Monthly Archives: September 2023

Kelefesia Limestone Cliffs

We leave Tongatopu after spending a week in the capital city.  On our departure day we have no wind but we do have a 2m long rolly swell. Will be a slow ride to Kelefesia in Haa’pai. It was a gorgeous day with sunny skies, small puffy clouds and many humpback whales.

Did I mention it is whale season in Tonga?  Humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic to the South Pacific Ocean in order to mate and have their babies.   Most of the whales can be seen between June and October so we are perfectly situated to make some new friends.

We hope to have lots more photos of these beautiful humpback whales so stay tuned!

Since we did not have any wind we had to motor the 56nm from Tongatopu to Kelefesia.  But it was a good time to top up the batteries and make some fresh water.

Kelefesia Island

This 32 acre private island is for purchase  It can be yours for a mere $6 million.  Wowza. Well I can tell you first hand that Kelefesia is a spectacular island with beautiful white sandy beaches all around it.

Large limestone cliffs provide shelter between the islands.  A few years ago the center was covered in lush vegetation and forest.  However, the 2022 tsunami destroyed leaving only a few palm trees.  

But the beaches are gorgeous and pristine.  The surrounding waters are crystal clear and inviting.

We only stayed one night in Kelefesia because the swell was pretty bad and made it rolly.  But we did enjoy the walk on the beach and the gorgeous views.

Events from this blog occured in late July.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.   We visit many royal sites in our last blog titled “Royalty Found in Tongatopu.”

Royalty Found on Tongatopu

We arrived in the southern island of Tongatopu as our point of entry into the Kingdom.  After our formalities were handled, we began our exploration.  The city center is a short walk from the docks.  Along the way there were a dozen street vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables including melons, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, bananas, and more.  We decided to wait to make our purchases until after we visited the main produce open air market.

The Royal Palace

The wooden Palace, which was built in 1867, is the official residence of the King of Tonga. The palace is not open to the public so all we could get were photos from the fence. No guards were present and frankly it looked like a large, well-maintained hotel.

The Royal Tombs

Only Kings and Queens of Tonga can buried in the Royal Tombs which are also closed to the public.  But they are located in the heart of the capital city.

Royalty at its Best

The King’s birthday was early July so many places of business had “happy birthday your majesty” signs up.  There were also lots and lots of purple banners, fabric, ribbons, and bows draped over the front lawns of homes and businesses.  This was beacuse the King’s cousin passed away.

Across the streets are many large signs showing their love of the king.

The photos used as the cover photo is a picture of the Royal Palace in the “country”  The princess was rumored to be staying there a few days after we visited.

Tonga Time

Next to the Internarional Dateline Hotel is the famous Tonga Clock where time means nothing.  Because in Tonga, time can be anything you want it to be.


There are so many churches in the city center.  It seems like every block had a church but I am sure that is not the case.  I was drawn to the very large gothic looking churches. The stone church below was destroyed a few years ago by a massive storm.  Now it sits slowly deteriorating and it is so very sad.

Ha’amonga Trilithon – Stonehenge of the South Pacific

The Ha’amonga Trilithon is a mysterious 11th-century stone arch that is made up of three large slabs that are about 5m tall and 6m long.  TEach coral limestone slab weighs approximately 30 to 40 tons. Because of its clear resemblance, it has been nicknamed the “Stonehenge of the Pacific.”

The name means “Maui’s Burden” in the local language, and as the stones are too heavy for humans to handle, it is believed that the god Maui himself brought them from ‘Uvea (Wallis Island) and constructed the monument. They now reside in a small roadside nature reserve. 

Archaeologists, on the other hand, generally seem to believe that the Ha‘amonga was built by an early 13th-century king as the gateway to his royal palace, Heketā. Otherwise, it has been suggested, it might have been used for astrological purposes. These theories are unconfirmed, however, and the origin of the huge trilithon remains a mystery. 

Our guide tells us that this was a gateway to a very ruthless king’s home.  Once you cross through the gateway you see three paths.  When the sun rises on the far right path it is going to be a very long day.  If the sun shines on the middle path it will be a normal day and the far left path will be a very short day.

The large boulder on the upper right corner was the resting place for the king.  He sat at near the bottom and it is rumored his head touched the indent toward the top (making him close to 4 meters tall).  The middle image is the old burial site that was never used for this king.

A few local artists were selling their crafts at the stonehenge.  Too bad we coud not buy anything.

Captain Cook’s Landing Place in Alaki

The last place we visited was the landing place for Captain Cook.  It sure is a prety bay.  You can see why Captain Cook returned here several times.

We had a great time exploring Tongatopu with our driver Olini who also helped us get gasoline. It was a short 3-hour tour, but we sure did pack a lot of stops and sites into that time.

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.  This blog post occured toward the end of July 2023. Check out our last blog where I highlight the Kingdom of Tonga.

The Kingdom of Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga, also known as the Friendly Islands, consists of over 170 islands scattered over 270,000 square miles in the southern Pacific Ocean.  Of those 170 islands only 45 are inhabited.  Tonga has a population of 110,000 people and over 70% of those residents live in Tongatopu, the capital city of Tonga.  The second largest island is Vava’u where over 4,000 inhabitants live in Neiafu.

Tonga’s history dates back roughly 2,500 years.  The settlers gradually evolved into having a distinct and strong ethnic identity, language, and culture.  It remains strong and independent to this day. Even though Tonga had British protected-state status for a brief period of time, they never relinquished their sovereignty to any foreign power.  Tonga is currently ruled under a fully-functioning constitutional monarchy.

King Tupou VI

Aho’eitu Tupou VI is became the King of Tonga after his elder brother George Tupou V died and had no legitimate children.   He was officially condirmed by his brother as heir presumptive in 2006.  Aho’eitu served as Prime Minister of Tonga as as Tonga’s High Commissioner to Australia.  Aho’eitu learned to love the sea while he served in the Navy. 

The Royal Family must marry within the family.  In order to continue the royal blood line the royal family is allowed to marry their 1st cousins.  However, no other Tongan is allowed to marry family.

Tongan Island Groups

The Tongan islands are divided up into three main archipelagos including Tongatopu the southern islands; Haa’pai the middle islands, and Vava’u the northern islands.

Tongatopu Island Group

Tongatopu consists of the main island Tongatopu which is the capital of Tonga and is home to the majority of Tongans.  The King and his family reside here and most of the commerce is conducted on this island.  Eua  and a few other smaller islands are also part of this archipelago.

Tongatopu Archipelago

Tongatopu Archipelago

Haa’pai Island Group

I think the Haa’pai island group is similar to the Tuamotus in French Polynesia. These islands are made up of shallow lagoons surrounded by reefs, coral shelves and a few active volcanoes. Most are low lying coral atolls.

They are the most remote group of islands and have small villages.  Most of the 62 islands are are palm fringed islands and only 17 are inhabited.  There are approximately 30 villages spread out across those 17 inhabitied islands housing 7,000 Tongans.

The main hub for Haa’pai is Pangai which is located on Lifuka toward the NE part of the island group.  The four largest islands have running water and electricity.  However, the remaining 58 islands live a life without those modern conveniences.

Haa'pai Archipelagoa

Haa’pai Archipelagoa

Vava’u Archipelago

These islands are known for being an incredibly lush, green, tropical paradise. The islands are ringed with white sandy beaches and the crystal clear waters are teaming with wild life.  In addition, you will find dramatic limestone cliffs, hidden caves and tropical forests on these islands.

Vava'u Archipelago

Vava’u Archipelago


Tongans are closely related to Samoans and other Polynesians in culture, language and general heritage.  Local culture is very conservative and very Christian.  They do not allow any work or activities on Sunday including laundry, boat chores, shopping, SUP’ng, etc…It is a day of quiet. 

Clothing is very conservative.  The government requires women to cover their shoulders down to their knees and men are required to wear shirts at all times. Nudity is forbidden and against the law.  Most locals swim fully clothed.

Volcano and Tsunami

In 2022, the Hung Tonga-Hunga Haa’pai volcano erupted causing a tsunami which inundated parts of the Haa’pai and Tongatopu archipelagos. This tsunami brought waves as high as 20m tall (66′) washing away islands and villages and taking 4 lives.  I will talk more about the damage from the tsunami in upcoming blog posts.

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behing actual live events.  Events from this blog occured in mid-July 2023.  Read our last blog where we experience a truly utter rudder disaster?