Tanoa International Dateline Hotel on Tongatapu on August 7th (Continental breakfast, dinner and triple occupancy cabanas included)
Matafonua Lodge, Ha’apai Island Group: Quad occupancy Cabanas on Foa Island in the Ha’apai Island Complex catering to the eco-adventure traveler. Cabanas are steps away from a pristine stretch of white sandy beaches which offers nice snorkeling. Bathroom and shower facilities are shared by island guests and are not located in the Cabanas. Each “Fale” or Cabana has two rooms with two twin beds in each room or beds may be converted into a king size bed. The back room is accessed though the front room so 4 people are sharing a space together. For more information and fabulous photos please visit Matafonua Lodge (continental breakfast, dinner and quad occupancy cabanas included from August 8th with a departure on August 15th).
Crusoe’s Retreat, Coral Coast Fiji: Double occupancy rooms known as “Bures” at a beautiful beachfront resort. Each spacious Bure has a bathroom, shower and small refrigerator (continental breakfast, dinner and double occupancy cabanas included from August 15th with a departure on August 20th). Crusoe’s Retreat is located adjacent to a Fijian village providing employment for our “neighbors” while we are in Fiji.
MEDICAL REQUIREMENTS: As new information unfolds regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we will update this link as we learn new requirements if any, for travel between Tonga, Fiji and the United States. As new protocol evolves (such as the use of face masks during certain activities), we will update information here. At this time, October 2022, both Tonga and Fiji have lifted requirements for proof of a negative Covid test. insurance. Review Tonga’s Covid-19 Protocol here: COVID in Tonga and Fiji’s Covid-19 Protocol here: COVID in Fiji
Due to the nature of this program traveling in vans and boats together and sharing accommodations, we will require everyone to submit proof of the COVID-19 vaccination. We encourage eligible travelers to be fully vaccinated by getting their Covid-19 Booster Shot. As of April 15th, 2023, our South Pacific program no longer requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to our departure. This decision was made based on the general trend in the eco-adventure travel industry with updates from the CDC regarding COVID-19. However, during our travels if anyone is exhibiting flu or COVID like symptoms, we will require that you take a COVID 19 test. We plan to bring a supply of testing kits, however please bring several personal kits. If someone tests positive, you will be isolated from the group until arrangements can be made for your evacuation from our program. All costs of an evacuation is the responsibility of each participant. Now more than ever, it is important to secure Travel Insurance. You may purchase through this link or choose a company of your choice.
Tonga and Fiji do not require any specific immunizations for entry from the USA. However, The Center For Disease Control has issued a set of recommendations for travel to Tonga and Fiji.. In general, any travelers to third world countries should be up to date on routine vaccines such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis(TD or Tdap), varicella (chickenpox), polio, Hepatitis A, Typhoid and your yearly flu shot. The Zika virus has been reported in Tonga and Fiji and you may review more information at this CDC link. There may be additional travel recommendations, so we encourage you to check with your health provider and review the latest travel updates for Tonga (link below). Receive your travel immunizations 4- 6 weeks prior to travel for maximum benefit.
Please visit the CDC Travelers’ page for Tonga and Fiji for updates and suggestions before you travel. All medical precautions are the decision of each participant. You may also consult a travel clinic that specializes in immunizations and travel updates.
Boat rides may be bumpy and jarring with the prevailing winds across the South Pacific, however sometimes, there is little jarring. We can not predict marine conditions far in advance. If you have a chronic back, shoulder or neck injury or condition you may find the boat rides uncomfortable and we don’t recommend joining us. Please call us if you have any questions regarding the activities planned at 831 459 8548.
MAPS AND USEFUL LINKS
Tonga Tourist Board
General Info: Tonga World Atlas
General Info: Fiji World Atlas
The Sacred “Flying Fox”, a noticeably large species of bat found in the South Pacific
GIFTS: People often inquire about bringing gifts for teachers or children we meet along the way. This is certainly not expected especially with the weight restrictions with our luggage. However, we have found a way around this (see the heading Arrival into Tonga below). If you have spare space in your checked bag, school supplies are in great need. In 2019, we brought crayons and markers which were then divided into 45 small parcels and hand delivered to each child at school. They were thrilled! An email will be sent out prior to the trip to see if you have space for a box of crayons, pencils or markers. If you have a functional laptop or Ipad that you would like to donate to a school, that would be a tremendous gesture. Funding for school and electronic supplies are extremely limited in the villages we will be visiting.
LUGGAGE: A medium to large duffel bag is recommended. Hard-shelled suitcases are acceptable, but since weight is restricted, soft duffels are preferred as they weigh less than hard suitcases. Rolling duffels are approved but add weight. On our domestic flights each passenger is permitted one checked bag not to exceed 50 pounds and one carry one bag not to exceed 15 pounds. You will be charged extra baggage fees. Please try to keep your personal belongings to 50 pounds or less.
ARRIVAL INTO TONGA: Our Domestic Airlines has a limit of 33 pounds for a checked bag, Air New Zealand and Air Fiji allow 50 pounds for one checked bag. If you have space and are willing to carry some school supplies to Tonga, it would be greatly appreciated. For those in the Santa Cruz area, we will be in touch prior to departure to see if you could add 5-8 pounds of school supplies to your luggage. We will deliver these items to you. Upon arrival into Tonga, we will gather up the school supplies and arrange for their delivery to a local school. Upon arrival to Tonga, the extra weight will be removed from your luggage before we board our domestic flight where the 33 pound limit applies. Malo!
PHYSICAL CONDITIONING: In order to participate in our South Pacific Program, you should be a moderately strong swimmer, physically fit and comfortable in open water. You will need some level of upper body strength to hoist yourself up on the boat ladder repeatedly throughout the day. The whales are sometimes found resting in quiet bays or may be found conditioning their offspring in rough, choppy water. Some of our best viewing has occurred in these rougher conditions where wind chop, swell and mild currents are a factor. Most activities are optional and you may choose to take a day off and relax back at our accommodations. However, once you choose to join us whale watching, you will be on board the boat for 3 1/2 hours per day.
Boat rides may be bumpy and jarring at times as the prevailing southeast trade winds occur this time of year. Please call us if you have any questions regarding the activities planned at 831 459 8548.
Your Blue Water Ventures guides will offer a variety of additional excursions each day for those who want to keep active. Join us snorkeling over coral reefs that flourish in front of both accommodations. In Both Tonga and Fiji, we encourage you to join your Blue Water Ventures naturalist as we explore and interpret the intertidal zone. The vast marine resources of Tonga and Fiji from massive whales to juvenile sea hares are rich, varied and magnificent. Most of our whale watching occurs in Tonga, but occasionally whales or dolphins are seen in Fijian waters.
Blue Water Guides Exploring deserted islands of Ha’apai Island
CONDITIONING PRIOR TO YOUR ARRIVAL: Right NOW is a great time to visit a pool or salty body of water. For those who have not snorkeled in awhile, please get in the water! Practice doing sprints with your gear on. Try swimming at full strength for 1/2 the length of a 50 meter pool then gradually work up to sprinting the full length of the pool. Sometimes the whales approach us but often we need to swim quickly in their direction as instructed by our Tongan guide. Practice rolling over on your back and kicking vigorously with your head out of the water. Sometimes we swim on our backs and just kick towards the whales keeping an eye on them from above water.
SNORKELING GEAR: Please test out new gear prior to arrival. If you have purchased a new mask, you will need to clean it at home and then test it. Repeat cleaning until it is fog free. It will be frustrating to have a new mask fog up on our first whale encounter. Instructions may be reviewed here Cleaning your Mask. If you are using new fins, try them out! Some fins which have a back heel strap will fit more comfortably with a wetsuit booty or wetsuit sock. Fins that lack the back strap usually don’t require a booty or sock. A visit to a local dive shop will help answer your questions on snorkeling gear. Be sure that your wetsuit fits comfortably while doing sprints and that your arms are not feeling too restricted.
IMPORTANT UPDATES ON SNORKEL GEAR: We have recently learned about the potential dangers in full face masks. Apparently, in some models CO2 builds up inside the mask leading to blackouts, potentially fatal. Here are just a few articles regarding the dangers of full face masks: Dangers of Masks With that said, Blue Water Ventures is banning the use of full face masks while we snorkel in Tonga and on all of our snorkeling programs. In Florida, there is very little physical exertion as we don’t even use fins and a few clients became light headed using full face masks. However, in Tonga we use fins and sometimes kick into some current or enjoy long snorkels. You may argue that you did your own research and purchased the top of the line full face mask. However, we can not assume this risk nor ask our guides to shadow anyone in the water who chooses to wear a full face mask. Full face masks can not be used.
CORAL SAFE SUNSCREEN: If you have had a chance to look over our website packing list, you will have noticed several brands of Coral Safe Sunscreens. There are many out there, some that claim to be safe but actually are not. A key ingredient to avoid is oxybenzone, harmful to marine life. Two brands that we personally like are: Raw Element and Stream2Sea, although there are other good brands on the market. Review this link for more details: Coral Safe. We truly appreciate your consideration of coral safe sunscreen to help reduce our impact on the fragile marine ecosystem.
CAMERAS: Photographing a massive marine mammal can be exciting as well as distracting! Sometimes its highly recommended to leave the camera behind and simply be in the moment! Your Blue Water Ventures guides will photo document your trip and we will send a photo link to you. Over the years, we have preferred the Olympus Tough Underwater Camera with the round lens rather than the square lens. Other clients have been extremely happy with the Cannon or Fiji underwater cameras. GoPro cameras work extremely well with their wide angle setting as whales approach you, but are less effective for distance. Be sure to review your equipment prior to arrival. We will gladly offer any guidance on your equipment that we can.
WETSUITS: While in Tonga, water temperatures will hover in the mid 70’s and slightly warmer in Fiji so wetsuits are recommended for snorkeling. Some years are colder than others. If you tend to get cold easily, we recommend that you bring a 3 mm full body wetsuit. Many past clients were comfortable with a full body suit while others got by with just their 3 mm shorty wetsuit (arms included but to their knees only). Farmer John style wetsuits combined with a rash guard have worked well for many. A wetsuit hood would provide additional warmth if you chill easily. Wetsuits are available to rent on Ha’apai Island, Tonga, but not in Fiji.
SCUBA DIVING: Certified divers may arrange for a day of diving in both Tonga and Fiji. Scuba diving is not included in the price of this trip nor do we make any arrangements for diving. If you are interested in diving, please send us an email. In Tonga and Fiji wetsuits are provided for divers. There is a Dive Shop at Matafonua Lodge and several dive companies in Fiji. When scouting Fiji, we dove with Aqua Trek and enjoyed their renowned soft coral dive. However, we don’t advocate their “shark dive” as the waters are heavily chummed to attract a variety of shark species, a common practice in this region of Fiji.
ACTIVITIES INCLUDED: Guided snorkeling, whale watching and swims, exploring by motorized boats and traditional bamboo rafts, hiking through forest, intertidal exploration, natural history lectures, beachcombing, kayaking, waterfall exploration and cultural activities. Both resorts offer other complimentary activities and as well as other activities in which you may elect to pay for and join.
Photo Credit: Kim Powell
SNORKELING WITH HUMPBACK WHALES: Regulations for viewing and swimming with humpback whales are strictly enforced in Tonga and can be reviewed here: Regulations During our first whale experience we will learn and practice proper whale watching etiquette. As with all wildlife sightings, the level of viewing and interaction varies and is dependent upon weather, sea conditions and the whales themselves. Sea conditions and interaction levels may vary greatly each day and even from one boat to the next. Whales make the choice to interact with us and to what level. On some days we may only view whales from above water. Such viewing can be exhilarating as the males form competition pods in pursuit of a female. We have secured our whale watching boats for 5 days while in Tonga. Our group will be divided into two pods and you will whale watch either from 8:30- 12:00 or from 12:30-4:00pm. We will follow guidelines closely and observe respectively.
SNORKELING CORAL REEFS: Your Blue Water Ventures naturalists are avid snorkelers eager to share information about coral reef ecology, invertebrate biology and fish behavior. We will offer informal talks and guided snorkeling excursions in addition to our outings to snorkel with humpback whales. We hope you will join us in the water as we explore and interpret this amazing ecosystem. Please bring your own mask, fins and snorkel that have been tested and are ready to go prior to the trip.
Photo Credit: Kim Powell
SEA SICKNESS PREVENTION: If you are prone to sea sickness, we highly recommend bringing some form of prevention. Medications such as Bonine or Dramamine are usually effective although drowsiness or thirst can be a side effect. Many clients have been very happy with Scopalimine patches that requires a prescription. Your local pharmacist or physician can advise you. Many health food stores will recommend herbal remedies such as Motionease for sea sick prevention and we have found this brand quite effective. In the past, several clients have successfully used “sea bands” which employ a pressure point on the wrists rather than medication. Sea Bands have no side effects and can be purchased at most dive shops or online at Prevention.
CLIMATE: August is considered the end of winter which tends to be a drier and cooler time of year however in 2016 we received a great deal of rain during our stay in Tonga. We must arrive prepared! Lying south of the equator, we may expect pleasant though windy conditions with the persistence of southeast trade winds. Temperatures should be relatively pleasant with day time highs in the 70’s and cooler temperatures at night into the low 60’s. We could potentially experience cooler temperatures with the occasional Antarctic driven cold front combined with trade winds. We will need to be prepared for cooler temperatures while whale watching. More information on weather patterns in Tonga can be reviewed here: Climate and More on Weather. Good rain gear is required to protect from wind and spray when traveling by boat or a possible down pour. Bring a waterproof sun block/lip balm with a protection factor of 20 or higher.
INSECT REPELLENT: Mosquitoes and a few other insects will be encountered in Tonga and Fiji. A strong repellent is a good defense against mosquitoes and other insects that we may encounter. A layer of lightweight, light in color clothing is an effective defense against insects. In recent years, clients have been very happy with a Eucalyptus Lemon Natural Repellent as an alternative to products with Deet. Avon Bug Guard is an effective repellent against sand gnats or “no see ums” found in coastal areas. The skies are not black with insects. However, if you can’t tolerate insect bites, a trip to a tropical region is not for you!
ELECTRICAL OUTLETS: Electricity in Tonga and Fiji are 240 volts, 50 cycles, and the plugs are the heavy, angled type used in Australia and New Zealand. You will need a converter plug to recharge phones, cameras etc. There are many styles and types to choose from and you may find them at your local hardware store. Several digital camera batteries, recharging cords and extra memory cards are recommended while traveling. Here is a photo of the plug used in \the South Pacific and a link to one of many options for purchase online.
WIFI CONNECTION: Your cell phones may work in some areas of Tonga and Fiji, although phone calls back home can be expensive. We suggest that you call your provider to see what the fees are for calls, texting and international plans. You may want to set up a Skype account on a “smart phone” before arriving to Tonga..Apps such as Facetime, Messenger and WhatsApp should work from our hotels as well. There will be wifi connection in the dining area at Matafonua and Crusoe’s Resort. Connection speed may be slow and inconsistent. During previous trips to Tonga and Fiji, the connection was working quite well.
DRINKING WATER: At all sites, you will be briefed on policies towards drinking water. While in Tonga, do not drink any water out of your hotel faucet, although water at Crusoe’s Resort is potable.
TAKING SHOWERS: Our hotel accommodations will have running water but quick showers are advisable to conserve water use. Shower pressure may be low and water temperature may be tepid or even cold.
CLOTHING AND LAUNDRY: Loose fitting cotton or quick drying nylon work well in the tropics. Jeans add weight, take too long to dry out and are not recommended. Laundry is done by hand as needed by each participant. You may also plan on dropping off items to be laundered upon our arrival to Fiji. However, it may take several days for laundry to be delivered. We will also check in about laundry services in Tonga before our departure.
APPROPRIATE DRESS: For the most part, the dress code is causal throughout Tonga and Fiji. However, on several occasions we will ask that you wear t-shirts with sleeves (no tank tops at these sites). If you plan to attend church on Sunday or the Tongan feast later that day, a skirt, sarong or dress is required. A Sarong is required whenever visiting the Fijian Village adjacent to Crusoe’s Resort.
Please review the packing list for more details on what to bring. Most Tongans and Fijians are devote Christians and attend church every Sunday. A sarong, dress or skirt are required to attend church. Guided activities are not permittedon Sunday but tourist are welcomed to join the Tongan’s and Fijians at church. By dressing appropriately, we are respecting the cultural norms of the our South Pacific Island hosts. Please follow all suggestions we offer on the packing list.
FOOT WEAR: Most hiking can be done with a surf booty or pair of keens which offers good toe protection. We are offering one spectacular hike to the “Magic Waterfall” in Fiji where a surf booty or pair of keens would be suffice. For Beach time our suggestion is to wear the same surf booties you plan to wear with your fins while exploring intertidal areas or stretches of beaches. Flip Flops are a fine choice for around our hotels. In summary, your head guide plans to bring surf booties and a pair of flip flops. If weight permits, she may add her Keens. Hiking shoes are not really needed, but bring them if you wish.
LOCAL CUISINE: Most meals are Tongan or Fijian in style and are an intricate part of our cultural experience. You may anticipate chicken, pork, fresh seafood, local fruit, yams, taro, coconut, pastries and breads. Vegetarian meals can be arranged upon request. We recommend that you bring your favorite snack to supplement the 2 meals that are provided. We will supplement with local snacks but healthy choices are limited. Please specify any dietary restrictions or allergies on the waiver form that will be sent to you. In Tonga and Fiji, lunches, speciality coffee drinks, sodas and alcoholic beverages will be on your own and you may keep a tab at both resorts. Continental breakfasts are included, but you may order off the menu and include that on your tab. Expect to pay $15-25 per lunch at both resorts.
PASSPORTS: Everyone is required to have a current passport for entry into Tonga and Fiji. Please make sure that your passport is current at least 6 months past your date of arrival into the South Pacific. In other words, your passport can not expire before April 2024. It usually takes 6-8 weeks to process a passport. For information on obtaining a passport, please visit: passports Most post offices provide the service to process US passports.
MONEY: US dollars and credit cards will be accepted in Tonga and Fiji. Foreign credit card charges typically add 5% in addition to any foreign transaction fees your bank may impose. We can exchange US dollars at airports upon arrival. We have several hours at the airport before we catch our domestic flight. Currently, 100 Tops equals $40 US dollars and 100 Fiji Dollars equals $43 US dollars. Currency can be calculated at: Money Exchange.
Small denominations (20 bills or less) are recommended since you will receive foreign currency in change. The only costs you are responsible for while on our South Pacific program are: lunches, speciality coffee drinks, sodas and alcoholic beverages and any unscheduled excursions by boat or otherwise you wish to take. Certified divers will need to make payments for any dives they make. An airport departure tax should be included in your Air Fiji ticket but traveling home with some emergency cash is recommended.
TIPPING: It is customary to tip our whale watching guides and boat captain after a day on the water with them. We have included this in the total price of the trip, but you may contribute to our tip pool if you wish. There is a possibility that we may have Tongan Dancers perform. Please bring a stash of crisp one dollar bills as it is customary to stick bills onto the well oiled skin of Tongan Dancers. All other tips to hotel staff, restaurant servers, drivers and other cultural performers will be taken care of by Blue Water Ventures. If you feel as though your Blue Water Ventures Assistant guide has served you well, please consider a tip for her that the group collects at the end of the trip. $50 – $100 per person would be greatly appreciated. As is customary in hotels you may choose to leave a small tip in your room for hotel room attendants. US dollars are fine, but no US coins.
HOW TO REACH OUR GROUP BY PHONE: The Matafonua Lodge on Ha’apai is: 011 676 697 66 (August 8th-15th) and Crusoe’s Resort is 011 679 226 0185 (August 15th-20th). A final email will be sent to you with more details on how family members may contact us in the event of an emergency back home.
ILLEGAL DRUG USE: The Tongan government has very severe penalties for the use of illegal drugs. Do not bring illegal substances into Tonga or purchase/use them during this program. Products containing CBD oils or THC are illegal in Tonga and should not be brought through customs.
Phone: (831) 459-8548
Santa Cruz, California
Monday – Saturday:
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sunday CLOSED