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By No owner — last modified Feb 26, 2018 02:38 PM

 Tonga - Profile

Facts

  • Thousands of Tongans were affected when Tropical Cyclone Gita tore through the country on February 12, 2018, reported to be the worst cyclone to hit Tonga in 60 years.
  • This Polynesian kingdom, situated in the heart of the South Pacific, consists of over 160 coral and volcanic islands, of which only 36 are inhabited.
  • Best known among sailors is the northern group of Vava'u, whose maze of islets and reefs provides one of the best cruising grounds in the South Pacific. In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of boats in the South Pacific, in particular in Tonga’s Vava’u Group, and facilities for yachts are improving all the time.
  • Getting work done: In spite of Tonga's remoteness, facilities are surprisingly good and the setting up of a small industrial centre near the capital Nuku'alofa has encouraged several boating-related foreign companies to start operations in Tonga. There is also a Moorings charter base in Vava’u. In 2015, a new boatyard (the only one in Tonga) opened in Vava'u capable of handling monohulls and multihulls up to 30 metric tonnes and 60ft.
  • Provisioning: There are several supermarkets which stock local staples and produce and fresh produce markets. Be sure to arrive early.
  • A dangerous area to avoid by boats on passage to Fiji is Metis Shoal (19°11.4'S 174°51'W), where there has been intense volcanic activity.
  • The Ha’apai group, while requiring careful navigation, have some of the most beautiful isolated islands in the Pacific.
  • Tonga has a new island, about 65 kilometres south-west of Tongatapu, which started forming in January 2016 after a volcano began erupting. Tonga's lands and natural resources ministry has examined the island and stated that the newly formed landmass is around 800m wide and 1.3km long.

Security

Cafe Tropicana is now hosting an AIS Receiver on behalf on www.marinetraffic.com. Data can be seen on the website free.

Weather

Tonga's climate is warm and humid, although less so than other tropical islands. December to March, which is also the hurricane season, has more rain. From April to November the SE trade winds predominate, although quick sudden squalls can occur from other directions.

Weather Forecasts

Radio Nuku’alofa: Dial 1017 kHz on the AM band. Weather forecasts follow the BBC news at 0700 and the Australia news at 0800.

VHF Channel 10: Vava’u Marine Radio transmit the weather forecast at 1030 and 1530 daily apart from Sunday.

VHF Channel 26: This is the Cruiser's Net Update at 8.30 am Monday-Sunday (provides useful information on weather, tides, contacts, services offered or needed and local advertising).

All weather in one place for Vava’u Tonga
www.vavau.to/weather.html

Tonga Meteorological Services
www.met.gov.to/

A useful guide to South Pacific weather resources complied by a Noonsite contributor, Rory Garland.

Tonga & Pacific Weatherstations: Help improve weather forecasting

For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page.

Main Ports

roycereid302
roycereid302 says:
Dec 12, 2018 07:36 PM

Further to my report below which Sue posted, the fees for clearing into Tonga are still the same as on noonsite, however they did not charge us for trash removal when we cleared in at Vava'u.

Berthing Note - the first dock as you enter the harbor in Vavau is the one they expect you to tie up to (it has some people selling fish and the odd other boat tied up there and it has huge tyres on the wall now). However we did ask them if it was alright not to tie to the dock, and they said if we felt it was unsafe to do so for the boat that was fine as long as we flew the Q flag and proceeded to the customs office ASAP during working hours. I would say that if there is any onshore component to the wind, that it would be unsafe to tie to that dock... and I expect they would also be fine with that definition.

We arrived at about 7am Tuesday morning to calm conditions, so tied up to the dock. At about 9.30am the officials started to show up and by ten we had them all aboard and we were filling out documents. None of them asked for a gift or bribe etc. It was more professional than many of the Caribbean places we had visited. I'm guessing someone had talked to them. There was no answer from the Harbor master on 26 or 16.

The officials also explained that we could extend our boat stay up to 12 months and we needed to do this before we hit the original 4 month clearance limit.
The Boatyard Vava'u - www.boatyardvavau - where we have Brisa hauled out for bottom painting while we are in NZ, does all the paperwork for that.

With regard to the warning about Alofi on noonsite - he is still around, but I can honestly say that he is about the same as most of the Caribbean boat boys when it comes to his approach. At no point did I nor the Admiral feel intimidated by him and his bread was very, very good... of course delivered and homemade to the boat it was always going to be more expensive than the supermarkets. He asked us for some rope to tie up his cow.... I feel maybe the last review was a bit skewed making him sound dangerous... He may be a little annoying ... but in our opinion he is definitely not dangerous. We simply talked to him for a little while, explained we didn't need anything and gave him about ten feet of crappy rope and off he went. Says hi to us every morning and I wouldn't say he is worse than what we have seen in Panama and the Caribbean. Certainly not a "bad" apple, but more of a location character! 😊 His little flags were nice, we supported the local community a little, but I wouldn't ask him to build me a dinghy.. if you get my drift?

All in all the clearance, the interaction with customs and the experience there was almost 10/10..... the dock sucks still, but the officials were excellent and friendly.

One tip... we went and got a digital phone card. $2 top for the card and put $50 on it and we have had great internet, free incoming calls and connection almost all through the islands around Vava'u. Will let you know how it goes as we get further through the islands. Cheaper there than in NZ.

On another note: the guys in Boatyard Vava'u have been hugely active within the government departments making sure it is improving every year. I am certain they have influenced the approach of the officials there.

We don't lock our dinghy and we don't lock our boat.... so far only truly positive vibes in an amazing location!

Following seas.

Royce.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Dec 12, 2018 01:52 PM

Brief updates from Royce Reid:

Wanted to briefly update a couple of things regarding Tonga.

The checkin in Vava'u was fast and simple. They told us how to extend our boat permit from 4 months to 12. the Customs guy also said there is a proposal under consideration to extend the cruising permit from 12 months to at least 18 months. The immigration people were friendly and fast and told us where to go to extend our 30 day entry visas.

We hauled out in Vava'u at the boatyard there and it was fast efficient and friendly. We also got a quote for the bottom job and it was almost half price VS. New Zealand. they have also opened a chandlery there. If they don't have it on hand they can order it tax free from NZ and it arrives fast with fed ex ( within 7 days we were told ) or cheap by boat, but takes three weeks. We replaced flares and brought interior paint and some nuts and bolts. Not a huge shop but it has the necessities and arranges for specifics!

All in all it was an awesome easy experience and that's not even commenting on how amazing the cruising there is!

Royce Reid.

Sundowners
Sundowners says:
Feb 26, 2018 03:29 AM

Anyone visiting Vava’u for cyclone season I recommend contacting www.boatyardvavau.com. My insurance company searched them and gave me the all clear to haul there as part of my cyclone plan. I pre booked with them for a haul out if the weather looked bad. I was island hopping and they contacted me on vhf warning of Gita. They hauled me the next day. A great yard, excellent service, good hauling unit and fantastic service. The best boat yard experience I have had....and I've had a few. Highly recommended.

Alita
Alita says:
Nov 15, 2017 07:37 AM

It is Europeans within the Schengen treaty, who get a 3 month visa on entry.

Ptadd
Ptadd says:
Oct 02, 2017 10:49 PM

Some people are getting 90 day visitor visas on arrival for free it is worth asking for it. For most people you then won't need to renew.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 26, 2017 11:12 AM

Statement provided today from Vava'u Tourist Association, The BoatYard and other local businesses:

The individual within the Customs Department who raised this issue again has been a problem for us over the past few years, however today it was confirmed that he has resigned and that the situation has returned to normal with extensions now being granted.

This individual's decisions were not based on any government policy that we know of. Now that he has left the post, this issue shouldn't raise its head again, but to make sure of that the Vava'u Tourist Association and us at The BoatYard, along with the other local businesses are taking this further to secure the industry and to let the cruising public know that contrary to the actions of this one man, Tonga is open and welcoming to yachts.

We hope this helps to alleviate any concerns and we look forward to welcoming yachts here in Tonga for many more years to come.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 24, 2017 09:39 PM

Feedback from Peter Bould:
There has been a change in the allowed time a visiting boat may stay in Tonga. They are refusing extensions beyond 4 months.
There is considerable upset both from local businesses and from visiting boaters about this.
It is possible the reverberations arising from this change may result in the policy being reversed back to what it was, which was about one year with extensions.
Watch this space.

davesaggs
davesaggs says:
May 28, 2017 10:41 AM

North and South Minerva Reefs. Drone video including entrances:
https://youtu.be/zRSloJHOXPs
https://youtu.be/bgEP0OwwyzI

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jan 04, 2017 11:10 AM

Confirmation from Tonga Customs:

As per the normal procedure, you have to apply for your yacht temporary import permit after 4 months and it can be granted for up to 12 months total stay at the discretion of customs.

Re. leaving your yacht in Tonga unattended, as temporarily imported yachts are technically under customs control (as in most countries) Tonga customs department are working out a system to be able to have a better way of keeping track of these boats.
There are currently two options for leaving your boat in Tongan waters unattended:
1) Leave your yacht on a managed mooring (cyclone rated if in cyclone season) and sign a standard 'Master in Charge' letter with the owner of the moorings so that someone has responsibility for the boat while they are overseas.
2) Haul your boat out of the water and sign a standard 'Master in Charge' letter with the managers of the boatyard.

For more information see the Customs section under Formalities.

Franklin Gray
Franklin Gray says:
Dec 20, 2016 09:05 PM

New Customs rules: First entry you get 4 months. If you want to stay longer you must apply 2 weeks before that is up and you will only get 3 months and then will have to apply again. Also, if you plan on leaving the boat for any period of time you must have a non-Tongan on it or put it on the hard.

domander
domander says:
Oct 07, 2016 09:01 PM

Anyone who is arriving into Tonga on a one way airline ticket such as joining crew need to know the old advice about having a refundable ongoing air ticket from Air New Zealand may NOT be sufficient to allow a smooth entry into Tonga. A crew member arriving to join Prince Diamond in Tonga in September 2016 had such a ticket, but was required to buy another ticket (changeable but not refundable) all the way back to her home in Toronto, Canada before she would be allowed entry. And it was still required that the captain (me) type an email to Air New Zealand proclaiming that we would definitely be leaving Tonga by boat before they would issue a refund on the Tonga to New Zealand air ticket!

The correct procedure for entering a crew member into Tonga on a one way ticket is to type an email to [email protected] no more than one month before arrival proclaiming the incoming crew will be leaving by boat on a specific date and giving the following information:

Crew name
arrival date
date and booking number of flight into Tonga
passport number and date of expiry
full name and date of birth
Captain's name
Boat owner's name
Boat name, registration number, country and port of registry

There are probably other details required which I have forgotten. Just put the kitchen sink into that email!

A letter will be issued to be carried by the traveler. The cost is $34.50 TOP payable on arrival. As I said the letter is valid for one month. This procedure is a pain in the neck but is in the end the easiest way to do the entry. We had a real problem trying to get the refundable ticket refunded, as they would cancel the refundable ticket, but not refund the money!. And in addition the extra ticket back to the home country may not be usable for you depending on your situation. In our case we WERE returning home from New Zealand, so it worked out for us. Comments and questions welcomed.

BBeer
BBeer says:
Oct 28, 2016 03:04 AM

Allen, I'm sorry that you're so upset with your experience with internet access here at beautiful Hunga Haven. As you may recall, in order to ensure you enjoyed your stay here and left on a good note, I offered to give you back the little extra cash that I requested for the extra data usage. However, for some reason you refused and became very angry.

To be fair I just wanted to clarify a few things from my perspective. I was trying to invoice you for extra data usage over the maximums indicated on our Splash Page, the page you use the password to sign in. Some how either you or your computer were able to get into our system without authorization. We have since put a password on that section also, so that this will never happen again.

Our Internet Management System certainly does NOT monitor or record your account information or passwords, nor does it install spyware on your computer. That would be an invasion of your privacy, illegal and something we would never do. This same system is used in hotels, hospitals, restaurants and internet cafes around the world and to make such an accusation is very upsetting and unwarranted.

nautinauti
nautinauti says:
Oct 07, 2016 03:58 AM

Beware of bad operators in Vava'u. We had a very bad experience at Honga Haven, anchorage #13. My wife signed up for and received a password for 2 hrs. on Oct 6, 2016. He charged us for 3 hrs., 2 hrs as stated and an extra $10.00 for the previous day. We did not have a password for the previous day, Oct 5, 2016, we did not use any internet. They also monitor which sites you are on. Now I feel I must change each and every account and password I have. I have no way of knowing what spyware he may be using and what harm he may cause.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 20, 2016 08:54 AM

Posted on behalf of Clare Sudlow:
Vava'u Bluewater Festival
Calling all South Pacific Cruisers! – Don’t miss the 2016 Vava’u Blue Water Festival! A fun filled week in Vava’u, Tonga from October 1st- 8th.
Enjoy the friendliest of welcomes & a week of local festivities, parades, informative talks & parties centered around a mid week fun cruisers race day.
For full info visit: www.vavau.to/bluewaterfestival

Heatwave
Heatwave says:
Aug 02, 2016 08:35 PM

Theft in Vava'u.
We had cruised through Tonga, taking our time and enjoying the friendly atmosphere and of course the low crime rate. Unfortunately when our family flew out of Vava'u their flight was delayed so they came back to Neiafu for a few hours rather than spending this time at the airport. They left their bags with the taxi driver. When they arrived in Nuku'alofa they discovered that several items of men's clothing were missing from one of the bags. The taxi driver was the same size as one of the guys. Just wanted to let you know to be aware, not everyone in Neiafu is as honest as they seem. Apart from this isolated incident everyone else has been fantastic and we had a great time there.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Apr 15, 2015 09:50 PM

Re: Hunga Tonga volcano - From Wiki
20° 34′ 12″ S, 175° 22′ 48″ W
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai is a volcano located about 30 kilometres (19 mi) south-southeast of Fonuafoʻou (also known as Falcon Island). A new eruption began at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai on December 19, 2014. The eruption continued into 2015, with a tall ash cloud rising 3 kilometers (9,800 ft) into the sky on January 6, 2015. The eruption entered a new stage on January 11, 2015, when the volcano began sending ash plumes as high as 9 kilometers (30,000 ft) into the sky. An ash plume reached 4.5 kilometers (15,000 ft) on January 13, and the large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus released underwater caused an explosion in the growth of algae causing a red tide. Officials identified two vents, one on Hunga Haʻapai and another about 100 meters (330 ft) offshore and underwater. By January 16, a new island had been formed by the explosion, although geologists said the new island would probably exist only a few months until ocean waves wore it down. Tongan officials declared the eruption at an end on January 26, after observing no new gas, ash, or rock emerging from the island vent. By this time, the island was 1 to 2 kilometres (0.62 to 1.24 mi) wide, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) long, and 120 metres (390 ft) high. The island had joined with Hunga Haʻapai, and was about 200 metres (660 ft) away from joining with Hunga Tonga. Locals visiting the island said seabirds were nesting.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Oct 24, 2014 12:45 PM

Posted on behalf of SV Estrellita
We’ve renewed our visas twice now and the fee as of October 2014 was 69TOP per person per month for the visa extension. We paid $138TOP for the two of us each time we went in.

Tonga
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