There are several places around the bay that I have been interested to see, so I thought a snorkelling tour would be the best means to see them. It’s with an experienced operator who knows the islands well – Hakau Tours. As it turned out, there were six of us going on the tour, all of them from the backpackers – The canadian girl I hung out with in Ha’apai, the kiwi guy from the scooters and three british medic students.
The day started out rather shabby, with a constant drizzle, but lightened up. We met the operator at 9.30 and headed off into the harbour on his boat. The wind picked up quickly and rain threatened again. After about 15 minutes we arrived alongside an island called Kapa and around to the other side. The end of the island has short cliffs with jagged rocky areas along it that the water has worn away. Just beyond the corner are two caves. These two caves are the location of our first snorkelling swim. Swallow’s cave is the largest of the two and goes into the cliff maybe 15 metres by water, and a by the looks of it, more beyond. If I had the shoes for it, I would have gone further, but we were here to swim, so we swum around the cave where there was a large number of fish swimming in a school. We headed out and along the base of the cliffs, enjoying the small other fish and the coral until we got to the smaller unnamed cave.
Back on the boat and we headed further out into the bay to Nuapapu island, the site of another cave – Mariner’s Cave. The entrance to this cave is underwater and to get to it, you need to swim through a short underwater tunnel – about 5 metres long. This cave is where the Tonga’s used to hide during the island wars when enemy ships came into the bay, then they would swim after them, climb on board and kill all the sailors. The cave is quite spacious when you get into it. I was second into the cave and while swimming through the tunnel, lost one of my fins and almost the other. I ended up scraping my foot on the tunnel – more war wounds! One of the others brought me the fin I’d lost and I swum out again. Swimming into the cave is psychologically more difficult, as you can’t really see where you are going. Swimming out again is more fun.
The water was warmer than the air, but we got out and froze as we were taken to the next place.
At the far end of Nuapapu island and stretching over to Vaka’eitu island is a large area of coral reef known as the coral gardens. We were dropped off at one end and snorkelled our way to the other side. This took about an hour and was a lot of fun.
We were then taken to a small island called Nuku where we stopped for lunch on the sandy beach. After lunch, we were dropped of a little offshore from the island and swum along its reef line. The coral was not as plentiful as the Coral Garden, but there are other things to see. A small school of barracuda swum past at one stage and at the end of the island I found a pair of clown fish. They were very inquisitive. Unlike the other fish, when I swum down to check them out, they swum up to check me out!
The trip back only took 30 minutes, but the chilling wind and rain didn’t make it very fun. Back on dry land, we all rushed back to the backpackers for a hot shower, but were disappointed as they hadn’t changed the gas for the water heater.
Tomorrow is Sunday and the country shuts down, so it might be a good day for a hike, depending on the weather.
The Trail Wanderer