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

 
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Fins n Flukes/Sandy Beach Resort, Jul, 2011,

by Amber and Brett Freliche, CA, US ( 2 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 6287 has 2 Helpful votes.

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
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
UW Photo 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
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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