Quiet motus

Just north of Tonga’s densely populated main island Tongatapu a barrier reef with a few tiny motus on it extends about 5 nm east and another 5 nm north. Yesterday we took Pitufa up to the south-eastern corner of this reef–just 8 miles as the seagull flies, but we still took 4 hours for this stretch of careful reef navigation (about 12 nm around the reef). The motus here are pretty with fine, golden sand, a dense vegetation, but it seems that (fortunately) hardly anybody comes here. The anchorages are not mentioned in cruising guides, only the motu closest to Nuku’alofa has a tourist resort on it, so we share this quiet corner just with a few birds.

Today we walked around the motu next to our anchorage and it reminded us a lot of the motus in the Tuamotus or Gambier. Sadly the resemblance ends when you look into the water: the coral seems to be mostly dead and the rocks are just covered in a coarse, brown algae that overgrows the reefs once the coral’s dead (or maybe it suffocates coral underneath?). This plant seems to dominate the underwater landscape not only in the Society Islands of French Polynesia, but also here around Tongatapu. We’ve seen hardly any fish so far–the fishermen who sell bags of colourful reef fish (there is no ciguatera here) on the market have to go further and further to find some catch. We haven’t seen any tuna or mahi-mahi at the fishmarket at all (fished empty?). In town there are signs at many buildings (hospital, harbour extension, etc.) that praise ‘the people of Japan’ as sponsors–probably they got fishing rights and a vote at the International Whaling Commission in exchange. We hope tha
t the reefs are in better shape around the other archipelagos of Tonga.

After a period of southerly winds, the breeze has shifted to the East and it’s much warmer, finally it’s pleasant enough to sit in the cockpit without hoodie and socks :-) The water in our 2.5 m shallow anchorage has reached 26°C again (after the chilly 24°C of last week).

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