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Introduction

Vavaʻu is the island group of one large island (ʻUtu Vavaʻu) and 40 smaller ones in Tonga. It is part of Vavaʻu District which includes several other individual islands. According to tradition the Maui god fished up both Tongatapu and Vavaʻu but put a little more effort into the former. Vavaʻu rises 204 metres above sea level at Mount Talau. The capital is Neiafu, which is the fifth largest city in Tonga, situated at the Port of Refuge (Puatalefusi or Lolo-ʻa-Halaevalu).

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Geography

The Vavaʻu group measures about 21 kilometres from east to west and 25 kilometres from north to south. Vavaʻu had 14,922 inhabitants at the 2001 census, of which 4,051 lives in the capital Neiafu. The islands in Vavaʻu District outside of Vavaʻu Group are uninhabited. The main island of ’Utu Vava’u is 97 square kilometres, the second largest island in Tonga.

Vava'u is a coral reef with superior oblique in the north up to 200 metres high cliffs. On the south side of the island group, it is dissolved into many small islands and waterways. The largest of these waterways, the fjord-like Ava Pulepulekai channel extends 11 kilometres inland from the harbor of Neiafu, the capital.

’Utu Vava’u island is a raised platform of coral cliffs on the north coast and a low and irregular coastline south that opens in a complex network of channels, bays and islands forming one of the best protected natural harbors in the Pacific.

’Utu Vava’u is also home to the ʻEneʻio Botanical Garden, Tonga's only botanical garden.

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

  • Vanilla - Vava'u is a major production area for high quality vanilla and wandering around the countryside on the main island will give you a chance to see how the vanilla bean grows. The plant, a member of the orchid family, has a small cream or yellow flower which must be hand pollinated. The bean then takes nine months to grow, after which it is dried and cured, which develops the flavour and turns the pod dark brown or black. It is said to be the most labour-intensive agricultural product in the world. The value of individual beans means that farmers go to great lengths to protect them from theft, including pricking their individual code numbers on each bean with a pin.
  • Mt Talau National Park - This was established in 1995 to preserve one of the few remaining areas of relatively undisturbed native forest. It is located on the main island. The Park has several tree species that are endangered in Tonga. Most of the birds and reptiles native to Tonga can be found here. Mt. Talau is also important as a source of Tongan legends. The entrance is approximately 2 kilometres from the centre of Neiafu and the trail is approximately 1 kilometre.
  • Ene’io Botanical Garden - Tu’anekivale village (on the east coast of the main island.). The garden aims to promote the survival of native and exotic species and also to provide a sanctuary for bird life. Conservation successes include tree ferns, sandalwood species, bamboos and breadfruit species. You can leave a permanent memory by planting your own tree. There is also a Visitors’ Centre where you can see tapa and other artefacts being made and sample the traditional drink of kava. Lunch is provided (if booked in advance) on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. On Thursday evening there is a Tonga Feast.
  • Whale Watching - From June to early November humpback whales calve and mate in the calm waters. It is not only the sight that is fascinating: the male whales sing. Whale songs vary according to location: each year the song at each location changes. The effect of their singing on humans swimming with them is magical with the sound vibrating through your entire body. Whale watching excursions are available from Sailing Safaris, Endangered Encounters, Melinda Sea Adventures (which offers whale tours under sail), Whale Watch Vava'u and Vava'u Adventures.

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Events and Festivals

Vava’u Festival & Regatta

This week-long festival is held in the last week of September every year. Different activities are scheduled each day, including boat races around the island, although possibly the best day is a culmination of the week’s events at the traditional Tongan Cultural Feast at Ano Beach, which turns into an all-night party.

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Weather

Vava'u has pleasantly warm but humid tropical climate. Daytime temperatures are around 30 °C while night are still wel above 20 °C. The wet season lasts from November to April while the period from May to October sees less rain and more sun. Still, some heavy showers are possible during this time but it is the best time to visit Tonga if you want to avoid most of the rainy days.

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Getting There

By Plane

There is a new domestic airline up and running named Real Tonga, which is a division of Palu Aviation, a long time aviation business in Tonga. Flights are available daily, except Sunday to Vava'u.

Vava'u airport is international and therefore private aircraft and charter are welcome to avail themselves of the custom and immigration services. Scheduled international services to Vava'u from Fiji ceased prior to 2008 but began again in 2016 and now flights are available twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday from Nadi.

By Boat

The new ferry MV 'Otuanga'afa is running fairly regularly now. Information about cost and schedule can be found at the ferry company's web page. The MV Olovaha is no longer in service.

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Getting Around

Bicycles, mountain bikes, motorbikes and boats can be rented from several hotels and agencies. Taxis are available. Neiafu is small enough where you can easily get around on foot. Boat trips are organised by several companies.

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Eat/Drink

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Sleep

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Vava'u Travel Helpers

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This is version 1. Last edited at 14:44 on Jul 17, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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