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Ha'apai vs Vava'u

Nuuuli, American...
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Ha'apai vs Vava'u

I only have time to visit one island group + Eua/Tongatapu. What are the main differences between the Ha'apai and the Vava'u island groups? If I can only go to one which one would you all suggest? Is the whale watching similar in each island group or better in one or the other? What about the diving?

Thanks!!

17 replies to this topic
Ballina, Australia
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1. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

Hey Traveller,its a shame you can't do both islands because both are very diferent and yet the same. Both islands have good diving but I thinkVava'u would be better. Both have whale watching, but there are only two places in the world where you can swim with whales, Ha'apai is one of them. Vava'u has much more accomodation choices and some night life where as Ha'apai has limited accom and not much to do 'after hours'. Whichever you choose I know you will love it. Enjoy your time

Nuuuli, American...
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2. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

Thanks for the info. I've heard the same from others, I wish I could do both. In Vava'u you can swim with the whales too correct? Did you go to Eua? I'm thinking of taking a few days to go there as well.

Ballina, Australia
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3. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

Hi Traveller, sorry to give you a bum steer there,my wife informs that you can indeed swim with whales in Vava'u. It is up to the whales though,only a few go in the water at the one time so if the whales become bored.... Never been to Eua,would be interested in your thoughts when you get back

Nuuuli, American...
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4. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

Sure! I'm going in August but I will definitely let you know how Eua goes. Right now I'm having difficulty contacting the tourism groups that go there so...keeping my fingers crossed :-D Did you get in the water with the whales? It sounds exhilarating but kind of terrifying at the same time!

Ballina, Australia
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5. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

Nah ,we were in the second group and missed out, Idon't think whales have a very long attention span! Still awesome though. Here in Australia boats aren't allowed within 100mtrs(or something like that) of the whales but in Tonga you get very close. August would be getting late in the season though so you should probably check before you book anything

Ballina, Australia
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6. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

Sorry Traveller, false information again. August is late in the season in Australia not Tonga. One more strike and I'm out

Nuuuli, American...
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7. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

haha no worries....I'm already aware that August is peak season Tonga for the whales because tours are already getting booked up!

Kona
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8. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

The Ha'apai and Vava'u island groups are very different in ways that have nothing to do with swimming with whales. There is a lot of information available online to help you make your choice. Diving is great is both places - I had one of my all-time best diving experiences in Ha'apai, but opportunities for great diving are abundant in both locales.

Vientiane, Laos
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9. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

Haapai is a lot quieter and you tend to spend your time either around the resort you choose, or out diving or fishing. In Haapai you can stay in the small town Pangai (not much more than a village really) on Lifuka, or in a resort on one of the main islands (Uoleva, Lifuka, Foa) - there are 6-8 resorts to choose from spread along the island main chain. We stayed in Matafonua on the northern tip of Foa, very nice. Be aware that not all resorts offer diving - Matafonua and Sandy Beach do, but those on Uoleva do not.

On the diving - I have been diving regularly for 20 years and found the 6 sites I dived in Haapai nice but not outstanding - a lot of dead coral and not much life except small reef fish, other than on the tip of Haano island which had a good current running that brought the fish in. It probably compares to your locale of Pago Pago but not as good as, say, the Philippines, Solomon Islands or PNG.

Newcastle upon...
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10. Re: Ha'apai vs Vava'u

I asked around on the self same point. Many acknowledged whale experts commended Vava'u, but I was taken by one piece of advice from an operator which I repeat for your guidance here-

"Vava'u has the most resorts, the most tourists and the most whale swim licenses per capita. There are 17 boats working the area, on a strict 1 hour on roster when whales are spotted. So if you find a mother and calf and it takes you a half hour to position yourself, then you have 30 minutes before you have to move out of the way and let the next boat on. When a mother and calf are spotted it can get to down-right harassment. Each boat takes an hour and they will work that mother and calf, sometimes chasing for hours. This is all for us, not for the whales. I'm sorry, but this happens again and again. It is the commercial reality of whale swims in busy locations.

The faster the boat you have in Vava'u the more chance you have for encounters and for hopping from whale swim opportunity to whale swim.

Big factor for Ha'apai, there are few boats there!!

In Ha'apai there are many places that are sheltered, the best places to encounter whales are usually around shoals or bays no matter what location you choose. Shoals are coral reefs close to the surface so mother's can feed and rest with their calves and keep an eye out for any dangers.

I've found the interactions there, both juveniles, adults and mothers and calves to be the most relaxed and interactive. Yes, offshore can get a little rough, though on these days you watch whales, not swim. Always give yourself at least 5 whale swim days on your trip. No matter where you go, the statistics are 50-50. Lots of things need to line up to have quality interactions with whales. Most of all, you want space to create a gentle, caring interaction, approaching slowly a resting calf and mother and quietly watching the love of these two beings is a treat that can effect the rest of your life..."

We've booked to go to Ha'apai for the second half of September in the hope of seeing the males arrive.

Hope you find this of use.

Have fun!

Edited: 16 June 2013, 22:55
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