9/17: TBU (Tongatapu) to VAV (Vava’u) to Mounu Island

09172014 Sunrise (3)
Sunrise from Tongatapu 

Mika picked me up at 6:20 and we moved to another hotel to pick up 2 more passengers (a young couple from the UK) and took us to the domestic terminal.  I’d learned from the prior day’s flight that I should consolidate back into one piece of luggage, and my overage charges were only about $20 USD.  To pass the time until the flight, I went to the little cafe next door to get a cappuccino.

0917 Airport
Tongatapu Airport


0917 Coffee
Tongatapu Cafe

I met three of the other six travelers: Gary and Indra from Singapore, and Laura from the US. We boarded our little plane for our 45 minute flight to Vava’u. Tony met us at the airport with Allan Bowe, the owner of the Mounu Island Resort, who gave us beautiful leis. We hopped in a little bus, stopped by a bodega and a market, and climbed into the boat – the Phoenix – for the 30 minute ride to Mounu. It was a grey, cloudy day – which was perfect for the beautiful boat ride.

0917 Lei


09172014Alan Truck Fixing
Must fix the truck


Market baskets


09172014Market (1)
Market Tomatoes

 Mounu Island

Mounu Island Resort is a tiny, private island owned by Allan and his wife Lyn Bowe, who moved here 17 years ago so they could be closer to the whales. They have a few tiny cottages and one main dining area – with trees and sand in between. It’s lovely.  Laura and I were roommates and settled right into a normalcy which we’d perfect over the next few days. Starting with my unexpectedly long two-hour nap that afternoon.

Sperm whale jaw… and the entrance to our own little island and resort


09172014Welcome Bevvie
Welcome beverage


09172014 Mounu (15)
Mounu Island


09172014 Mounu (14)
Mounu Island and our Boat


09172014 Mounu (13)
Our cabin


09172014 Mounu (9)
View from our deck


09172014Underwater Camera Test
Taking the underwater camera out for a test run


09172014Underwater Camera Test (3)
Camera Test / Mounu From The Kayak

There are eight of us total:  Tony and his wife Emiko, Gary and Indra, Serene and her friend Eck, Laura, and myself. We’re a group who’ve traveled far to get here and are passionate to see and learn about whales. Tony used dinnertime (delicious!) to brief us on our whale encounters.  There will be lots of swimming, and lots of boating, and occasionally executive decisions by Tony/Allan to move on from one whale and try for another.  Tony summarized our most likely encounters in three scenarios:

1) Heat Run – a single female slapping the water and calling the males come mate. This is a fast-moving, frenetic activity.

2) Mama and calf – a mother whale with her baby calf, sitting on the surface and breathing

3) Singer – a single whale, hanging horizontally upside down in the water and singing

For each of these, Tony advised us to “match the mood of the whale”. Meaning that some will be curious or inquisitive, some will be uninterested, and some will be unfriendly. This follows the same logic as any other mammal – elephants, gorillas, anything – is just to maintain awareness and enjoy.



09172014 Dinner Table


09172014Tequila (1)
Arta Tequila – Tony had been gifted a bottle of this delicious tequila.  We christened it and our whale adventures together.


09172014Tequila (2)
To Whales!