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Exploring Fangatave Beach & Caves

We first heard about Tonga when we were introduced to some friends last summer who had just moved back from living in New Zealand. They recommended we escape the damp, cold winters of New Zealand and plan for a holiday in Tonga – a small island just south east of Fiji. Known to be less ‘touristy’ than some of the other Polynesian Islands (Fiji), they recommended we explore Tonga’s ‘forgotten island’ – Eua – as it was known to have the best hiking and eco-tourism.

So we booked a 6 day holiday to Tonga and set out on our first adventure outside New Zealand since we arrived nearly a year ago!

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Flying over Wellington on our way to Tonga

Although the draw of a less touristy place was alluring at first, the lack of visitors also means there is less (reliable) infrastructure in place to accommodate travelers with short time frames. Before we even left for Tonga, we had our flights to Eua cancelled/changed on us 4 times with the last happening an hour before we left for our trip. This proved to be quite stressful as our only other option was a ferry that was known to be even less reliable (and a bit sketchy).

In the end we were able to board the tiny 17 seater plane that would take us on the shortest commercial flight in the world – a total of 8 minutes! With our hand written tickets in hand, we boarded the tiny plane and crossed our fingers it would take off and land without a hitch.

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Situated at the front of the plane, there are not many places you can be within arms reach of the pilot – let alone without having gone through any kind of security! One of the many endearing qualities of living the island life.

As we landed on the island of Eua, we were greeted by our hosts Marta and Naite who shuttled us to our room at The Hideaway. A quaint little resort located on the beach, it was a perfect oasis for a winter get-away.

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As soon as we could drop our bags, we were off for our first adventure on a guided tour to Fangatave Beach and Caves. A short drive from the resort, we were dropped near a field on the north east side of the island where we walked through some of the native bush before we were greeted by the magnificent seaside cliffs.

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As we walked along the edge, we could see the beautiful, deserted Fangatave Beach below as the waves crashed into the large coral reef. The view was spectacular! It was hard not to stop and just take it all in – but we had to ensure we kept up with our guide or risk getting lost 🙂

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One of the benefits of having our guide Sione with us was not only to show us the way (and keep us safe) but to share his local knowledge of the area and culture. Just before we began our decent towards the beach, he stopped to show us the canto nuts and offer us a taste. A bit sweet and similar to a macadamia nut, the children of Eua play a game with the empty shells at Christmas, using their fingers to flick the nuts in the center of a circle similar to something like bowling.

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As we began our climb down the dried, fossil coral reef, we clung to the cliffs by a worn old rope before descending through the rainforest towards the beach. Along the way we passed through several beach side caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Passing through a few tight places, we climbed our way through the various caves.

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The largest cave opened up into a massive cathedral with all kinds of places to explore. If I had any kind of a singing voice it would have been a perfect place to strike up a melody! (I’m not going to lie – I belted out a few lyrics anyways)

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Nearing lunch we headed down to the beach to grab a bite to eat and take in some sun along the shore. Since we were in such a rush to take off when we arrived, we didn’t have time to grab our bathing suits so we enjoyed our sandwiches while taking in the view.

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So we decided to head back to the cave for some more exploring and took the opportunity to have some fun with the camera while the others lounged on the beach.

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Back at the beach, our guide Sione was gathering some snails and sea urchins (a local delicacy) and cracked a few open for us to try. Despite the salty taste and the slimy texture the sea urchin wasn’t too bad! The snail on the other hand I just couldn’t stomach. A bit too chewy, with a variety of textures similar to eating the cartilage of a chicken (YUK!) Jordan seemed to like both and went for a second helping.

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The rock pools along the coral reef were filled with interesting plant and sea life. Although quite sharp, walking through the reef was refreshing on the hot afternoon. Since the swell was high it wasn’t exactly a great place to go swimming as the waves crashed ferociously along the reef.

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Scrambling back up the rocky cliffs we re-traced our footsteps to the hightop cliffs to grab one last glimpse of the beach below. One our return, Sione stopped at a number of trees, grabbing a few leaves and crumpling them to release their aroma. One spelled like citrus – often used in teas – while the another spelled like cloves and cinnamon – often ground and used in lotions.

As we walked back to meet up with our ride, we spotted a mother pig feeding about 6 little piglets (how many can you count?) On Eua, and throughout Tonga, pigs are a popular source of food and can be seen running the streets all throughout the island. We saw soooo many little piggies running around they were just the cutest little things!

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Back at the Hideaway, we headed through the bush towards the beach. Hoping to go for a swim, we were yet again met by the sharp coral reef, thus limiting our ability to cool off. We decided to trek through the shallow waters back to the Hideaway as we watched the waves crash on the reef.

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Catching our first sunset just before dinner, the skies were illuminated with the passing sun. A perfect way to end our first day on the island of Eua!

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