Niuatoputapu - Kingdom of Tonga

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Carina's Cargo

Our dinghy was weighted down with almost 600 eggs bound for Niuatoputapu. We also had a hundred pounds or so of salted and refrigerated meat, butter, over 200 lbs. of sugar, suitcases of mixed clothing and food addressed to specific families, and 40 liters of gasoline.


We agreed to carry 360 eggs - which would fit in one storage cabinet - but ended up with almost 600. And then, we got more.

Tribute Too

Nico and Sia asked if Larry could take a few bags of flour; then they showed up with twenty, 25 kg bags for loading. Here, Bandit perches on the flour. During the passage, the weight of the flour collapsed the v-berth on which it was stored.

And More

Larry moved some of the bags of flour to the stern in order to balance Tribute.

Mass Must Go On

One of the jerry jugs contained "alter" [sic] wine for the local Catholic congregations.


Upon approach to Niuatoputapu and after a boisterous voyage of two nights, we took a boarding wave. Contents of the navigation station ended up in the galley and then got soaked in seawater. Notice the droplets on the louvers.

Lagoon Anchorage

Carina and Tribute float placidly as the only vessels in Niuatoputapu's lagoon. A small unihabited motu is in the background.

The Vision is Tafahi

Tafahi is an extinct volcano about 5 miles north of Niuatoputapu and is home to a dwindling number of locals, now numbering about 50 but falling fast.

Falehau Village

This the view from Nico and Sia's front yard. Horses are used by many islanders to traverse the island. This horse carries pandanus palm bound for the lagoon where it is soaked before being dried and woven into mats, ta'ovala or kiekie. The woman carries an umbrella against sun, a common sight in Tonga.

Going to Church - Mother's Day

The homes on Niuatoputapu are small and modest with outdoor "kitchens", corrogated shower and separate toilet shacks, but Tongans trek dress their best to attend Sunday church services. This happened to be Mother's Day.

Crude but Effective

Sia in her Sunday best showed us how they get their clothes so neatly is an iron that is filled with the coals of burned coconut husks.

Still Standing

The original sacristy on the left side of the church was destroyed by last September's tsunami and had been rebuilt by the parishioners. Most of the windows on the church were also blown out as was the door. The statue of the Virgin Mary in front was unscathed.

Giggling at Tourists Allowed

These shy cuties finally consented to have their pictures taken before mass began.

Ta'Ovala for the Mother

A ta'ovala is a pandanus wrap - formal attire in Tonga - worn by both men and women. This decorated wrap on the Virgin Mother is meant to be an honor to her image.

Majestic Despite Its Simplicity

Instead of altar boys, the priest, Father Licesio, was attended by 12 alter ladies. Notice the pandanus mats which have been embroidered with bright yarns.

Nico and Sia

This a photo of Nico and Sia and their family in front of the church immediately after mass. The young baby is being cared for by villagers - his mother and father flew to Niua Fo'ou - and are now stranded there awaiting ferry service. The boy waits in Niuatoputapu and a few days later it was announced the ferry would NOT stop here for passengers before Niua Fo'ou, further isolating the baby from his parents.

House Made of Rubble

Nico rebuilt his house after the tsunami using any materials he could scavenge from the wreckage of other homes. His adjacent small grocery shop was completely destroyed and the insurance company is now refusing to pay for the building or its inventory.


These strips of the pandanus plant are left to dry for quite a long time before the women weave them into mats or ta'ovala.

Umu Lunch for Mother's Day

Nico and Sia invited us for a traditional umu (Tongan feast) on Mother's Day. Here, Nico and his brother, David, unpack the superheated volcanic rock and earthen oven of its taro, cassava, pork, lu (packages of taro leaves with corned beef and coconut cream) and doves. uncooked food on top of super-heated volcanic rock. Banana leaves, a mat and a quilt were used to cover off the mound while it cooked for about 2 hours.

A Blessing is Said

Sia murmured a blessing before the feast began. In Tonga, food is generally eaten with your fingers but we palangi brought plates, knives, and forks.

Lovely Spring Hihifo Village

This clear fresh water spring is in Hihifo village and is quite popular for bathing. The water emanates from the mountains and is quite cool.

Old Style Home Left Untouched by Tsunami

This traditional-style Tongan house is located close to the fresh-water spring. Newer homes are more like western style pre-fabricated houses.

Hihifo Destruction

This vacant, sand-filled lot was where the Tongan Development Bank and Government offices stood before the tsunami. The land across the channel was the former site of the Palm Tree Island Resort which is no more.

Tefahi Adventure on the Tribute Maru

Nico offered to guide us on a climb to the volcano on Tefahi and we took Larry's Tribute to the island 5 miles away. Tribute lies at anchor not far from turbulent surf pounding on a fringing coral reef..

Tafahi Village High Above the Sea

This building is the village dispensary for the 50 souls living on Tafahi. The village is situated high above the water. A telephone booth no longer contains a telephone as residents can access cellular service that emanates from Niuatoputapu.


Nico cut down a long pole with his "bush knife" and used the forked end to twist oranges off the tree branches. We attempted to catch the fruit, not always successfully, as they tumbled down. Notice the trail is an ancient road lined by stone walls of volcanic rock.


Larry points to a kava plant. Kava drinking ceremonies are part of the Tongan culture. The root is ground up into a powder and wrapped in cheesecloth and steeped in water. Some "crazy Tongans", as Nico called them, could consume as much as 20 liters (over 5 gallons) in a long evening's session.

Pandanus Drying Rack

We found this pandanus drying in the very hot sun on the beach of Tefahi.

Nico is Pilot

Larry steers and Nico guides as we approach the narrow entrance to Niuatoputapu Island.

Glamourous Cruising Life

A ready supply of water and a load of laundry occupied us one steamy afternoon shortly before departing. We are sitting in Nico and Sia's yard nearby to their kitchen wash area which is seen in the background.

After Ten Months of Waiting

The Princess Ashika ferry disaster left the Tongan islands without a supply ship and ferry. Ten months later, a newly purchased (used) Indonesian vessel, the Ajang Subuh, arrives at Niuatoputapu at dawn. Crowds gathered at the wharf to off-load passengers and desperately needed supplies, particularly fuel.

Tefahi Frosted

Our last night at Niuatoputapu brought us a magnificent sunset that reflected off the clouds frosting Tefahi.

Green Flash

Over the Niuatoputapu lagoon.