Swimming with Jellyfish!

I've often thought that the unexpected experiences are often life's best.  The things you never anticipate but which turn into unforgettable adventures.   I never anticipated I would swim with jellyfish this past weekend and even if I had, I probably would have imagined a painful experience involving getting stung by this misunderstood sea creature.

Friday afternoon, we set sail aboard Manuoku, one of our favorite sailboats in Vava'u.  Less than an hour after leaving the harbor, we spotted thousands of jellyfish swimming beside the boat, more than I've ever seen anywhere.  The jellyfish, in all shapes and sizes seemed oblivious to our presence as we passed.  Steve, our captain tell us that these jellyfish don't sting and that some Tongans eat them.

As we near our camping spot, we see another school of jellyfish.   These look a bit different, but Steve assures us that we won't get stung if we jump in the water and swim with them.

That's exactly what we did.   I can't even begin to describe the feeling of plunging off the side off the boat wearing my mask and snorkel and descending in the crystal clear Pacific surrounded in all directions by these translucent creatures.    It almost felt like a science fiction movie.

Not long after being in the water, my hand brushed against one of the jellyfish.  I immediately recoiled, my mind still remembering my last encounter with a jellyfish in the Florida Keys.   That time I got stung, but not this time.   Then another brushed against my leg and this time I still flinched a bit,, but was growing more accustomed to the touch of the "jelly" on my skin.

Before long, I was holding the jellyfish in my hands and playing with them as if I belonged in their underwater realm. 

I took a lot of video while in the water, but none of it comes close to capturing this experience.  Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded.   It's an adventure I won't soon forget.

Camping (kind of) on an uninhabited island

I have a friend whose idea of camping is to pull up in his RV, plug in and camp.   There weren't any RV's on the island we visited this weekend, but the style of camping was a lot closer to that of my friend in the RV than to the style of primitive camping I usually enjoy here in Tonga.

We were NOT roughing it.

The 11 Peace Corps volunteers who live here in Vava'u, two of the Japanese volunteers, an Australian volunteer and a few other folks were all the guests of our friends Ben, Lisa and Jason. 

They own the island and while it is uninhabited, it had more luxuries than some of my fellow volunteers have in their Peace Corps houses.    Our amenities included a gas grill, chairs, tarps and even a generator to power lights at night.   Even when the rain started falling, we stayed dry, under the tarps and didn't need to retreat to our tents.

Our camp site for the night

Their island is really amazing.  It's a beautiful spot not far from the old harbor of Neiafu.  (We left from the new harbor, which is about a three hour boat trip since you have to sail around the main island to get to the other side).

Sailing the South Pacific

After a night of camping, it was time for a day of sailing.   Some of the volunteers decided to stay on the island a while longer, but most of us climbed back aboard Manuoku and spent the rest of the day sailing and snorkeling.   

Saskia, Steve, Shannon and Katie on board Manuoku

While we did see a few jellyfish during our sail, it was nothing like the experience of the day before.  

Random Notes

Fire Follow-up

The area of Neiafu that was destroyed by fire in December is finally being cleaned up.  Last week, a group of Mormons removed most of the debris from the fire area.

Downtown Neiafu after the fire

There is now also a fence along the sidewalk so that someone doesn't accidentally fall off the edge.

Good-bye Enrique

Another member of my training group left the Peace Corps last week.   Enrique is now back in the USA.   Enrique is the first person from our group to leave since last April.  Out of our original group of 33, there are now 28 of us left.   There are 21 volunteers from the group that swore in as volunteers in December and we have three volunteers who extended from earlier groups.  That gives us a volunteer population of 52 throughout the Kingdom.

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