Port Maurelle (Mourelle)
|Port Maurelle was named after the first European to visit it, Don Francisco Antonio Mourelle of Spain (Lonely Planet: Tonga, p. 151)|
One of my favorite anchorages (as well as other people’s) in
the Vava’u group is Port Maurelle, just off Kapa Island. Because it is popular,
it can get crowded, but we were fortunate enough to spend two nights there in
the company of only six to seven other boats that were well spaced out.
third night, there was an influx of boats from other, more exposed anchorages
that were looking to get out of the wind and swell. Port Maurelle got crowded
but still retained its friendly feel.
|A typical islet in the Vava'u Group, en route from Hunga to Port Maurelle|
Anchoring in this bay is difficult, and if you can’t get one
of the few moorings, it is best to anchor inside the moorings, where there is
enough sand to hold the anchor. The outer edges have only small sand patches,
and the bottom is like concrete with only a thin layer of sand over it. If you
have enough chain/line, you can anchor in deep water behind the moorings, but
since there is coral everywhere, you are probably destroying it if you do that.
In addition to being protected from most weather, the anchorage
is very scenic.
From Port Maurelle, you can also stage a variety of short,
|Excellent snorkeling can be found on the ledges on both sides of the bay|
Popular trips include visits to nearby Swallow’s Cave and
Mariner’s Cave. We only visited Swallow’s Cave. Sadly, the cave (unlike the
many caves we saw on Niue) was defiled with local graffiti. Here is a picture
of the entrance to Swallow’s Cave in which I cut the graffiti outside of the
cave entrance out of the picture.
|Kayakers from S/V Misty in entrance to Swallow's Cave|
However, the blurred white smudges on the
column inside the cave are also graffiti. These caves are like cathedrals, and
it is beyond me why anyone would desecrate them.
|Ceiling of Swallow's Cave|
Swallow’s cave is misnamed because the mud nests that line
the ceiling of the cave actually belong to white-rumped swiflets not swallows.
|Swiftlet nests adorn the ceiling of Swallow's Cave|
You can take a kayak or dinghy into Swallow’s Cave or enter
by snorkeling. The cave entrance in only partially underwater.
|Shadow's oar dips in|
|Patrick exiting Swallow's Cave by dinghy: note the oar and prop near the entrance|
Tongans used to hold feasts in this cave for important
visitors and, in addition to the water opening, there is a top opening to the
cave through which foods were lowered.
|Top opening to Swallow's Cave|
Once inside, there are several chambers to explore, but you
need a flashlight to explore all but the main chamber.
After having a look around the cave by dinghy, I jumped in
for a snorkel. Peering down, I saw limestone columns extending to the dark floor of
the cave, 50 to 100 feet below me. It would have been creepy if not for the
late afternoon sunlight coming through the cave entrance, which created a shaft
of magical blue light in the water.
|Late afternoon sunlight entering Swallow's Cave|
|Beam of sunlight penetrating through the water to the rocks underneath|
In addition to exploring caves, many snorkeling expeditions can
be made from Port Maurelle. There is excellent snorkeling along either edge of
the anchorage, unlike at some of the other outer anchorages. We also made a
dinghy trip to nearby Ava Island, whose west side had some of the most amazing
snorkeling of our entire cruise. A steep wall dropping down to the bottom held
myriad fish and invertebrates, but most interesting were the pelagic
invertebrates I encountered on this exposed island. I will post pictures of
these snorkeling expeditions in a separate post.
There are several villages on nearby Kapa Island. We visited
the village of Falevai. On the way there, we passed cows, horses, and pigs
grazing in the forest and more mangoes ripening on the trees. Falling coconuts
were a hazard at the beginning of the footpath, so we had to keep our eyes
|Wild pig and piglets on Kapa Island|
As we entered the village with its cluster of homes, we met
a woman who waved us over. She told us a little about herself, asked about us,
and then invited us to church the next day. We took some pictures of her and
|Entering the village of Falevai|
As we walked on, we noticed some interesting trees that we
had first seen on Hunga.
They looked like cotton, but they weren’t the low shrubs we
are used to seeing in the United States. I asked a local man what they were and
he replied, “Cotton.” I was wearing a cotton dress that day and pointed to it
as I asked if the villagers made fabric from the cotton. He said they didn’t
because they didn’t have the “machine” to make fabric. (I’m not sure if he
meant a cotton gin for cleaning the cotton or machines for spinning and weaving
the cotton.) The villager told me that the islanders currently only use the
cotton (which was soft as lamb’s wool) for pillow stuffing.
We soon came to another cluster of buildings, a cemetery,
and a wharf.
I wasn’t sure if these belonged to the same village or a different
one. Here, we again saw a colorful quilt hanging
by a recent grave like we did on Hunga. Back in Neiafu, we asked about this Tongan custom. We were told that Tongans believe the grave is the deceased's home, so they try to make it homey. We were again reminded of the television set we saw sitting on a grave in Niue.
|Village wharf with net piles|
We did return to the village for church the next day. I will
also cover our experience there in a separate post.
We wanted to visit several places in the Lape Island area and
because it was more sheltered from the east wind that was blowing at the time,
we took a mooring at Lape Island instead of anchoring at neighboring Vaka’eitu.
We spent several days here mostly hanging out on the boat,
but making a major snorkeling excursion each day to either “The Coral Garden”
or the “Coral Wonder.” These two huge banks, carpeted with some of the most
beautiful coral gardens we’ve seen, lie on the outer reefs (west and south, respectively) of
the "bay" in which Lape Island is found. Their location and approaches are well
described elsewhere (Tonga Cruising Guide, pp. 7-8), and I will cover them in more detail with photos in
a separate post on snorkeling in Tonga.
We also visited the village the first day we arrived at Lape
Island to let them know we had taken a mooring. The moorings at Lape Island are
on a donation basis, paid directly to the island. Lape is one of islands
outside of Neiafu that hosts a Tongan feast for yachties, and their feast is
also on a donation basis. The donations paid to the village are being collected
at this time to build a floating wharf for the village. The current concrete
wharf, also built with donations from cruisers, is almost level with the
surface of the water at high tide. One can imagine that in rough weather or
cyclone season, waves sweep over and across it making it very dangerous; so it
is easy to understand the need for a floating wharf.
We attended the traditional Tongan feast at Lape Island. It
was their last feast of the season and was well attended by about 40 cruisers.
|Cruisers enjoying a Tongan feast|
Cruisers were met by the islanders at the wharf and wreathed with leis upon
their arrival. Patrick and I arrived after the village had run out of leis, but
Jess on Oyaraugh let me wear hers for
part of the evening.
|Tongan kids having a sand fight on the beach|
After an aperitif of a drinking coconut while people arrived
and socialized, it was time to eat. Before the meal was served, grace was sung
and said in Tongan. Small children were served first; then, the rest of us were
served. The islanders kindly explained the order of the evening to us in
advance, so that we were spared the embarrassment of making any faux pas.
feast was served in plates made out of halved banana stalks.
|The feast buffet: The woman in the purple shirt is carving the roast pig|
I suspect that in
a true Tongan feast, people use their fingers to take the food from the banana
plates, but we were given plastic-ware rolled in a napkin. Traditional dishes
included roast pig, breadfruit, and cumala (sweet potato) baked in an earth
oven, fried and raw fish, and a variety of salads. Some of the salads may have
been included to satisfy the tastes of cruisers, because they did not all
appear to be traditional foods, but I didn’t inquire about each dish.
|Drinking coconut with dinner plate|
|P's meal left to right: sweet and sour vegetables, taro-wrapped corned beef, vegetable salad, green salad, roasted sweet potato, fried fish, roast pork, sweet and sour sweet potato|
|K's meal left to right: sweet and sour sweet potato, raw fish salad, fried fish, taro-wrapped corned beef, green salad, roasted sweet potato, roasted breadfruit, roast pork|
After dinner, the event organizer and his wife performed a
song and dance they had learned while spending time in Samoa.
donation hat was passed around.
|Tongan feast organizers and hosts|
Cruisers remained on the beach visiting until
well after dark. We met up with several boats we hadn’t seen since Bora Bora
and met some new people as well. It was a very enjoyable evening.
|Getting ready to pass the hat for the floating wharf|
what wonderful descriptions and pics! even if i don't comment on all of them, i'm soaking them up!!ReplyDelete