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Dive Review of Fins n Flukes/Sandy Beach Resort in
Tonga/Ha'apai

July, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Amber and Brett Freliche, CA, US (2 reports)
Report Number 6287
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
51-100 dives
Where else diving
Australia, California & French Polynesia
Closest Airport
Getting There

		

Dive Conditions

Weather
sunny, cloudy  
Seas
calm, choppy  
Water Temp
75   to 77    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
3
Water Visibility
40   to 70    Feet  
 
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
?  
 
Enforced diving restrictions  
[Unspecified]  
Liveaboard?
no 
Nitrox Available?
N/A 
What I saw
Sharks
1 or 2 
Mantas
None 
Dolphins
Schools 
Whale Sharks
None 
Turtles
None 
Whales
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Corals
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
N/A  
Large Pelagics
  5 stars
 
 
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
N/A  
Boat Facilities
N/A
Overall rating for UWP's  
N/A  
Shore Facilities  
N/A  
Comments
[None]
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Accommodations
5 stars
Food
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
N/A  
Snorkeling
5 stars  
 
 

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
Beginners
4 stars   
Advanced
5 stars    
Comments  
We spent 8 wonderful nights at Sandy Beach Resort.  Sandy Beach Resort is
on Foa Island in the Ha'apai Group.  Boris and the staff were so welcoming.
We loved the intimate feeling of the resort, allowing the guests to visit
with each other over dinner and making new friends. 
Boris and his staff coordinated our overnight stay in Tongatapu prior to
our morning flight to Ha'apai, our domestic flights, and our island tour on
Tongatapu before our international departure. The Fales were clean,
comfortable, well positioned to maintain privacy from the Fales next door
with wonderful views of the beach and water. We had pre-booked whale
watching and diving tours with Fins 'n' Flukes which is operated by Brian
and Sabine. Each evening, Boris confirmed with Brian/Sabine of Fins 'n'
Flukes the time and place for us to be picked up either on the beach in
front of the resort or arranged for a taxi into town for the day we went
scuba diving. We didn't have to worry about a thing. 
The house reefs, along the beach in front of the resort, are fantastic
snorkeling spots. There were various schools of reef fish and colorful
coral. 
The food was very good and more of a variety than we were expecting for
being on an island, along with non-seafood dishes for the one non-seafood
eater between the two of us. We really felt like we were at home away from
home. We look forward to when we can return. Thank you Boris and staff for
helping our vacation be so memorable.

The owners/operators of Fins n Flukes, Brian and Sabine, were outstanding. 
Right away, we felt like we made new friends.  Their knowledge of the
humpback whales and marine life brought even more to our experience.
Fins 'n' Flukes is reducing their carbon footprint by using environmental
friendly boat engines.   They have concern for the safety of the guests and
the marine environment. 
Brian and Sabine picked us and other guests up along the beach by boat in
front of Sandy Beach Resort for the whale watching tour.  Once all the
guests were on board, Brian explained the safety features on the boat,
Sabine gave an informative talk about the humpback whales including some
small model whales to look at more closely, discussed different marine life
that we may encounter, and both explained what to expect when we see some
whales.  This included, instructing on how to enter and exit the water to
not disturb the whales.  In addition, there were no more than 5 snorkelers
in the water at one time which included Brian or Sabine.  The day we went
scuba diving, we took a taxi to the Fins 'n' Flukes' office in town. 
Kaitlin and Tom were our dive guides that day, both are certified specialty
instructors, who also explained the safety features on that boat along with
a detailed dive briefing for each dive site.   Some of the highlights
during the dives, we saw an abundance of healthy coral, a banded sea snake,
pipehorse fish, lobsters, cushion starfish, and moray eels.
Fins 'n' Flukes has two boats.  We were on the Moana for the whale watching
and the Malolo for diving.  The Moana was larger with a covered area at the
front portion.  The number of guests aboard each day varied.  One day,
there were a total of 12 people on the boat which did not impact us being
comfortable as there was still plenty of room for everyone to move around
on the boat.  The Malolo is smaller.  There were two other divers for a
total of 6 on the boat (us, Kaitlin, Tom, and 2 other divers).  We entered
the water with a back roll.  
The weather was mostly sunny with some partly cloudy days during our stay. 
One night, there was a wind/ rain storm which then cleared by morning.  The
water was calm for 4 out of the 6 days planned for whale
watching/snorkeling and diving.  One day, the swells were larger which was
the day before the storm came through.  However, that day we enjoyed seeing
3 humpbacks breaching simultaneously or all together.  It was incredible.  
 
We saw several humpback whales.  The first day we spent time with a
juvenile in the morning and afternoon and had in water encounters.  There
was a pod of dolphins by the whale as well.  The regulations only allow a
boat to be near a whale for no more than 1hr 30 minutes at a time.  One
time we entered the water and saw a dolphin swimming directly in front of
the whale.  You can really compare the size difference.   We were in the
water when the juvenile was resting below the surface.   The five of us
stayed in a group at the surface and watched as the whale slowly swam to
the surface for a breath.  Then the whale turned towards us, swam right
next to us and turned around for another pass.  What an incredible feeling
to be able to look in the whale's eye and watch their movements.  We
thought that as the whale turned, we might feel some water displacement
from the fluke but the whale was so graceful, we couldn't feel any movement
of the water.  One day, we saw the 3 whales breaching simultaneously
throughout the morning.  Another day, we saw a humpback breach, a heat rush
where two males were vying for the female and showing off by slapping the
pectoral fins, flukes, and breaching; an awesome display; that same day, we
saw a couple more whales breaching and swimming near the boat.  However,
what topped that day for us was encountering a mother and her calf who was
about 3 weeks old.  We estimated the mother was about 60ft and the calf
about 10ft.  The small groups took turns entering the water.  We approached
snorkeling perpendicular to the mother's side and remained floating at the
surface watching the mother and calf rest at the surface.      
The distance we were from the whales ranged from about 10ft to 30 ft while
we were snorkeling depending on the whales' movements as the whales would
come close as they swam by.  When we saw a whale, Brian and Sabine
approached downwind and kept the boat at a certain distance while watching
the whale's behavior.  If they decided the small groups could enter the
water, we got our snorkel gear on and slowly slipped into the water without
splashing.  We swam away from the boat and watched the whale(s) .  We
stopped for lunch either at a reef or on a nearby island.  After lunch, we
snorkeled at the reef for about 30minutes and then continued looking for
whales. We were dropped off at the beach in front of our resort in the
afternoon.    
We recommend booking with Sandy Beach Resort and Fins 'n' Flukes, bring
sunscreen, and bring some mosquito repellent for the evenings.  The only
disappointment is that we couldn't stay longer.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.


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