Thursday, 14 June 2012 3:30 PM
If you have ever dreamed of visiting a tropical island paradise, a South Pacific yachting holiday will be the perfect choice. Opt to sail around Tonga and you can visit some of the 176 islands, including many with wonderful beaches and unusual wildlife.
Conditions are excellent for sailing in Tonga, so a bareboat charter is an option for any skipper with the right certificates. Plan your visit for the dry season, from April to November, and you can look forward to daytime temperatures of between 21°C and 36°C. The south-east trade winds can be strong, but not to the extent they would cause an experienced navigator problems.
If you are not a qualified skipper, or would simply prefer to spend your break relaxing on deck while someone else takes the wheel, you can organise a luxury crewed charter complete with a professional captain and gourmet chef. Either way, you will discover lots of thrilling sights as you navigate your way around Tonga.
Most of the journeys between islands in the Vava'u group are relatively short, so you can see a number of isles on each day of your holiday. Alternatively, you can spend a whole day relaxing on a particularly scenic white sand beach or drop anchor for a snorkelling or scuba diving expedition at one of the many reefs in the area.
One of the must-visit locations on a trip to Tonga is Hinakauea Beach on the island of Pangaimotu. The stretch of sand is an idyllic place to relax for a few hours and the locals are famously friendly.
Among the ways they demonstrate this is by cooking up feasts for visitors to enjoy on the beach. You can expect to dine on locally-caught lobster, crabs, fish and octopus cooked in underground ovens and pigs roasted over open fires, accompanied by tropical fruits and vegetables. Wash it all down with a glass or two of kava - made from the root of the kava plant - while you enjoy some traditional singing and dancing as the sun sets.
Pangaimotu is just 30 minutes away from the main island in Vava'u, but if you want to stay the night, there is a suitable anchorage. Many sailors choose to visit the beautiful uninhabited island of Euakafa as part of the same voyage.
You will see beauty spots every day of your yachting holiday in Tonga, but few can match Hunga Lagoon. Sail between two towering cliffs on the western shore of the island of Hunga and you will arrive at this magnificent stretch of calm water.
It is an ideal location for snorkelling and swimming, but many visitors prefer to spend their time relaxing on the sandy beach. The Ika Lahi Game Fishing Lodge close to the shore is a great place to enjoy dinner and drinks before spending the night back onboard your yacht.
The rocky shoreline of Kapa hides a stunning secret in the form of Swallows Cave. This grotto is packed with unusual rock formations, which are lit up by the sun streaming through a gap in the roof, and hundreds of birds who have made their nests on the craggy walls.
It is one of the best places to go snorkelling in Tonga, as the water is clear, the visibility is excellent and there is lots to see. Keep an eye out for the corals on the seabed, as they are particularly spectacular.