Not knowing that there would be a regatta right during my stay in Vava'u, I was surprised to find so many foreigners around in Neiafu on what I had hoped would be a quiet island. When I saw an announcement about Ofu Island, I was sold on the spot: it sounded just what I needed: an island close to Vava'u, to get away from it all. As soon as I had organized my other days in Vava'u, I booked one night on the island. I felt anticipation brewing inside me while waiting for a lady to pick me up and take me to the small boat that would take me across; the other two passengers were doing a 5-island tour and I would be the only visitor to Ofu that day. The sun was shining bright when we cruised through the great archipelago of Vava'u, where emerald islands emerge from a turquoise, transparant sea no matter where you look. The green of the trees of Ofu was reflecting the sunlight almost as much as the water when we approached, and after I got off, and the noise of the boat disappeared behind me, the comfortable blanket of tranquillity of Ofu island fell on my shoulders. A kind woman welcomed me, explaining some house rules as well as the possibilities to enjoy the island. I was pleasantly surprised to find a small library and picked up a book by Patricia Ledyard, an American woman who moved to Vava'u in the 1940s, married a Scottish doctor, and ended up staying on Vava'u for the rest of her life. A most interesting story about Tonga; my host had actually known her before she died. The big hammock on the beach, with a direct view on Vava'u, seemed the perfect spot to read.
At the end of the afternoon, when the tide was lower, I went for a walk around the southern part of Ofu island. After meeting a rather aggressive kid, which was surprising, compared to the many sweet Tongan kids I had met, I continued on the beach, passed the new school of the island, but eventually, there was no beach left to walk on. I tried a trail, but that did not really seem convincing either, so I retraced my steps. It was getting darker anyway, and I found out that dinner was served early that evening. A tasty dinner with 3 new guests followed, and after that, a long night. Early next morning. I walked around Ofu on the southern side, which proved easier, if only because the tide was lower now. The flat coral seabed proved easy to walk on and was not slippery at all, even though it was wet, and I found myself on the other side of the island before I knew it. At the cape, the sea had carved out semi-caves in the steep walls of Ofu island, giving picturesque views of several islands in the distance. I found several small, attractive beaches here, until I reached a bigger one, which had lots of very shallow waters: the coral was clearly visible. Alas, so was quite a lot of plastic rubbish on the beach. It was clear that I would never be back in time for breakfast if I continued my hike around Ofu, so I took the shortcut, climbing the pig fence, straight back to the small village.
Besides getting coconuts out of a tree (I admit I cheated: my host gave me a ladder) and drinking and eating one, reading and getting a tan, I spent the morning snorkeling just off the beach where I found an endless area of corals of various sorts and sizes, before I decided to embark on a circumnavigation of Ofu island by kayak. The sea was very calm right in front of Ofu, but when I crossed to the small island between Ofu and Mafana, I noticed that waves were coming in from the northeast. When I rounded the cape, I saw even bigger waves on the far end: the next cape I had to round. Remembering that I had seen shallow waters here, I decided to stay close to the shore. The closer I got to the south-eastern cape, the harder it was to kayak; the reef is quite close here, too, so I saw a double surf, and decided to steer between them. One big wave rolled in just from my left, leaving a lot of water inside my kayak, but once I had rounded the cape, I knew I was OK. The water was as clear as you can imagine it, with a fantastic, fairy-tale like turquoise colour - almost unreal. Above it, rose shiny lush tropical vegetation, with the ubiquitous palmtrees, but also mangroves, and many other trees. I could hear lots of birds, but hardly saw one. It was now easy to kayak all the way back to the place I was staying, and I was pretty satisfied when I steered my kayak up the white-sand beach. After finishing the book I had picked up the day before, I once again went for a kayak ride, taking my camera this time for some pictures of the great sight of the forest rising out of the crystal-clear waters. I was in time to see the sun go down from the hammock before yet another breadfruit-fish-chicken Tonga dinner. I rose early enough the next morning to walk to the other side of the island and see the faithful sun rise from behind the surf of the reef, and then waited for an hour for the sea to sink. It then proved quite easy to walk around the southern part of Ofu, with some small beaches, grottoes, and the reef close by - it all looked much different now compared to the day before when I had been kayaking here. The small school in the village was already open, and the friendly teacher offered me some mangoes which I couldn't refuse. During our chat, her students continued studying, but it was time to go back to the guesthouse for breakfast. The ferry back to Tonga'tapu was scheduled to leave that afternoon, and even though I would have loved to stay more time, I had to say goodbye to Anna and Ofu - off to new adventures.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ofu island (Tonga). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ofu island.
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