Secluded Beaches and an Awesome Cave

Even though we have been in Vava’u for more than a month, I have not had a chance to see much of the island except for my village and the main town. Saturday I got to find out why Vava’u is the vacation capital of Tonga. Most of the trainees and a couple of the current volunteers all hired a boat for the afternoon. We got to get out on the water and see many of the islands that make up this beautiful island group. Our first stop was a secluded beach where we were the only people. It was overcast so not a lot of sunbathing, but plenty of time to do some incredible snorkeling. The wide variety and colors of the coral combined with the colorful variety of fish made for a great adventure. I even saw my first colorful bird here in Tonga. Even though you might expect there to be many tropical birds here, there really are very few or they stay out of sight.

After the beach we headed to Swallows cave. This is a huge cave, big enough for small boats to get inside. However, our boat would not fit, so we jumped in the water and swam inside. The swim to get inside the cave was much more of a struggle than I had anticipated and I found myself winded once I got inside--partly because I was holding and not wearing my mask and snorkel in one hand. The swim was worth it. You could lie on your back and look up and see hundreds of swallows flying around. I went to the far side of the cave and climbed up the wall with several of my fellow trainees. After a short climb up the edge of the cave, you could see into another cave ahead. On the way back down, I went back the way I came, but a couple of others went down on the other side and saw a sea snake in one of the small ponds. We’ve been told that the sea snakes are very afraid of humans and that their fangs are so far back in the mouth that they can’t actually bite a person. However, the guys took no chances and quickly scaled down the wall into the pond below.

Before slipping back into the water, I put on my mask and snorkel and was treated to an amazing site as I put my head into the water. The cave was at least 75 to 100 feet deep below me but the water was so clear you could see the bottom. There was another entrance to the cave and it helped light the ocean floor. It was truly a spectacular site. I don’t have an underwater camera so I don’t have any pictures to share. However, even if I did, I doubt the pictures could do it justice.
Getting out of the cave and back to the boat was an easy swim, but getting back in the boat was more of a challenge. No rope ladder, so we literally had to be pulled up onto the boat.

We had planned to make another stop at a place called Mariner’s cave but the weather was not cooperating and it was determined it was too rough for us to make it to that cave. To get into Mariner’s cave you have to swim underwater and then come up inside the cave. The good news for me is that I’ll be in Vava’u and will have other opportunities to go back. For some of the trainees, this may be their last time here since we leave in just over a week to go back to main island of Tongatapu. That also means we have just over two weeks of training remaining before we officially become Peace Corps volunteers.

***Other News***

On Wednesday and Thursday, the business trainees did a workshop for several small business owners here in Tonga. It was my first chance to really do what I came here to do—work with business people. I helped out with a session on record-keeping and then did some private sessions on both record-keeping and on Excel. Even though we were working on Thanksgiving, it was great to see that we could impact some people, hopefully in a positive way.

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. The current volunteers here on Vava’u made arrangements with the owner of a waterfront restaurant to let us use his facilities. We each chipped in TOP$15 which is about $7.50 US and the Peace Corps country director and assistant country director paid for the turkeys. The volunteers took over the restaurant kitchen, cooking all the food including mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Might sound like a typical American Thanksgiving, but you don’t find those items here in the South Pacific. We even had cranberry sauce. A local band, which included a Peace Corps employee, donated their time to play for us and we all chipped in to buy them drinks from the bar. It really was a great evening and a nice break from training. Now here’s the twist. After dinner, we took our own plates back to the kitchen and washed our own dishes. It didn’t seem strange to do this because the great dinner was well worth doing dishes. (Full Disclosure: I didn’t actually do my dishes as one of my language teachers took my plate for me).

My address will be staying the same for a while. Eventually I will have a Vava’u address and once I get it, will update my contact information page on the blog and include it in a post.

In addition to the photos included in this post, I’ve uploaded a few others. Also, if you are getting my posts via e-mail and are not seeing photos, you may want to check your mail settings so you can see them, or you can simply click on the title and look at the site online.

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