You wake up with a special feeling when it’s 4AM on a Friday morning and you have a flight to catch to your first overseas trip to a South Pacific tropical Island. And it´s not because of the time in the morning, it’s because you are on the way to live one of the most unbelievable experiences of your life, when you have a humpback whale swimming right towards you, arising the bottom of the ocean to the surface.
Some of the islands in the Kingdom of Tonga are a tourist attraction to swim with humpback whales, and it attracts tourists from all over the world, including photographers, biologists, some of the world recognised magazines aiming for the photo of the year, among various scuba diver crazy people who can travel all around the world only to feel the sensation of dancing with a whale.
Our journey started early on that Friday morning, with just a few days off from our respective offices, we headed to Auckland airport to get on the first flight to our final destination. The journey started with an upgrade to premium economy class, which we have to thank to Air New Zealand for that, and including a brief stop in the Koru Lounge to get the mandatory hot chocolate and coffees.
On our arrival to Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga, dozens of people were welcoming the plane. This seemed to be a big event on the island, as we had the same farewell we left actually, with the locals saying goodbye to the people plane. Even I guess it was not for us, it made us feel special anyway. We catched a local taxi, that we shared with another tourist, and after dropping him at his guesthouse, we headed to the wharf, our first destination, where we were supposed to catch the ferry to Eua Island.
We did our first stop at the ferry office, a small room just in front of the wharf. I’m not sure why, I wasn’t surprised about it, when the attendant explained us somehow with a bit of compassion that the ferry wasn’t running to Eua for over a week now to the island, and they didn’t have any other scheduled until five days after, which was exactly when we were supposed to come back!
Apparently, the other ferry servicing Va’vau caught on fire when it was under repair, with the subsequent sharing of the only other ferry that sails the islands between all of them, and taking into account as well its own failures. Though times to get supplies on the islands!
Having the ferry out of our options, what was going to be next? Charter a boat? A plane? Probably these options only crossed my mind once I set up my thinking to Kiwi mentality, and there we were, on our way to charter my second private plane in less than a year.
The non-ferry ferry spot
We did a brief stop on the diving center, with the hope that being the same business as our dive center in Eua, they could charter one of the boats for us and take us to our destination. Unfortunately, that was late in the afternoon considering island reaction time, and they couldn’t go out until next day. When you go to a Pacific Island, no matter what but the first thing you need to do is to make up your mind to go with the flow, and here is where the “me estás estresaaaaaaaando” which in english would be a “you’re stressing meeeeee” with a Cuban accent rising up. Keep in your mind to just go with the flow and enjoy whatever you have, which we did, indeed!
The two girls working on the diving center were extremely helpful. They checked all the options that we had, boat, plane, and after a 2 seconds situation evaluation (-ish) we decided to charter the plane.
One of my first shocks was that people that are not in the tourist business don’t speak any of your languages. It was a while since I went to South East Asia, and in all the tropical islands that I’ve been, the native language is either English or Spanish, so it was really helpful that Deep Blue Diving Tonga helped us calling Real Tonga airlines, where we charter our plane to Eua Island. It was only an eight minutes flight, that felt like a blink of an eye, and which we enjoyed as if we were just three little kids catching a plane for the first time. Plus, on the good side is that we got to see the whales from the plane!! Whooohooo!!!! This seems to be quite normal in the Pacific, just charter a plane 30 minutes before departure is not on the menu for any European!
When we arrived to the airport, we checked our luggage straight away and decided to go for a drink. It was going to be coffee, as an a prediction from the following days, there was no alcohol at the airport bar/cafe. We were called by the paging at the airport and there it was, our plane waiting for us, with VIP seats, and making friends with our pilot, of course, just one pilot.
After landing on the island, we catched a lift with one of the locals, only half way, until we met our host. As our plane was early, obviously it didn’t have to wait for a lot of passengers to check in (^_^), they weren’t expecting us that early.
After a welcome drink, non alcoholic, of course, as they run out of alcohol on the island that week, we made ourselves comfortable on our new house for the next few days admiring the awesome views, and here, the n-part of adventure begins!
Thanks to www.frontlinephotography.co.nz for some of the photos, and Rob Wilson and Nicole Miller for the adventures and inspiration.