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Niuafo ou, Tonga, oceania Cruise

    Niuafo'ou Island lies 640km north of Tongatapu and is the most remote island in Tonga with a population of 735. This island also known as Tin Can Island because of its unusual postal service. Since there was no anchorage or landing site on the island, mail and supplies for residents were sealed up in a biscuit tin and tossed overboard from a passing supply ship. Strong swimmers would retrieve the packages. Outbound mail was tied to the end of long sticks and swimmers would carry them, balanced overhead, out to the waiting ship.Today the harbour still has no anchorage and no wharf. Ships stop about 150m offshore and the crew drops two lines into the water, which are retrieved by swimmers and carried to the cement platform that serves as the landing site. Passengers, luggage and cargo are literally dropped or thrown into a wooden dory and ferried ashore, where the local islanders assist them out of the rolling and pitching craft and deposit them on a platform. Returning craft are filled with copra, oil drums, pens of squealing pigs, sacks of taro, yams, bananas and passengers and the boats are maneuvered through the surf back to the ship. Travel by air is definitely an easier option for visiting Niuafo'ou. There is weekly air service by Airlines Tonga and Peau Vava'u. There is also ferry service from Tongatapu which operates approximately 6 times per year. The Island is shaped like a doughnut with a fresh water lake (Vai Lahi) in the centre. There are four islands in the lake: Motu Lahi (Big Island), Motu Si'i (small island), Motu Molemole (smooth island) and Motu 'A'ali (low island). The main island is surrounded by open ocean with no coral reef around it and no sandy beaches. People do not swim in the sea here, but in the fresh water lake. The Local tour guide enjoys showing you around the island including the sulfur lake, Vai Lahi Lake and the various treks around the island. He will also show you the habitat of the Megapode, a fascinating brown and gray bird, native only to Niuafo'ou. Locally known as the malau, it spends the days on the forest floor and at night it roosts in the treetops. There is no for your local guide. The locals really enjoy showing visitors around the island and do not expect to be paid. A donation to the church is an appropriate gesture or perhaps some fresh fruit or vegetables. While the men are out fishing, the women are weaving mats, baskets, hats and decorations. Weaving is done in a weaving hut where the women will often be found singing or talking to keep themselves from tiring while working. Preparing the pandanus leaves for weaving is time-consuming and difficult. Pandanus is dried on lines and used for the weaving of mats and baskets. In addition to using mats for practical household purposes such as floor coverings and bedding, the people also wear mats known as 'ta'ovala' around the waist as a sign of respect. Another local material used is the fibre of the 'fau' tree (hibiscus tiliaceus) which is strong and long lasting. The 'fau' is used for making baskets , hula skirts fringing of mats and roping. Again the preparation of the fibre for use takes many days. The branches are cut and taken to the sea where they are left for weeks. They are secured to the bottom of the sea with large stones. During this time the outer bark rots and is washed off by the constant motion of the sea while the inner bark becomes bleached white and softened. Next the fibre is separated from the wood, washed with rainwater and dried in the sun.
    Niuafo'ouis a perfect getaway for those who like exploring, meeting the local people and who can live without the usual tourist amenities such as bars, restaurants, shopping and the like. There is a track leading right around the island, which may be walked in about 6 hours. A visit to Vai Lahi Lake is a must see for all visitors. All around the crater, small trails lead to interesting sites and splendid views of the lake. There are bubbling sulphur springs, lava vents, mounds of volcanic slag and lava tubes. You can spend many happy hours exploring all the interesting trails. There are no organized activities here, however, if you enjoy fishing, the local fisherman are happy to take you with them. Fishing for Lapila fish (the telapia fish) on Vai Lahi Lake is a common pastime. A contribution to petrol is an appropriate gesture. There are no restaurants, bars, or nightlife, however, whenever there is a local umukai (feast), visitors are invited. Pork, chicken and or fish is cooked along with local root crops such as taro and sweet potatoes in an underground oven where the food is cooked in a pit dug in the ground. Social evenings are held occasionally where there is dancing and music. Since there are only a dozen vehicles on the island, many of the local inhabitants travel by horseback and it is a very common form of transportation. Horse riding can be arranged during your visit. Please be advised that there are no saddles, however. It is advised to bring fresh fruit and vegetables with you for your visit, plus any liquor or drinks you require as the shops basically have only tinned meat and fish There also are no refrigerators on the island so all food and drink is served at room temperature. The basic drink is "Nu" (the juice of the coconut). You will find Nu a pleasing drink and is plentiful on the island and best of all it is free. Niuafo'ou will be a holiday you will never forget as you will truly learn the culture of Tonga by eating local foods and experiencing the local way of life. You will discover the hidden delights of Niuafo'ou Island.

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