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Dive Review of Sandy Beach in
Tonga/Fua, Ha'apai

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Sandy Beach: "finally in water with humpback whales", Jul, 2018,

by Frederick R. Turoff, PA, US (Top Contributor Top Contributor 31 reports with 14 Helpful votes). Report 10381.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation N/A Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 5 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Ha’apai, Tonga trip July 19-24, 2018 - this was a snorkeling trip - my only goal was to swim with humpbacks

Sandy Beach Resort, sister property with Matafonua Resort

To get to Tonga from Solomon Islands I had to fly to Brisbane, overnight, then catch an early flight to Sydney where I spent the day touring, then take a flight departing Sydney at 5:50p and arriving in Tongatapu at 1:20a. After landing and getting to my overnight Scenic hotel after 2a, I found a waiting message that my RealTonga flight later that morning had been moved up 3 hrs from 9:30a to 6:30a, making it necessary to leave the hotel at 5a, so I had less than three hours at that hotel! The RealTonga flight agent called my Ha’apai hotel after I left to let them know I would arrive 3 hours early. We left in light rain and landed in light rain.

Once I arrived, was met by Cushla, half of the Sandy Beach Resort manager team, who explained things to me about the operation and led me to Fala 2, just two rooms from the main building and dining area. Run by Cushla and Richard, food was excellent and the operation smooth. Having had little sleep that night, I sacked out for three hours before heading to a delicious fish salad lunch. I rested much of the day and asked guests about their whale watching experiences.

Whale watching – lots of waiting, looking for whales that want to interact. Each morning we met at the snorkel shack and proceeded to the inflatables for our next 5+ hours of whale watching. Lunch was served on-board at mid-trip. We had some terrific surface action, with breachings in the distance but tail slaps and pectoral waves close up, only to be surpassed on day 4. Rules dictate a max of 4 snorkelers with one leader, so we usually had two groups per inflatable boat. On day 1 (Friday) group 1 had a nice interaction, getting close with photos and videos, but when we of group 2 went in the whales moved away and dove. Then on day 2 we had a train of 5-6 males go by several times, although they didn’t slow down to allow us to get close to them. Day 3 was Sunday, so no whale watching activity as this is a devout Christian society and activities are limited. However, I went snorkeling in the nearby channel and saw a leopard (zebra correctly, I was told) shark along with some healthy coral in the shallow area. Note this is farther south and winter, so the water temp was around 77F (25C), a shock to me having spent the previous 10 days in Solomon Islands and 84F (29C) water.

Day 4 yielded a superb interaction for our group. An early interaction with two whales was short-lived, but that was promising. Toward the end of the morning search we found a juvenile male that befriended us. Our snorkel lasted well over a half-hour with the whale swimming by us, heading down to rest upright as we watched, then coming up in our midst to swim around before heading down again. We chose to stay with this whale rather than seek others before lunch. The whale repeated its action at least another two times, swimming well within five meters of us. I was able to take photos and videos, so I was quite pleased. Once we ended our snorkel and got on board, within a few minutes the whale breached maybe 10 meters from our boat for a spectacular end to that encounter. Today the water felt warmer – maybe I was acclimating?

Daytime air temps were in the low 80sF (27C), but evenings and nights cooled considerably to hi 60s to low 70sF (20-22C). I needed a thin jacket for dinner twice.

Saturday night I visited the sister resort, Matafonua, for a barbeque and a photo/video show by the owners of both properties, Darren and his wife Nina. They spent 18 years as pro photographers and videographers. His images and video made for a fine evening of seeing how cooperative the whales can be. The result, many closeups of these wonderful animals.
Websites Sandy Beach   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving USVI, BVI, lesser Antilles, Bonaire, all three Caymans , Coco Island,
Revillagigedos, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Philippines,
Micronesia, Red Sea
Closest Airport Tongatapu-Ha'apai Getting There from Solomons: HRA-BNE-SYD-TBU-HPA; from Fiji NAN-TBU-HPA. Always confirm schedules as RealTonga Airways can change times.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy
Water Temp 77-79°F / 25-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 60-80 Ft/ 18-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions When whale watching with guides, groups had to stay at surface. No SCUBA or skin diving allowed with whales. However, SCUBA is offered for other activities, but I didn't do them. I did snorkel in the channel to see coral and leopard sharks.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales > 2
Corals N/A Tropical Fish N/A
Small Critters N/A Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics 4 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 For each inflatable trip we carried our cameras to the boat. Camera care was in our individual Fala = cabin. I didn't check if there was a dedicated camera room.
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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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