Tonga-Vava'u, Ha'apai, and Tonagatapu in 2 weeks

I had a really hard time tracking down info about Tonga before my trip, so hopefully this journal will help someone out there...

Taina's Resort

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by rockpaperscissors on October 10, 2005

Very basic, but Taiana and Kolafi, the couple who run the "resort" are such lovely people. There are only two places to stay on Uoleva, and apparantly several solo female travelers have run into some trouble with the owner of the neighboring resort.

Uoleva is gorgeous, but yeah, no electricity (bring a torch/flashlight) or running water (but Kolafa--aka. "pump man" sees to it that the toilets keep flushing and the cold water keeps trickling out of the showers). Taiana prepares breakfast and dinner for guests (bring snacks for lunch), vegetarians can be catered for. For a single fale (bungalow), it costs $18T/night. Breakfast is $5, and dinner somewhere between $8-10. I seriously could have spent my whole 2 weeks here.

Adventure Backpackers

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by rockpaperscissors on October 10, 2005

Clean and easy. I was tempted to stay at a smaller place run by native Tongans, but after my first night in a room that faced the window of a Chinese restaurant kitchen and where the only tourist literature was a 2-year-old brochure on some whale-watching trip, I decided to treat myself to some Western-style accommodation. The best thing about Adventure Backpackers is their info board. Even if you're not staying at the backpackers, go there to research your options in Vava'u--way more information than you'll find at the official Visitor's Bureau in Vava'u. And the women who work in the hostel are really friendly and helpful as well--especially Losa. If you see her, tell her Elana (from the USA/New Zealand) says hi! It's not the cheapest place in town, but if you've been traveling in New Zealand (or plan to) and have a BBH card, they'll give you a $3 discount/night.

Hinakaeua Feast

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by rockpaperscissors on October 10, 2005

This was sooooo nice. Run by a local (in a place where most tourist activities seem to be run by foreigners), this was a great cultural experience. Yes, it was obviously a show for the tourists, but it was so sincere and sweet. Children from the local villages perform songs and dances on the beach as the sunset, and they really seemed to be enjoying themselves. I had a great time dancing with the kids. Dinner consists of a countless number of shells filled with small portions of local specialties. i don't eat meat or chicken, but there were plenty of seafood dishes for me to eat. strict vegetarians will be stuck with taro and fruit though. there's plenty of food and you just eat whatever and as much as you want. drinks are extra so maybe bring along some water. after dinner the men sing songs and drink kava and everyone is welcome to join. and when you've had enough kava, you say the word and Sione will drive you back to your accomodation (just keep an eye on his kava intake!). I think the whole thing cost $T30, but I might be wrong.

I spoke to some people who did the Good Samaritan feast on Tongatapu and they were seemed a bit diappointed by how touristy it was, so if you're planning to head to Vava'u, this might be a good alternative.

Whale Swim and Scuba Diving

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by rockpaperscissors on October 10, 2005

There are two operators in Vava'u--Dolphin Pacific and Beluga. I would definitely recommend Dolphin Pacific over Beluga. If you really want to know the details, send me a message. If you're particularly energetic, you can do a 2tank dive plus a half day whale swim with full equipment with Dolphin Pacific for T$180. A two-tank dive alone with equipment costs $140-$150 with Dolphin, and I think $160 with Beluga, so it's a good deal.

That being said, I wasn't that impressed with the diving in Vava'u. Granted, I'm a bit spoiled in this department, but the coral wasn't too vibrant and not so many fish. The dive I did in Swallow's Cave was really great though. You swim into the cave, and descend into this gigantic ball of baitfish. The followed us all along the wall--Everytime I looked-up at them I felt like I was on some weir drug-induced trip. And you can often hear the whales singing while you're underwater which is pretty great too.

As for the whale swim, I have mixed feelings on this. I really wanted to believe that it wasn't bothering the whales, but I dunno. I guess they could just swim away if it bugged them, but I still kinda felt like maybe I was invading their personal space. But yeah, being in the water with a humpback or two--definitely something to tell the grandkids about. Still, they're pretty impressive from the boat.

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