Note that the following itinerary is subject to alterations and delays owing to weather, sea conditions and/or logistical considerations. B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner.
Day 1: Arrival - Acclimatization. Meals: D. Accommodation: Hilltop Hotel (or Mystic Sands subject to availability). Upon arrival at Lupepau'u Airport in Vava'u you transfer to your accommodation property. Please ensure that you send us your full flight itinerary so we may arrange transport. Shortly after your arrival, your guide contacts you to welcome you and to discuss the schedule of events for the next few days. Today is an opportunity to acclimatise and, for those travellers arriving from far-away places, to recover from jet lag. Today is also your last opportunity to visit the bank and purchase last-minute items for the trip. The venue of your welcome dinner is Mango Restaurant overlooking the picturesque Port of Refuge.
Day 2: Orientation - Botanical Garden Tour. Meals: B, L, D provided. Accommodation: Hilltop Hotel (or Mystic Sands subject to availability). Your guides present a 45-minute orientation talk commencing 9:30am at The Adventure Centre in Toula Village, 2.5 km south-east of Neiafu. It is important that all participants attend this informative talk. Following the talk, we travel by taxi to 'Ene'io Botanical Garden on the scenic eastern shore of Vava'u Island. Our botanist host, Haniteli, takes us on a strolling eco-tour through his lush tropical paradise demonstrating the medicinal, culinary and cultural uses of this impressive collection of native and exotic species. A sumptuous Polynesian feast and cultural floorshow organised by Haniteli's wife, Lucy, and the villagers, complete our glimpse into Tongan traditions. Enjoy a refreshing swim or snorkel or simply stroll along the beach before transferring back to your accommodation. This evening's meal is at The Balcony Restaurant offering casual dining and a lovely sunset harbour view.
Day 3: Kayaking - Walking - Snorkeling. Meals: B, L, D provided. Accommodation: 'Eue'iki Island Resort (or Mounu Island Resort subject to availability). Paddling Time: 3-4 hours. A safety briefing commences 9:00 a.m. at The Adventure Centre before departing for the first of five days of kayaking. Our destination and your base for the next three days is 'Eue'iki Island, occupied only by a small eco-resort. The remainder of the day may be spent snorkelling a reef wall and exploring the inter-tidal zone. At low tide your guide takes us to an immense cave with Tarzan-like vines cascading down through a hole in the cave ceiling. Dinner is at the resort's open-air restaurant right on the beach facing the setting sun.
Day 4: Kayaking - Walking - Snorkeling. Meals: B, L, D provided. Accommodation: 'Eue'iki Island Resort (or Mounu Island Resort subject to availability). Paddling Time: 1-2 hours. On today's paddle to uninhabited 'Euakafa Island our Tongan guide leads us through shallow, reef-strewn turquoise waters. While paddling we may be fortunate enough to sight turtles, dolphins, and humpback whales, the latter of which migrate annually to Tonga's warm sheltered waters (July-October) to breed and calve. A guided walk through lush tropical vegetation to 'Euakafa's distinctive tabletop summit takes us to the site of a legendary royal tomb within the fortress of a Tu'i Tonga king. Following a refreshing snorkel at 'Euakafa's exquisite reefs, we paddle back to our eco-resort on 'Eue'iki Island to freshen up for this evening's Polynesian feast. A boat transfers us across the channel to Taunga Island where the villagers host an authentic Tongan feast consisting of roast suckling pork complemented by fresh root vegetables, octopus, reef fish, vegetarian dishes, and tropical fruits such as papaya in coconut milk, all steamed in an underground oven or 'umu. This gastronomic delight is followed by a traditional Tongan song and dance performance.
Day 5: Whale Watching - Snorkeling. Meals: B, L, D provided. Accommodation: 'Eue'iki Island Resort (or Mounu Island Resort subject to availability). Excursion Time: 5-6 hours. At 10:00 this morning our whale watch operator picks us up from our accommodation. Their team of whale educators discuss humpback whale migration, mating, surface activity and song. From July through October we can observe the impressive acrobatic displays of these magnificent mammals who migrate from Antarctica annually to breed, give birth and nurse their new-born calves in Tonga's sheltered, warm waters. Outside the whale watch season, we enjoy a day of snorkelling, picnicking and sightseeing in the beautiful Vava'u Islands.
Day 6: Kayaking - Snorkeling. Meals: B, L, D provided. Accommodation: Reef Resort (or The Tongan Beach Resort subject to availability). Paddling Time: 2-3 hours. Today we paddle westward to the luxurious Reef Resort near Otea Village on Kapa Island. Here we are perfectly positioned for a variety of activities during the next three days. En route, we pull ashore at Mala Island for a picnic lunch and snorkel at the Japanese Coral Gardens teeming with colourful tropical fish.
Day 7: Walking - Village Visit - Snorkeling. Meals: B, L, D provided. Accommodation: Reef Resort (or The Tongan Beach Resort subject to availability). Walking Time: 1-2 hours. For a change of pace, this morning we walk overland to Kapa Island's sheltered western bay of Port Mourelle, the first landing site of Spaniard Don Francisco Antonio Mourelle. Nowadays Port Mourelle is a safe anchorage for modern yachts as well as a popular snorkelling site. Following a picnic lunch and swim, we hike along the spine of the island to Falevai ("house of water") village where Mourelle obtained spring water. Here we visit a church, school, weaving hall and the police station whose recidivist inmate is a pig!
Day 8: Kayaking - Snorkeling. Meals: B, L, D provided. Accommodation: Reef Resort (or The Tongan Beach Resort subject to availability). Paddling Time: 2-3 hours. Back in our kayaks, we skirt Kapa Island's rocky northern shoreline and float inside Swallows Cave. A misnomer since, in fact, the cave's inhabitants are swiftlets not swallows! Slipping over the side of our kayaks we marvel at schools of tiny reef fish and the magnificent underwater wall outside the cave's entrance. We then take a short paddle south to A'a Island, a favourite dive site, for some more wall snorkelling from our kayaks before a picnic lunch at picture postcard Nuku Island.
Day 9: Kayaking. Meals: B, L, D provided. Accommodation: Hilltop Hotel (or Mystic Sands subject to availability). Paddling Time: 2-3 hours. Our journey ends in the Port of Refuge, reputedly the most protected and beautiful harbour in the Pacific. Weave between the many visiting yachts in the marina. Pull ashore back at our base, The Adventure Centre, from where you transfer to your resort. Tonight's farewell dinner is at Ovava Restaurant with its pleasant beer garden and fascinating blend of South Pacific and Japanese interior decor.
Day 10: Departure. Meals: B provided. The trip concludes today with a transfer to Lupepau'u Airport and warm farewell from your guides.
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