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Monday, December 7, 2015

Uoleva Underwater: Tonga’s Neon Coral Colors


“Follow me,” Craig said, leading us to the trail’s start.
While we’re not sure our timing or exact logistics were off or if we just didn’t travel widely enough, but Steve and Patty of Armagh and I were disappointed by the snorkeling in Tonga’s Vava’u.  We weren’t sure if we just should’ve ponied up and paid for a locally guided, multi-site snorkel day, or if the snorkeling just wasn’t that impressive.

We heard Ha’apai was better, more like French Polynesia’s amazing reefs in Fakarava (watch for more catch-up posts on Fakarava – delayed due to replacing my Macintosh and still playing post catch-up).  We knew our time in Ha’apai was limited, but we hoped for better snorkeling before entering the land where drysuits were needed to take the plunge into far chillier seas.






This is what the Uoleva Ha’apai cross-island “trail” mostly looked like.
We heard differing reports on where the best spot was off Uoleva to snorkel.  Some cruisers suggested checking out the other side of the island, which they dinghied to.  We decided to hike across, instead.  We dropped by the “Uoleva Yacht Club” to ask Craig for directions.

“Give me your iPad,” he suggested, as he led us over to the trail.  “Oh, you’ll hold them for us?” Steve asked.  “No, I want to keep them in case you don’t make it back,” he ribbed. 

In truth, we wonder if he was only half-kidding.





We did find a few of these trail markers, but then
we lost them. Uoleva island, Ha’apai, Tonga

The trail, according to Craig, was only about a little over half a mile.  He led us to its start.  However, it was so rough and sketchy, after about ½ hour or so of going through brambles as much or more than on a clearly discernible trail, we gave up.

Hospitably, Craig then offered to take us all the way across. We were too hot and sweaty to want to give it another go.

We debated over whether to call it a day and settle in for some liquid refreshment or whether to dinghy out to the reefs to snorkel before it got too late in the day.  We decided to snorkel.  We didn’t go all the way out to the far markers, but nearly that far, where the bommies looked worth exploring.




Royal blue starfish, amethyst, indigo, red-violet, and
pink coral – a veritable Fantasia palette.
Most of the relatively few fish we saw were small, but colorful.  The corals on the other hand, were large and quite colorful.  There was a car-sized coral head very close to where we anchored our dinghy that reminded us of the shade of pale ultraviolet purple from the bad old days of  “black light” with the craftsman-style crinkly hammered finish, writ large.  It was not, however, very photogenic; resembling a faintly lilac-colored gray blob.








 “Brain coral” like this strikes me as the perfect example
of nature’s mastery in sculpture.
Yellow-green, frilly, yet leathery-looking, this coral fascinated me.    

Purple and green coral – okay, admittedly I don’t know
their names, and I’m simply a sucker for intense color.
Regardless of what I could or couldn’t capture with my camera (including a wide variety of colorful butterfly and parrot fish), we were impressed with the amazing colors and shapes of Uoleva’s corals.



These small, vividly colored fish are most common type of fish
seen my Tongan reef snorkeling
(that’s slow enough for me to photograph). 
Location Location
Recent retrospective of our time from October 21-25 2015 at “Uoleva Yacht Club” (aka TaliTali’Anga Eco Resort in Tonga, Uoleva Ha'apai (S19.50.863 W174.24.864).  We are currently in New Zealand, anchored off Paihia (S35.16.814 E174.05.934).


Fish repeatedly darted in and out of this coral in unison.  Patty
dubbed it “the nursery.”  It reminded me of jack-in-the-box
 (the vintage game, not the fast-food joint).
Cruising By the Numbers
Since we left Jacksonville Florida in December, 2014 -- less than a year ago -- we've sailed over 10,000 miles!


A set of tables detailing all our stops will be added to the blog soon.