Vava'u Log


Finding a fleet of moorings and a daily cruiser's net in your exotic port of call is at best disappointing. A
cruiser's net is an organized radio gab session in which, quite often, those who wish to hear themselves
speak, do. The nets are usually associated with structured social activities, huge pot lucks, dominoes on the
beach, and bonfires. These are exactly the kinds of psuedo-societal events of which I am hesitant.

Moorings are man-made anchors in the water to which boats cling, especially if the people of the boats do
not like anchoring. Well, really the moorings protect coral in heavily traveled areas.  Protecting coral is very
cool, but, it also means  tourist centered businesses, ready to organize even more events for the money
flush cruisers. Both, you see, are indications of people and people, by and large, have an unfortunate habit
of ruining the places to which they go.

However, it is not often that one is both amazed and awed in the same day. It is even rarer to have the
experience repeated - frequently. This is Tonga. In one day I dove hidden underwater caves, startled
hundreds of swiftlets in an above water cave, had giant fruit bats accompany my nightly yoga, and snorkeled
with whales. There are simply not enough superlatives for Tonga. The water is clear, the islands surrounded
by reef and beach, the air filled with birds. I am in love.

Surrounded by cold blue I bob. I have swum out over the edge of a reef and the sea floor has long ago
waved goodbye. I look into nothing that is filled with something. The nothingness is the clear, deep blue of
water. Its the kind of nothing that imposes its immensity on you. The water is clear enough that you feel the
surrounding deep. Its feels deep. It feels.
Out of the deep form appears. The ghost of movement becoming clearer. Pale blue moves. It is huge. It is
calling. It coalesces into a fin three times my size. As I glide forward a mother whale and her calf take form
from the deep. Eerie, serene, beautiful, powerful the words drift across as I end up with awe.

The calf is playing. He peeks out from under Mom in a giant game of peek a boo. Slowly he upends himself.
His tail is towards the sky and his head the deep. Spinning a lazy pirouette he asks if I can do that too.
Curious he moves towards me, I swim backwards to keep a respectful distance from this magnificent child.
Like a jellyfish my shirt fills with water and purposefully floats up my body and over my head and arms.
Having forgotten to wear anything underneath I am now flashing mother, child and the four other snorkelers
in the water. Somehow I do not think "awe" came to any of their minds.

Having been invited by the water, we spend our Tongan days snorkeling for hours. Off one of the islands is a
place called the Coral Gardens. Any tropical destination has such a place. Typically the water is clear, there
are more live corals than elsewhere in said destination and pretty fish dart and play. The name may not be
unique but it does not detract from the charm of such places. Richard, Claudie, Mark and I flung our wetsuit
covered bodies into the breaking surf and pulled our way through the reef shallows. Wave after wave tosses
itself over us, we cling to the coral during the incoming and shoot forward during the outgoing pull. Soon the
reef glides away from us. There is a shelf ranging from 5 to 20 feet deep and then the blue. We spot live
cowries their velvet black mantle hiding the bright white shell beneath. Orange and white clownfish play
amongst glowing pale anemones. A startled octopus stands on tip, um, tentacle? He turns deep red in
indignation.
And then, song. From the blue comes the whistle, clicks and heart-rending bass of unseen whales. Calls both
lonely and transfixing surround. We hold our breathe as long as we can wanting to stay in the cocoon of the
songs for just one more second before shooting up to the air.
I really like Tonga.