The Kingdom of Tonga

Cruising Mecca of the South Pacific

Neiafu was our first port of call in the Vavau group of islands, Kingdom of Tonga. We were quickly initiated into the slow world of Tonga officialdom. To clear customs one must tie up to an amazingly tall shipping dock while waiting for 4 impressive (i.e. large) Tongan men in their traditional skirts to board your boat and complete the required paper work. Suffice it to say that over an hour later, the 4 nearly speechless yet pleasant men were full of our cool refreshing cola, chocolate cookie offerings and our paperwork was complete.

Daily trips to the Neiafu market

You enter the bay to find a virtual sea of sailing vessels anchored or moored there. We couldn't remember the last time we had seen so many boats. The towns convenience certainly provided all with a safe, fun and friendly haven to play in until it was time to jump down to New Zealand.

Each day in town here was filled with endless activities from sail dinghy races for the kids and full regattas for adults. Swimming pools and markets to explore. With the passing of the King, we had the opportunity to experience the Tongan peoples mourning period and the transfer of power to the next King in line. We heard amazing musical and religious celebrations for his coronation and even met a prince. As always, the locals we met and friendships we made there will leave us memories for a lifetime.

Neiafu anchorage - dinghy sailing

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Vavau Island Group

In the Vavau island group it seems as though there is the town of Neiafu and then there is everything else. With 173 Islands to choose from we got right down to business exploring east to west and north to south and experienced some of the most marvelous day sails of our lives. Each island is no more than an hour sail to the next there was an adventure to be had around each corner, such as islands to hike, new finds under water, caves to explore and whales to watch. We will touch on just some of our favorites.


A nice large protected anchorage created by a few surrounding islands was the perfect backdrop for any event like a full moon party, potluck dinners and Matthews 3 day long birthday bash survivor style.

Kenutu filled with dinghies full of friends


Located on the far east end of the islands is a quiet and remote anchorage surrounded by shallow coral reefs which make this spot unique. You pick your course in carefully with the sun high. We hiked the islands a bit and found a fun cave to hike down and swim within it's red waters. We would revisit this spot a few times.

Kapa & Nuku

You can hike this island from side to side on Sunday morning and hear both churches choirs echo. Or you can swim the water to find new starfish and eels beside white sand beaches.


Port Morelle

We had our boats semi-circled like covered wagons in this quiet anchorage when we had the joy to watch a mother and baby humpback come in to feed.

Swallow's Cave & Mariner's Cave

Last but not least two of our favorite hangouts. Mariner's cave is unique due to the fact that you have to dive under water to enter it. Once inside you can watch clouds form from the swell surge. Swallow's cave is special due to its high ceiling formation and farther in nesting sites for swiftlette birds, not swallows.

they drive fishing boats right in that opening

One of many day sails in Tonga

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Ha'apai Island Group

On the island of Ha'afeva we had the chance to meet a wonderful family who welcomed us into their church and treated us to a traditional style Tongan feast complete with umu (cooking underground). We treated them to all the sweetest desserts we could concoct, few great games of bacci ball and visits to our boats. We wrapped our time there with some fun diving and swimming off the local pier with our new friends.

The central group of islands are known for their beauty and remote feel. It was wonderful to get out of the hub of a port of call and get pack to the road less traveled. We enjoyed some wonderful snorkeling and the boys spent days exploring shipwrecks.

Takuo Shipwreck - Nomuku Iti Island

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Tongatapu Island Group

Nuku'alofa, the capital of Tonga and our last port of call in the Kingdom. We kept ourselves anchored most of the time off of Pangaimotu Island. This kept us close to a wonderful little restaurant/yacht club of sorts with Anna, the most gracious of hosts. A great beach and the rope swing to end all rope swings kept the boys happy, along with local kids happy for the company.

Ross & Kelly boy demonstrate Hongi - a greeting symbolizing the sharing of life breath

We kept entertained with many a dart game and a rare but lively dance night. In cruiser style, we put together a Halloween party for the kids and celebrated Tristan's birthday in style. And don't lose a bet with Ross s/v New Dawn, Kelly boy s/v Moorea or Bruce, you may end up with a little less hair than when you started.

Exploring the town is always fun as we run our provisioning and immigration errands. The market holds produce o' plenty and all the trinkets your left over Tongan senti's could buy. We found it to be a relatively quiet town and very friendly people. So, we were extremely surprised to learn of the violent riots & outbreaks as some locals revolted against the Royal Family a week or so after we left. The riots left many of the familiar shops burnt down and sadly 8 people dead.

Tapa bags in the market place

Pangaimotu - our favorite hangout

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Our hopes of stopping at Minerva Reef after departing Tonga changed with potential bad weather on the way. So instead we continued on our crossing and in 11 days we finished the last bit of Pacific Ocean before we reached our destination of the Bay of Islands in the "new sea land" or New Zealand!