This was my first swim in Tongan waters, and involved walking about 800m across a reef populated by squishy sea-cucumbers in knee-deep water, then floating precariously off the edge of the reef with the waves. The reward is enjoying the amazing array of fish and some colourful coral that exists so close to Tonga’s capital city.
9. My first exchange with a shopkeeper completely in Tongan
Yeah, this probably makes me sound better than I really am, but I was able to ask for 2 large bottles of water, and tell her that I came from Australia and had been here for 2 months. It’s pretty easy to get away with speaking English for the most part, so I like it when locals humour my attempts at giving the language a go!
OMG I still remember the utter satisfaction of that first coffee!
I am going to give Vava’u it’s own entry, otherwise the Top 10 would pretty much mostly be experiences I had there, but I figure that that first soy coffee, after 3 months of total abstinence, deserves its own place on the list!
I just love them! There’s something about the blue starfish that just makes my heart sing!
This encompasses the various farewell feasts I have enjoyed since working at the Tonga Visitor’s Bureau, from the numerous varieties of faikakai (a desert featuring coconut milk) to the delights of ota ika (raw fish salad). I really do love a lot of the Tongan cuisine, and my colleagues are always keen to encourage my enjoyment of this part of their culture - despite my weird food allergies and the fact that I’m a vegequarian!
4. Humpback whale and calf off Tongatapu
This occasion will stick in my memory for a long time – it was about 3 weeks into the whole Tonga thing, and I was having the first bout of really missing Clinton and feeling sorry for myself, when my boss called me and told me to bring my camera and go with him. When I asked where, he replied: “On a boat. To see a whale.” It was simply incredible, this whale calf breaching and diving and playing around, and we watched it for almost an hour. This was followed by my first trip to Pangaimotu Island and lunch on the Boss – cheered me right up, I can tell you!
3.Moving into the house at Longolongo
This makes the list because it was the first time I had that sense of feeling At Home since I’d arrived. The awesome kitchen has also been the site of some truly inspired cooking, I might add!
Outside the TVB Office in Vava'u
The incredible blue waters of Swallows Cave
Nuku Beach from the water
So this is an entire two weeks (well 12 days!) of bliss, incorporating the traditional stories of the island, the amazing Bruno (who runs the TVB office in Vava’u), the views from Mt Talau, days spent sailing, snorkelling and kayaking, and the beautiful Nuku Beach and Swallows Cave. It also includes having food I could eat at the Tropicana Cafe, walking, hills (and even walking UP hills!), the view from the Twin View Motel where we stayed, and the owner of the Twin View, who looked like the BFG. This time and place was truly extraordinary, and I can honestly say that I loved every minute of it.
1. Swimming with singing Humpback whales
Even though this is technically part of the total Vava’u experience, like the soy coffee it deserves its own entry for sheer mind-blowingness. I will surely remember this occasion for the rest of my life – watching a singing whale rising up from the deep below me was something so magical that words cannot even begin to describe it.