Monday, October 01, 2012

TONGA - Niuatoputapu

After a 36-hour passage (1 day and 2 nights with a full moon), we entered a narrow pass into the protection of the lagoon behind the barrier reef of Niuatoputapu (S15°56.443' W173°46.013'). Our arrival made us boat #14 in the anchorage of this remote island settlement of the Kingdom of Tonga. Our passage had been a combination of sailing with good winds but also a few hours of motoring.

Tonga was called the Friendly Islands by Captain James Cook. There are 150 islands but only 36 are inhabited.

Another boat, SV Gypsy Blues, made it in just before us and the Customs, Immigration, and Agriculture officials were already out in the anchorage processing them, so they came right over to check us in. A straightforward process, with a payment of about $50 - that required us to go ashore and walk for about 45 minutes in the HOT sun and pesky mosquitoes to the Western Union shack to have some US dollars exchanged into the Tongan currency called Pa'anga. Then the expected visits to the officials' office for payment and receipt. Offices were very basic, a wooden structure with only 1 or 2 desks and a couple of chairs, not a lot of furniture or supplies.

As we approached shore in our dinghy, this young man appeared quite surprised to see us...

Hey, who are you!?

There are about 800 residents here now. A couple of years ago, the island and its residents (then about 1,000) were seriously affected by a tsunami from an earthquake about 100 miles north. The waves washed inland as much as a mile and 9 people lost their lives and caused many to move away. We could see the results still today in the dead trees, some washed out to the shallows.

We had several sea turtles swimming in the vicinity of our boat and we also saw this one on the road as we walked towards officialdom!

Sea turtle road patch

1 comment:

Blake Milroy said...

Hi there, interesting blog and love the pics. I am writing on behalf of Samoa Air (a new start up airline in Samoa). I came across your blog with some great pics of the Tongan islands. We are currently adding pages to our website to try and push travelers and tourism within the pacific region. With your permission, I would like to include a couple of the pictures from your blog in the Tongan pages on our website. Thanks and awaiting your reply. Blake (