Saturday, August 4, 2018

Aug 2018 - Kelefesia Island, Tonga

We spent the last 4 days at our first landfall in the Ha'apai group: a small island called Kelefesia. It is a beautiful place. It’s about what you would picture in your mind as a “lovely tropical island”. The water looked like glass in every shade of blue and turquoise
Shot before the sun came up.

The look and mood of the place changes with the light and the weather. But the impressions are all strong. When we first arrived it was a tranquil idyllic paradise. The sun was out and the warm wind carried the sound of the nearby surf to us. The following day the wind picked up and the clouds moved in. Suddenly the nearby reefs were grey and sinister as we checked and re-checked our anchor. I took photos before sunrise, after sunrise afternoon and sunset and they each have a different feel.

Shot at mid morning

This was about 2 pm.  The water was the most amazing colors in the afternoon.  I wanted to get to that small exposed beach so bad but due to the chop we never made it there.

Kelefesia at golden hour

We never did set foot on the island as the winds never fell below 18-20 knots. We snorkeled all around the edge of the lagoon one day while huge rollers were crashing over the reef. Each place we visit in Tonga has better coral than the previous spot and this was no exception. There were 25 foot high bommies reaching up from the white sand bottom. They were covered in healthy coral. Visibility was lower than normal because of the big waves.

The reef had an overhang that was very interesting to see.  
You can see the overhang really good here. 
Loved these huge spiral corals.
Lovely healthy coral
Not an uncommon site here!

The island is surrounded on all sides by a barrier reef. A narrow channel on the Southwest corner allowed us to dash in from the open ocean through some standing waves at the entrance. It was a wild ride and we were immediately circling around the small lagoon looking for a decent patch of sand to drop anchor. There weren’t many options. Unfortunately the winds were lined right up with the channel for the next 3 days. It made for a very uncomfortable anchorage and after 3 days of pitching and bobbing we headed North.

The water was chopping like this the entire time we were here.  For 3 days we were blown back tight on our bridle.  

We were swimming back to the boat in these waves.  It was worse than this photo looks!

Many years ago the King gave Kelefesia to a local family. Today a few distant relatives of that family live on the island. Essie, the head of the family, paddled out to us each day we were there. Essie and his wife Tina live on the island with their 4 year old son.
The first day Essie asked Rich to charge a 12 Volt battery he uses for his solar power system. Rich found it wouldn’t hold a charge and used a load tester to show him the battery was no longer good. We shared half of a tuna Rich had caught just before we arrived. The next morning Essie showed up with a big bag of husked coconuts.
Essie asked if we had any scraps of rope his wife could use in her weaving. Rich gave him some for the price of two lobsters. Essie brought over two cooked lobsters the next morning about 9 AM and that was breakfast for Rich that day.

Essie and Rich

Essie said he has about 200 pigs on the island that he sells at the market for money. He also hunts octopus and lobsters to sell to market. He said he grows fruit on a nearby island as well as bananas and mangos on Kelefesia.
We saw at least 15 whales on the way to Kelefesia but few were close  :( We are eager to have a close encounter.
Rich & Michelle

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"To experience sublime natural beauty is to confront the total inadequacy of language to describe what you see. Words cannot convey the scale of a view that is so stunning it is felt."
~ Eleanor Catton

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