The island is still recovering and tourism is only just returning.

Our island tour took us to spectacular blow holes and a massive rock, ‘tsunami rock’, believed to be the largest tsunami debris ever found, although not from the 2022 one.

Next was a three headed coconut tree! the roosting place of a colony of fruit bats and spot Captain Cooks landing place. When we returned to Nuku’alofa we checked out the Royal Palace and the used the car to get provisions for the rest of our stay in Tonga.

The Vava’u and Ha’apai groups of Tonga are better suited as cruising grounds for visiting yachts with pristine beaches, healthy corals and enjoyable, easy snorkelling and diving.

Another draw to this area is the annual migration of humpback whales and we were hoping for an opportunity to go and see them once again in one of their breeding grounds.

Ha’apai group

We anchored off a little island called Ha’afeva in the Ha’apia island chain of Tonga. We took a walk across the small island of Ha’afeva to visit the village on the west side of the island where some 60 families live. There are apparently 7 churches, two small shops, a primary school, loads of pigs, some chickens a few cattle and an enormous spider!

As soon as we stepped ashore we were met by Pita Ofa Heanba who picked us limes from the tree by the path and invited us for lunch. I donated my crutches to Pita for his mother. Everyone was very friendly and the school children, who were immaculately dressed walked with us and conversed in pretty good English which is not their first language. Later in the afternoon we snorkelled the reef just by the anchorage.

The island has an impressive solar array and a generator, but the generator is broken though the engineers were on site trying to fix it.

In the late 1990s there was a roro dock built in the anchorage but it’s been destroyed by a cyclone leaving just a mass of broken concrete. Such a shame, but still good to tie the dinghy to.

The Tonga people are certainly living up to their reputation as being welcoming and warm to us visitor

Not a bad spot for Sunday lunch.

A short sail this morning took us to a stunning anchorage just north of the island O’Ua. Some excellent snorkelling followed by a barbecue on Supertramp rounded off the day very nicely. In the anchorage we saw turtles, squid, many small colourful fish and our first white tipped reef shark for this year.

Uoleva, the next island up the eastern chain of the Ha’apai group has a kite surfing school. An excellent opportunity for a quick refresher in superb surroundings, whilst Lesley made friends with the locals. Unfortunately the wind was rather light – around 10 to 11 knots but still good to get some new tips and a bit of supervised practice.

We took a long dinghy ride to the main town in this group, Pangi. There was limited shopping but some great ice cream.

We snorkelled the most beautiful coral garden at matafonua lodge at Northern tip of Pangai, Ha’apai. And We we’re even able to have a sundowners at the resort bar/restaurant over looking the brilliant turquoise lagoon to finish off a fabulous day. And sunshine at last!


Vavau consists of one large island and over 40 smaller ones, which create a wonderful sheltered area for sailing and exploring. Neiafu is the main town for provisioning and also has several restaurants and yacht services.

15 June – We had great fun today exploring some of the caves in the area.  Swallows Cave is a located on Kava Island,  The cave  is named after the large number of swallows that nest within its walls. The entrance to the cave is located at the water’s edge, and visitors can enter the cave by boat or kayak. Once inside it is large with high ceilings and walls covered in formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

The water inside the cave is crystal clear and spectacular with a huge ball of fish inside. We had trouble finding Mariners Cave but the scenery along the way was stunning. Photos of the dinghy trip to the nearby Swallows Cave and some views of the anchorage.

More exploring of the eastern and southern Vava’au group. Lunch (and baking fresh bread rolls and doughnuts) anchored off the beautiful uninhabited Fua’amotu, now back anchored in the shelter of Euakafa island. The squid was swimming off our transom for a day at Olo’ua and the locals were busy fishing in the shallows off Koloa.

Just a few of the types of coral we saw on our snorkel on the reef. So wonderful to see such a healthy coral garden.

We took a trip outside the reef today since the wind and swell were low. We were rewarded with a walk around our very own island (actually Fonuafo’ou Island), lunch onboard in the bay, then an hour or watching whales play nearby. Every July to October, humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic to the South Pacific Ocean in order to mate and calve.

Then back at anchor tucked up inside the reef.

Our last weekend in Tonga has been spent enjoying the coral, Mariners and Swallows Caves, and spending time with friends Alex and Carla from Ari B.

On this dinghy trip we did find Mariners Cave on the west wall of the north end of Nuapupu Island. Unlike Swallows Cave, which can be entered on the surface, the entry to Mariner’s Cave is 1 to 3 meters underwater (depends on the tide), and you have to swim about 3 meters underwater to be able to come up inside the cave. The cave is not visible above the water. You can go close to the island and jump into the water. Once inside the only light is the ethereal blue coming through the underwater entrance, and the seal is so tight that when the swell rolls in, the water compresses the air in the cave fast enough to produce an instant fog-out!  As the swell ebbs, the air comes as instantly crystal clear.

Tomorrow we leave for the Lau group of islands in Fiji. Thank you Tonga for an amazing experience.