Friday, January 30, 2009
Atata Island, Tonga
For 60 Tongan dollars (~30 USD), you can set up a trip to the Royal Sunset Resort on Atata Island. The scuba prices were pretty steep for Tonga, something like 300 T$ additional (150 USD) - which is more expensive than the place where I went diving in Fiji. So, we all decided to just hang out on the island and snorkel a little. In hindsight, this seemed to be the right decision, since the place wasn't very organized and as a beginner, I didn't have much confidence in the scuba gear.
There was a 45 minute boat ride in a small transport boat from the port in Nuku'alofa. When we arrived, we spent some time wandering around Atata Island. We walked part of the way through some forest on the island and most of the way on the beautiful beaches. On the opposite end of the island was a small village. We had plenty of time to swim before lunch, and after lunch we were taken by boat out to the reef near the island to go snorkeling.
The snorkeling was pretty neat, although the size of the reef there couldn't compare to the reef by the island I was at in Fiji. The one really interesting part of the snorkeling was the rows of giant clams beneath us. When I say giant, I mean 1 meter across; and I was actually nervous to swim above them. The snorkeling was a lot of fun, because the fish didn't swim away when I came over. My favorite was a group of turquoise fish that I spent a lot of time following. I also saw one of the giant clams start to close when a fish was poking at it. For a minute, I thought I was going to see the fish get eaten by the clam (I have no idea if clams actually do this), but the fish swam away before anything happened.
I would have been able to spend hours out by the reef, but we only had about 45 min to an hour, before we had to catch the boat back to Tonga. The worst part of the snorkeling was that I had to learn how to pull myself back into the little boat that had brought us out to the reef. Luckily no pictures exist illustrating exactly how horrible at this that I am!
One last side note is the "flying fox" which are all around Tonga. They are bats, but as you can see from the picture of this little guy, they are adorable!
The trip back to Nuku'alofa on the boat was great fun. The waves had picked up quite a bit, and the little boat kept jumping over the waves and slamming back down on the surface of the water. It was a little rough, but it was exciting! The day trip was about 4 hours long, so we had plenty of time to shower and rest before dinner on the main island.