Just imagine – 8 blissful islands soaked days of exploring, kayaking and snorkelling in azure blue waters. Migrating humpback whales splashing in the distance, tropical birds circling overhead, sound of the ocean lapping on the hull, the swish of your paddle, the flow of your breath and the scent of the nearby, tropical islands. Unwind (even further) with gentle yoga on the beach for a tropical bliss reboot – at it’s finest.
With this experience offering 6 full days on the water, we have plenty of time up our sleeves for meandering from Vaka’eitu and Nuapapu Islands on the western fringe of the Vava’u Group before exploring the more central islands further. We will visit remote villages and sleeping under the stars for 5 nights of island camping.
This adventure offers the ideal ‘slow travel’ experience to unplug and fully step away from the grind of modern daily life, to get you immersed in the rhythms of your surrounds – connecting to nature, and connecting to self.
All the stunning photographs on this page are credited to Glenn Ord and the Friendly Islands Kayak Company, with thanks.
Spread across 700,000 square kilometres of ocean, just west of the International Date Line and east of Fiji, the Kingdom of Tonga comprises four major island groups. From south to north these are Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vava’u and the Niuas.
Situated approximately 240 kilometres north of Tongatapu, the Vava’u Island Group is a smattering of 50-odd islands covering an area 23 by 25 kilometres most of which is protected by a semi-circular reef. Although reefs or open water separates the islands, they are not great distances apart. In his book, The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific, author Paul Theroux describes sea kayaking in Vava’u thus: “It was a perfect area for paddling a kayak – perhaps the best in the Pacific. There was a surfy side and a safe side to each island – the lee shores usually had the beaches – all were secluded, all were lovely.”
Our venue changes daily as we explore this journeying adventure on the magical big blue and under the stars! Apart from the first and last evening where we will bunk down in a local guesthouse, the other nights we will be camping on secluded tropical islands and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean.
No guided yoga or wellness practices are offered on this trip. However feel free to BYO yoga mat if you would like to enjoy your own self-guided practice or stretch-out after a big day of paddling and island exploring. Breathe in the fresh Pacific air and take some slices of mindfulness by the waters edge or under the swaying palms.
It’s the perfect experience to step away from it all and come back to yourself.
Snacks and three meals per day are provided throughout this adventure, beginning with lunch on Day 2 and ending with dinner on Day 7. Our camp food has an international theme so you are likely to find Thai, Indonesian, Italian, Mexican and, of course, Polynesian dishes on the menu. The meals are predominantly vegetarian supplemented with fresh fish. We try to make extensive use of the delicious tropical fruits and vegetables and fresh seafood caught by our Tongan guides. We also try our best to please every palate. Please let us know well in advance of the tour of any food and/or drink allergies and/or dislikes.
A driver awaits your arrival at Lupepau’u Airport in Vava’u and transfers you to your accommodation. Shortly after check-in, your guide welcomes you and confirms the time (normally 4:00pm) and venue for this afternoon’s 45-minute orientation briefing. It is important that all participants attend this informative talk.
You will be transport to our Kayak Base for a safety briefing commencing 9:00 a.m. before departing for 5 incredible nights of camping in the Vava’u Archipelago. We begin our journey at the entrance to the Port of Refuge, reputedly the most protected and beautiful harbour in the Pacific. Slip inside Swallows Cave and don your mask and snorkel, marvelling at the schools of iridescent fish. Heading SE across a large bay, we reach Kapa Island for lunch where we can explore vibrant reef life in the channel. We finish the day skirting several small islands on the western side of the island group eventually reaching a large lagoon. Tonight’s camp is on Vaka’eitu Island facing Nuapapu Island.
Wake to a pristine Pacific sunrise and a leisurely hot breakfast to kickstart our day. We then paddle across the lagoon to the village of Matamaka on nearby Nuapapu Island for a glimpse of village life in Tonga’s outer islands. Visit the primary school and watch the women weaving mats in the village hall. Back at camp we snorkel amidst stag horn coral gardens teeming with reef fish. A short hike before dinner to the island’s summit may be rewarded by a view of the setting sun and possibly humpback whales (July-October) in Pulepulekai channel.
After breaking camp and re-provisioning with water at nearby Lape village, we paddle northeast bound for Taunga Island. En route we may be fortunate enough to sight turtles, dolphins or humpback whales. The latter migrate annually to Tonga’s warm sheltered waters (July-October) to breed and calve. Following a picnic and snorkelling at Sisia Island we carry on to inhabited Taunga Island. This evening, the villagers host an authentic Tongan feast consisting of 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. Tasting kava, Tonga’s traditional ceremonial drink, and stories around the kava bowl provide an insight into the local culture.
Today, Sunday, is by Tongan law a day of rest and worship. Those who choose to attend the morning church service in Taunga village will be impressed by the splendor of the Tongan people’s elaborate attire and harmonized singing. Tour operators are not permitted to offer guided physical activities anywhere within the Kingdom on a Sunday. Exploring on foot the inter-tidal zone of Taunga, Ngau and Pau Islands, interconnected by a sand bar at low tide, is a must. Bathing in the warm sea, reading, eating and socializing are also pleasant diversions on this enforced lay day.
This morning we break camp and paddle across a wide deep channel to nearby Eueiki Island. Here we picnic, snorkel and, at low tide, explore an immense cave with Tarzan-like vines cascading down through a hole in the cave ceiling. We can quench our thirst at Treasure Island Eco-Resort, named after the television survivor reality show filmed on location a few years ago. Back in our kayaks we paddle across a channel to neighbouring uninhabited ‘Euakafa Island, tonight’s campsite. The afternoon is free for snorkelling, beachcombing and gathering dry coconut husks and fronds for this evening’s bonfire. Bring along marshmallows and chocolate for a sweet treat!
In the cool hours of the morning, our local guide leads us through lush bush up the mount, explaining traditional Polynesian culinary and medicinal applications of diverse plants along the way. Reaching the site of a royal tomb within the fortress of a Tu’i Tonga king, our guide narrates the legend of how the queen met her fate. On our paddle westward back to the Port of Refuge we stop for a picnic lunch and snorkel at Mala Island. Once the home of a cannibal demi-god who ate passing outrigger canoeists, Mala is now home to a friendly tourist resort! Confident swimmers can snorkel across a channel to the entrancing Japanese Gardens. Back at Kayak Base, transfer by taxi to your accommodation and hot showers in preparation for tonight’s farewell dinner.
After breakfast of your own choice, the trip concludes today with a transfer to Lupepau’u Airport to meet your flights. Or alternatively you may like to make your own arrangements to remain in Neifu a while longer to do some more exploring.
A full information pack will be sent to you upon booking. But here are a few important things to consider in the interim.
Arrange flights from your home country to Neifu, Vava’u in Tonga. We recommend Fiji Airways via nadi, Fiji. Alternatively Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand fly into TOngatapu (the main island of Tonga) and a local flight with Real Tonga Airline can then be arranged from there. Please allow adequate time between flights as it is best to consider the influence of ‘island time’.
Whilst no kayaking experience is required for this tour, a moderate level of physical fitness and a sense of adventure are important. A typical day entails two to three hours of paddling interspersed with rest stops. The guides endeavour to balance the group by pairing slower paddlers with stronger, more experienced paddlers. However, the slower paddlers always dictate the pace. Base camps offer the luxury of paddling empty kayaks or a lay day for exploring and relaxing. Paddling into southeasterly trade winds of 12-18 knots requires extra effort and can make the distance we travel feel longer. Those who engage in regular exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming tend to derive more enjoyment from an adventure such as this. Comfort and experience with camping is recommended.
Tents and camping mattresses are provided, but you will be required to provide your own summer weight sleeping bag, a few sundry items, snorkelling gear and personal gear.
Large dry bags, duffel bags and backpacks cannot be accommodated in the kayak hatches. Please bring no more than 2 medium sized (20L-25L) dry bags per person – one for clothing; the other for miscellaneous items – plus one small (10L) dry bag per person for items you need to access in the cockpit (e.g. wallet, documents, sun screen etc.). A mesh bag containing your snorkeling gear and summer weight sleeping bag is additional to the above items. Nylon stuff sacs lined with heavy-duty rubbish bags are a more affordable option if you do not already have dry bags. However, a dry bag for the cockpit is essential. Camera and optical equipment should be waterproofed and insured.
During this tour you will be guided by a professional and highly experiences kayak guide from the company we are collaborating with for this trip. Fiona, Wild Awake’s founder and lead guide, will act as support guide on this accasion. With a background in outdoor leadership, including sea kayak tour guiding, she is very much looking forward to getting out on the water with you!
WHALE WATCHING & WHALE SWIMMING
Our tour partner is not a licensed whale watching or whale swimming operator. However if this is something you would like to do as part of your trip, a dedicated pre or post-tour activity out of Nieafu can be arranged for you.
THE GROUP EXPERIENCE
Please note that this is not an exclusive Wild Awake tour and it is possible that there may be a few guests who have booked directly with the company we are collaborating with. A beautiful chance to meet other travellers! There will some elements included in this package that are for Wild Awake guests only.
A donation will be made towards a relevant project in need existing in the region of Vava’u. This is still be decided upon and this section will be updated once confirmed.
What a soulful and incredible experience I have had with you, Fiona. Off grid challenges where I have seen things that I will never forget with a warm and caring fearless leader has filled me with gratitude. Thank you so much beautiful Sri Lanka, and Fiona. I will return.
Thank you for showing me the way, Fiona. I wandered and wondered. Five senses were touched every day of this adventure; sometimes a sixth of some kind seemed present. I was guided to and learnt how to give myself permission - couldn't have done it without you.
Bohoma Istutu, Lorisse.
First time travelling without my babies - big step!! Thank you for a beautiful experience. You are a generous and passionate teacher! I feel truly…
– Deeply centred
Fiona went above and beyond with her retreat in Sri Lanka. She thoughtfully planned delightful and surprising experiences and treats in addition to the yoga, so we got a gorgeous taste of Sri Lanka that I wouldn't have otherwise had! Fiona is totally committed to her environmental causes and this added a wonderful dimension to the retreat experience. Her yin yoga teaching is wonderful and my hips have been opened like never before. Thanks Fiona, my hips love you and so do I!
Fiona's attention to detail, thoughtfulness and inclusivity will make me sign up for other retreats she offers in a heartbeat!