Friday, September 7, 2018

The Healthiest Dog in Tonga is at Hunga Haven Resort.

After our dive we sailed over to the Blue Lagoon (#14).  What a beautiful place.  There are reefs almost completely surrounding the lagoon.  It was near high tide and the waves were breaking over the reef - making it too rolly for our tastes.  After about a hour of rolling we decided to go around to Hunga (#13) which is a more protected anchorage.  We stayed at Hunga for 2 days.  There wasn't a lot to do since the nearby snorkeling wasn't as good as other areas.  There were a couple of tracks to hike up adjacent mountains - if you wanted to do that.  I enjoyed the sail to Hunga as there were quite a few whales along the way and some interesting wave breaks against the steep-sided islands we passed.   Overall the Western edge of the Vavau group wasn't a favorite.  
Inside the Blue Lagoon

The water color at the Blue Lagoon was brilliant.
On the short trip over we had to go on the open ocean side of the islands and we saw at least 6 whales and 4 were breaching.  I got a few photos - but no great ones.  There was a small island with steep rocky sides sticking up out of the water.  The waves were crashing against it making for great action shots.  Standing there with my camera I patiently watched and waited for whales to breach.  It seemed whenever I switched my attention to a surf shot, a whale would immediately breach!  Every.  Single. Time.  I was not happy!  

The sky was unusual this day.  It was all shades of greys and blues and very misty looking.  It was beautiful in its own way.  The next 3 photos show it well.

You  can see why I was distracted by the waves breaking on the small island.
Here is a whale doing a fin slap!
And a whale tail. 
Hunga Haven Resort is in a totally enclosed lagoon in the center of Hunga Island.  The Island wraps around it.  We met Barry the owner when we arrived at Hunga.  What a great guy.  He gave us a lot of information about the area and answered a ton of questions about the Vavau group.  His little resort is for sale.  As we approached the island in the dinghy we were welcomed by a gorgeous dog named Rocky and a black cat named Emily.  These two were great fun to play with and very photogenic.  Barry said they come with the resort because its always been their home and he didn't feel right taking them away from the island when he leaves.  I hope the new owners will love them like he does.

Hunga Haven Resort is the white building on the beach.
We snorkeled the pass at the main entrance and found the topology to be very interesting but the coral was mostly dead.  As we approached in the dinghy we noticed a small dive boat anchored near the pass with 8 divers in the water.  We got excited, thinking this must be a great location.  But, it turned out to be a disappointment,  We did see 2 sea turtles though.  

I'm standing on the beach inside the lagoon looking out at the pass where we came in.  There is a coral head sticking up in the middle.  One of the cruising guides told us which side to use.
This is outside of the Hunga lagoon looking back inward.  You can barely make out that chunk of coral sticking up.  This is where we snorkeled, just outside the pass.
This is the view of the pass from our boat.  We are in a large horseshoe shaped bay and the entrance is the gap you see.
When we got back to the boat I snorkeled inside the lagoon at all the interesting spots Barry told us about.  It was OK.  The area became a marine reserve 8 months prior and the coral is starting to come back.  There are some nice coral heads with a lot of small fish.  The bottom was littered with sea cucumbers.  In 2014 Tonga suspended harvesting them for five years so stocks could recover.  They are a delicacy in Asia and it led to over fishing.  Their absence had a major impact on the coral reef ecosystem.  

For a little more information about the importance of the sea cucumber I found this website.  

Below is an excerpt from the site:

"Like the sea star, the spiny skinned sea cucumber is equipped with tube feet, located on its underside, that allow it to slowly (3 inches/hour) move along the ocean floor sucking up sand and debris. Incredibly, over the span of a year, this creature can vacuum up to 200 pounds of sand! In addition to ingesting sand, the sea cucumber primarily feeds on sea grass and algae. To grab onto food, the sea cucumber produces mucus, which causes sand and plant debris to stick to its body. At that point, the creature brings its tube feet to its mouth and sucks off the food."

I saw 3 puffy coral sea stars - the first I've seen since Fiji.  And my first sighting of a spiny starfish.  It was a large black/red sea star with pointy spikes on it.  (Later we went to an anchorage that had so many of these it was crazy!)  I couldn’t find it again when I went back with the camera.  Darn.  I really wanted a photo because it was beautiful. 

Blue Sea Star relaxing against a piece of coral.

Puffy Sea Star, I love these.  I don't see many of them so its exciting when I do.
One of the more colorful sea cucmbers.  Most of them are plain black.
To see all our photos of Hunga visit Here.

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