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Vavau, Tonga

Tonga, the "Friendly Islands", is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean.

Vava’u is a group of more than 50 islands in Tonga, about 150 miles north of Tongatapu. They are either raised coral limestone or coral atolls. The beautiful harbor opposite the main town of Neiafu (known as the Port of Refuge Harbour) is a common destination for yachties sailing the South Pacific. The waters of the islands are known for their clarity, it is said that you can see the bottom at 40 meters. The area attracts many humpback whales between June and November and there are lots of companies organizing tours to see them. 

Findings of Lapita pottery suggest that early-Polynesians were on these islands close to 3000 years ago. Neiafu is the official port of entry for yachts coming to Vava'u, which attracts over 500 yachts every winter sailing season between June and October. A string of... Read more

Vavau, Tonga

Destination:
Tonga, the "Friendly Islands", is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean.

Vava’u is a group of more than 50 islands in Tonga, about 150 miles north of Tongatapu. They are either raised coral limestone or coral atolls. The beautiful harbor opposite the main town of Neiafu (known as the Port of Refuge Harbour) is a common destination for yachties sailing the South Pacific. The waters of the islands are known for their clarity, it is said that you can see the bottom at 40 meters. The area attracts many humpback whales between June and November and there are lots of companies organizing tours to see them. 

Findings of Lapita pottery suggest that early-Polynesians were on these islands close to 3000 years ago. Neiafu is the official port of entry for yachts coming to Vava'u, which attracts over 500 yachts every winter sailing season between June and October. A string of islands and reefs along the eastern edge of the Group shelters the area from strong winds and ocean swells and humpback whales come to these protected waters to give birth. This is the high season for tourism; between December and April few people visit and many tour companies and restaurants close down. Neiafu town is the center of activity. It is on the southern point of the main island of 'Utu Vava'u and has an attractive setting on one of the world's most beautiful harbors. Neiafu offers all the usual amenities including banks, schools, tour companies, restaurants, cafes and bars, supermarkets, a market, and a hospital. It doesn't have a beach but boats to one of the nearby coral atolls with superb sandy beaches are easily available.
Vava'u has a tropical climate with average temperatures up to 29ºC in January and down to 24ºC in June. It is sunny throughout the year. Between November and April, it is more humid and thunderstorms and cyclones do occur. From May to September there are southeast trade winds but during the summer months, the winds are from the northeast.

The main islands are:
  • 'Utu Vava'u. This is the largest island, where Neiafu is found. It is a limestone island with heights up to 213m in the west. The island provides a home to eleven indigenous bird species and contains Mt. Talau national park, with some of the limited remaining native vegetation. Tropical vegetation includes the pandanus or screw pine, the casuarina, and the mulberry tree, the bark of which is used to make tapa cloth.
  • Pangai. This is the second largest island in the Group. It can be seen across the water from Neiafu and is connected by a land bridge at the most southern point of ‘Utu Vava’u. There are some good beaches and plenty of secluded cove beaches and protected bays with good snorkeling. Avai'o'vuna Swamp is a small coastal wetland on the island.
  • Hunga Island. This is some 35 minutes from Neiafu Harbour and provides the main concentration of humpback whales. The island lies in deep water and has sheltered waters and bays which provide a resting place for humpbacks with calves.

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Vavau, Tonga: Port Information


Cruise ships anchor offshore, and passengers are transported ashore by the tender.
Everything is within walking distance.

Get around Vavau, Tonga


Bicycles, mountain bikes, motorbikes, and boats can be rented from several hotels and agencies. Taxis are available. Neiafu is small enough where you can easily get around on foot. Boat trips are organized by several companies.

What to see in Vavau, Tonga


  • Mt. Talau National Park. This was established in 1995 to preserve one of the few remaining areas of relatively undisturbed native forest. It is located on the main island. The Park has several tree species that are endangered in Tonga. Most of the birds and reptiles native to Tonga can be found here. Mt. Talau is also important as a source of Tongan legends. The entrance is approximately 2 km from the center of Neiafu and the trail is approximately 1km.
  • ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden., Tu’anekivale village (on the east coast of the main island.). The garden aims to promote the survival of native and exotic species and also to provide a sanctuary for bird life. Conservation successes include tree ferns, sandalwood species, bamboos and breadfruit species. You can leave a permanent memory by planting your own tree. There is also a Visitors’ Center where you can see tapa and other artifacts being made and sample the traditional drink of kava. Lunch is provided (if booked in advance) on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. On Thursday evening there is a Tonga Feast.  
  • Vanilla Growers Association. Vava'u is a major production area for high-quality vanilla and wandering around the countryside on the main island will give you a chance to see how the vanilla bean grows. The association has over 250 members and is both Fair Trade and Organic certified. The plant, a member of the orchid family, has a small cream or yellow flower which must be hand pollinated. The bean then takes nine months to grow, after which it is dried and cured, which develops the flavor and turns the pod dark brown or black. It is said to be the most labor-intensive agricultural product in the world. The value of individual beans means that farmers go to great lengths to protect them from theft, including pricking their individual code numbers on each bean with a pin. The vanilla industry crashed in 2007 and was mostly abandoned by growers until 2013 when an Australian company Queen Fine Foods agreed to fund the restoration of the industry under its corporate social responsibility policy. Visitors to Vava'u may visit their curing facility as see vanilla being processed from May to October. Contact ianjones@hotmail.com for more information.
  • Taste of Tonga. Taste of Tonga produces Virgin Coconut Oil and Cures Vanilla on behalf of Queen vanilla. They have a zero waste philosophy that converts all the downstream waste into another product. This includes coconut oil, coconut soap, coconut cheese, charcoal, maggot feed, chicken feed, pig feed, coconut vinegar, eggs, bacon. smoked chickens, pork, hams, and vanilla cured bacon, biogas, fertilizer, vegetables, worm castings and soon mud crabs, biodiesel and electricity.
Tours start from Vava'u Villa.Contact ianjones@hotmail.com for more information or phone +676 8411099.

What to do in Vavau, Tonga


  • Walks. There are several good walks from Neiafu including the climb up Mt. Talau (131m-see above) which has excellent views over the harbor. Toafa Church on the west point of Vava'u has good views of the cliffs of Hunga island and other islands.
  • Boat tours. Day trips around the islands are available from several companies. These tours visit Mariners Cave (which is accessible through an underwater tunnel), Swallows Cave (excellent for snorkeling) and one or two of the many secluded beaches around the Group. Vava'u Island Express offers day tours and snorkeling trips.
  • Diving. Visibility is excellent and the diving is great. Lots of dive sites, offering hard and soft corals, sea fan grottos, wall diving, and magnificent caves. Equipment can be rented and diving tours arranged. There are several PADI qualified dive instructors. Companies include Beluga Diving, Dive Vava’u (now closed), and Dolphin Pacific Diving.
  • Sailing. Vava'u is one of the most popular yacht cruising areas of the South Pacific. You can charter boats without provisioning or fully provisioned with a skipper and a cook. Short or long duration charters can be arranged. Companies offering charters include Sailing Safaris, Melinda Sea Adventures, Orion Charters (day charters only), Sail Tonga and Moorings International (moorings@tonfon.to).
  • Whale Watching. From June to November humpback whales calve and mate in the calm waters. It is not only the sight that is fascinating: the male whales sing. Whale songs vary according to the location: each year the song at each location changes. The effect of their singing on humans swimming with them is magical with the sound vibrating through your entire body. Whale watching excursions are available from Sailing Safaris, Endangered Encounters, Melinda Sea Adventures, which offers whale tours under sail, Whale Watch Vava'u and Vava'u Adventures, among others.
  • Snorkeling. There are some great beaches throughout Vava'u. Snorkeling and reef viewing opportunities abound. Vava'u Island Express offers snorkeling trips.
  • Kayaking. Guided tours of six and eight days to remote islands are available between May and December by the Friendly Islands Kayak Company. You may run into turtles, porpoises, whales, flying foxes, and many seabirds.
  • Kite surfing. This is offered by Kite Vava'u.
  • Fishing. Vava’u offers Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Striped Marlin, Sailfish and Short-billed spearfish, as well as pelagic species such as Yellow Fin Tuna, Dog Tooth Tuna, Mahimahi, Wahoo and Giant Trevally. Fishing trips are organized by Ika Lahi, which also offers accommodation on the lagoon of Hunga Island, as well as by Target One, Hakula Fishing, Ika Puna Game Fishing, and Kiwi Magic. Specialized fishing trips that target Giant Trevally and other reef species can be organized at Lucky's Beach Houses.

What to eat and drink in Vavau, Tonga


Eat

Most restaurants have ship-to-shore VHF radio so passing yachties can order food or book a table.
  • Aquarium Cafe, ☎ +676 70493. 08.00-late. Good food plus internet and wifi. Runs a book-swapping service.  
  • Vava'u Villa Island Fresh Restaurant and Bar, ☎ +676 71010. 08.00-late. Great fresh food, mostly grown on the property at the Taste of Tonga organic garden and farm. Specializing in the freshest food the menu changes daily. Open for the best Sunday brunch, vanilla cured bacon and eggs benedict, simply amazing. Great wine selection, bar, and wifi.
  • Café Tropicana, (next to Adventure Backpackers in the center of Neiafu). espresso coffee, tropical fruit smoothies, all day breakfasts, and light meals. Alcohol license. Famous for its Vava'u Brownies and Vanilla Coffee. Internet cafe and WiFi. Book Swap, postcards, arts and crafts  
  • Mala Island. 20.00 till late. In front of Moorings Yacht Charters. Has a mango colored roof.  A modern waterfront restaurant with a large deck over the water. Claims the best selection of wine in Vava’u. Modern very up-to-date food. As good as anywhere in the world for a waterside cafe.
  • Mounu Resort, (On the beachfront of Mounu island.). Good restaurant and “Moby Dick’s“ bar.
  • La Paella, Anchorage 11, ☎ +676 70348. Spanish restaurant on Tapana Island, a ten-minute boat trip from ‘Utu Vava’u. “Tapana”. 

Drink

  • Bounty Bar, is in the center of Neiafu, overlooking the harbor. A variety of drinks and cocktails. Live entertainment. Satellite TV.

Shopping in Vavau, Tonga


  • Tapa. Items made of tapa make an original souvenir. For details of Tapa making techniques see Tonga.
  • Baskets. Perhaps a bit big as a souvenir, unless you are on a large yacht, but the women of Vava'u make some excellent baskets, woven from coconut fronds and pandanus leaves.

Safety in Vavau, Tonga


One thing to remember when going for a swim is that there are many sharp corals near the beach. It is a good idea to wear a cheap pair of sandals while in the water. There are jellyfish and they do sting! They are also hard to see. It is a good idea to have a bottle of vinegar handy in your bag to help treat any stings.

An outbreak of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease, started in 2014, so take precautions against mosquito bites. An outbreak of Dengue fever was also reported in early 2015. There is no malaria in Tonga though.
Exercise the usual caution when snorkeling, as the coral can be dangerous.

Language spoken in Vavau, Tonga


The official languages of Tonga are Tongan and English.

Tongan is the most widely spoken language in Tonga. English is also widely understood because many of the high schools teach exclusively in English. Many Tongans when asked a question they are unsure of or don`t understand will reply with a "Yes". In this case, ask a follow-up question and if the reply is still "Yes", ask someone else.

LOCAL TIME

5:10 am
August 24, 2019
Pacific/Tongatapu

CURRENT WEATHER

26 °C / 78.8 °F
light rain
Fri

26.49 °C/80 °F
light rain
Sat

23.07 °C/74 °F
moderate rain
Sun

22.92 °C/73 °F
broken clouds
Mon

24.52 °C/76 °F
light rain

LOCAL CURRENCY

TOP

1 USD = 0 TOP
1 EUR = 0 TOP
1 GBP = 0 TOP
1 AUD = 0 TOP
1 CAD = 0 TOP

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