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tonga ~ neiafu & tongan culture

Posted by on June 13, 2014

September 23 – November 1, 2013

looking east toward Neiafu Harbor from a hilltop on 'Uta Vava'u

Of the Tongan Vava’u Group, Neiafu is the primary village for provisions and most necessaries, as well as clearing in and out of Tonga. In order to clear in, we were required to dock alongside the main wharf. There were many boats clearing in at the same time, so several of us ended up rafted to each other against the wharf. The Customs, Immigration, and Health officials were extremely friendly and efficient as they hopped from boat to boat doing all of the necessary paperwork. They even let us leave the boat at the wharf, so we could walk to the bank (with a stop at the veggie market along the way) in order to exchange for Tongan money to pay for their fees.

very happy for fresh produce again

the Aquarium Café in Neiafu ~ great food & free wifi!

Within the main harbor of Neiafu, due to the extreme water depths, actual anchoring is slim to none. Moorings are available for about 15 Pa’angas per night (~$7.50 USD) by various local businesses (i.e. The Aquarium Café & Beluga Diving). We attempted to anchor a few times, but found it much easier to pick up a mooring. By using a mooring, we had access to free wifi and easy trash disposal. Neiafu is also home to the Moorings and Sunsail charter companies within the Vava’u Group, so there is plenty of information available about sailing, anchoring, and exploring throughout the entire group of islands.

There is a morning VHF net run daily by various local businesses. It gives cruisers a chance to check in, as well as provides an abundance of local and cruiser information. While we were there, we were fortunate to have s/v Ocean Echo present to give his awesome weather forecasts over the VHF. JJ is an excellent forecaster, and he was quite good at letting us know when we needed to tuck up for a blow. He is also very good at explaining how to deciper the weather information we that we receive. (I learned a lot about about weather forecasting from JJ which came into play later when we sailed to and from New Zealand.)

On our first afternoon in Neiafu, we had several successes. After having been remote for so long, and only having fish to eat for meat, we were craving cheeseburgers which we found at the Aquarium Café, along with cold beer and cokes. With satisfied tummies, we were walking to the grocery store when we came across the local pharmacy. Our empty bottle of amoxicillin was refilled without question. At the grocery store, we found the first affordable ice cream we’d seen in a long time. We purchased a carton of ice cream, and with spoons that we always keep in our backpacks, we found some park steps to sit on, and we polished off the entire container. Needless to say, our satisified tummies didn’t feel so well after that.

Kingdom of Tonga flag

Christian faith is a strong influence on the daily life of the people of Tonga. The design for their national flag was even chosen for its link to Christianity, and Tongan law states that it cannot be changed. Sunday and religious holidays are strictly observed. No swimming or fishing is permitted on these days, and cruisers must be respectful of these practices. Cruisers are told it’s okay to fish and swim when they’re away from the villages or anchored near resorts. Tongan dress is very conservative. When going into a village, men must wear shirts, and women must not show bare shoulders and their legs must be covered to the knee. Tongan women swim fully clothed, so as not to expose their bodies.

beautiful singing could be heard from this Neiafu church

musicians during a funeral procession

holding a cover over the deceased

During our time in Neiafu, it seemed like there were funeral processions almost daily. From the anchorage we could hear the brass instruments playing as the traditionally dressed mourners walked somberly down the street, escorting the deceased to their final resting place.

We learned that Tongans live up to their name, the Friendly Islands, given to them by Captain Cook. However, when walking down the streets of Neiafu, not everyone will automatically smile and say hello. While everyone we spoke with was extremely friendly, overall the people seem more shy than what we were used to in French Polynesia.

While we came and went from Neiafu several times during our stay in Tonga, we spent our first week visiting with our friends on s/v Yindee Plus and getting provisions. Colin was happy to be playing with the Yindee Plus boys again. Together we all did a short hike to the hilltop of Mt. Talau.

Normally, due to our tight budget, we tend not to eat out at restaurants, especially at dinnertime. However, one night we dined out with a group of boats in celebration of Sue’s birthday (s/v Yindee Plus). A couple of weeks later, we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary, and splurged on another evening out. We were also present for a Halloween Party at the Aquarium Café where we had pizza and beer. We were starting to feel like civilized people again!

preparing for the Halloween party

Halloween cake by Justine

Katniss, Mardi Gras goer & an angel ~ ready for festivities at Aquarium Cafe

Black Ops in flip flops & black cat





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