Our Tonga base is located some 1500 miles northeast of New Zealand at about 18 degrees, 36 minutes south of the equator Vava'u in the northern sector of the Kingdom of Tonga.
Neiafu is the official port of entry for cruising yachts coming to Vava'u. A string of islands and reefs along the eastern edge of the group shelters the area from strong winds and ocean swells.
Kingdom of Tonga
Mon-Fri from 8am-5pm
Saturday from 8.30am-12pm
Base facilities include, water, fuel, showers, provisioning, gift shops, restaurants, accommodation and laundry.
Neiafu is the administrative centre of the Vava'u group and has government offices, banks, schools, a police station and a hospital.
Arrival and departure
Save up to 30 percent when you book your airport parking through us. Call the team for more details.
We have preferential rates at many hotels at the UK’s major airports. Please call the team for more details.
Time difference between Tonga and the UK is GMT +13 hours
Gatwick information: 0844 335 1802
Heathrow information: 0870 000 0123
Manchester information: 0871 271 0711
Luton information: 0158 240 5100
Glasgow information: 0870 040 0008
Luggage allowance is 20kg per person. Only one item of hand luggage per person is allowed and this must not weigh more than 5kg. For storage aboard we recommend travelling light and using folding luggage.
Lost or damaged luggage whilst flying is the responsibility of the airline and is not covered by your travel insurance. Thomson Airways carries no liability for loss or damage to valuable or fragile items packed in hold baggage however caused. You must not include in Checked Baggage money, jewellery, precious metals, computers, personal electronic devices, negotiable papers, securities or other valuables, business documents, passports and other identification documents or samples.
Alcohol may be taken on flights but only in checked luggage (well secured from breakages) not as hand luggage due to airport security restrictions.
If an incident occurs, immediately report it to airport officials and ensure Property Irregularity Reports (PIR) are completed. Claims will not be considered once you have left the airport
If you are taking our Thomson Airways flights and wish to enquire about pre booking seats please call the airline direct on 0844 871 1603. Group seats are available for pre booking through Sunsail. Call the team for more details. Please note: Thomson Airways are unable to provide a priority check-in service for your inbound flight. This service operates at London Gatwick outbound only.
All international flights arrive into Fua’amotu Airport on Tongatapu (TBU), some 150 miles south on another island. There are domestic flights at least twice a day (excluding Sunday) by Real Tonga Airlines to Vava'u Lupepa'u Airport, but the planes are small and space is limited. They are very strict on the 20kg luggage allowance.
This commuter flight takes approximately one hour. You should check in for the domestic flight at least 90 minutes before departure, at the Domestic Terminal. This is situated a five-minute taxi ride from the international terminal.
Note: Due to airline scheduling, it may sometimes entail an overnight stop on the main island of Togatapu. Scenic Hotels Ph (676) 35-678, firstname.lastname@example.org have the only hotel at the main airport and offer courtesy transfers from and to the internatinal and domestic airports.
Fua’amotu Airport facilities
inbound and outbound duty free, café, gift shop and currency exchange. Facilities at Vava’u airport are very limited. Please note that the domestic and international airports throughout Tonga are only open to meet inbound and outbound flight schedules, the airports are closed at all other times.
No tax is to be paid upon your departure from Tonga as it has been prepaid with your airline ticket.
It is essential that you advise the base of your arrival and departure times and flight numbers.
Vava’u Airport transport to the base takes approximately 15 minutes and costs TOP 25 round trip per person. Please note that taxis are limited and sometimes not present at the Vava'u airport, so we advise all guests to pre-book transfers with the base.
We would highly recommend packing insect repellent, prescription medicine and essential clothing (swimsuit, t-shirt and shorts) in your hand luggage as occasionally your luggage may arrive at the base after you do.
Please pack using soft-sided bags, as these are easier to store on your yacht.
Passport and visas
Please ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after your arrival date in Tonga. Your passport name must match the name on the flight ticket otherwise you may not be able to travel and insurance may be invalid. If your child is not already included on a valid British Passport they are required to hold their own passport.
Visas are not necessary for UK nationals when visiting Tonga, as long as the visit is for less than 30 days and providing that you have a valid passport, onward sea or air ticket, and proof of adequate funds and relevant health certificates (Typhoid and immunisation shots). South African passport holders need a visa.
Non-British passport holders should check with their local consulate direct.
It is the responsibility of each individual to ensure relevant visas are obtained where necessary. Sunsail cannot be held responsible for refusal of entry or travel due to lack of visas. If you are in any doubt please contact your Embassy for full details. The Tonga Visitors Bureau has excellent information to assist you.
Please note country entry/exit requirements are subject to change. Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the latest information before you leave. Sunsail is not accountable for any requirement changes.
Customs and immigration
You will need to clear customs and immigration before leaving the airport. A landing card will be issued on the plane, along with a customs declaration form. You may enter Tonga for a period not exceeding 30 days, providing that you have a valid passport (expiration date must be no earlier than 6 months after your planned return), an onward sea or air ticket, proof of adequate funds and relevant health certificates, i.e. up-to-date typhoid and immunisation shots. Airlines will assume no liability for perishable articles, e.g. food, which may also be confiscated by customs.
Embarkation at 2pm or around flight schedules. Turnaround days are six days a week.
The chart briefing describes the cruising area and any potential hazards. The yacht briefing introduces you to your yacht, its systems and rigging. It is carried out individually for each yacht. It is important that all systems and equipment are fully understood. Briefings are mandatory.
Out of hours arrival procedure
If you arrive out of office hours our base staff will meet you. The boat briefing will be held on arrival. You will then settle on board and have a full briefing the following morning starting at 8am onwards. You will be located on a mooring buoy in the harbour.
Disembarkation is at 10am.
Before departing your boat you will need to collect a debrief form from reception.
The debrief form is to let us know if you have encountered any problems with the boat or broken anything during the trip. This enables us to rectify problems for the next charter.
In addition to filling in forms we also require you to bag dirty laundry and leave in the cockpit, empty all cupboards and fridges of food and throw away, return snorkel gear and any lifejackets borrowed from reception and ensure that the boat is handed back to Sunsail in a clean and tidy state. We reserve the right to charge you for boats left less than shipshape.
Sailing experience: Level 3
Experience levels are based on sailing conditions and the length of passages within your chosen sailing area. Follow the link for more information on the sailing conditions.
To charter a yacht in Tonga, there must be at least one skipper and one crew member, both over 18 years old. The skipper should be competent at handling a yacht in close quarters, anchoring and mooring in varying conditions and be able to use navigation and pilotage skills to plan the day’s sailing and know your position at any time.
As a yacht skipper, you are no required to have a sailing license, however we do require that the skipper is experienced and require a skipper's resume detailing the experience.
Night time sailing
Night sailing is not permitted; you must be moored at least one hour before sunset at all of our locations.
Cruising area limits
Cruising area for this base is limited to the Vava'u Group (which is a large area!).
We ask that you stay away from the windward (east side) of the Group.
This information is covered in the chart briefing.
Mooring fees and taxes
All moorings in the area belong either to restaurants, charter companies or similar and are usually for their clients. As a guest, you may often use them free of charge but please call the owner to ask for permission. You may be asked to pay a small fee. In most places of sailing area you will be at anchor.
Charts and pilot book
All the charts and pilot books you will need for the sailing area are on board the yacht.
Charts and pilot books can be purchased from the UK chandler Kelvin Hughes by contacting 02380 634911.
Skippered charter information
The skipper’s time is booked from 2pm-10am. The skipper is responsible for the safety of the yacht at all times. He is not permitted to dive with you, nor leave the vessel overnight. He must conduct a safety brief with you before leaving the dock regardless of the duration of his contract with you.
For “check out charters” (anything less than the full duration of the charter) the check out skipper’s time is booked from 6pm-6pm to allow for a meet and greet in the evening and go over basic systems, then a full day with you the next day.
This skipper is required to give you a thorough briefing on all aspects of the yacht and dinghy in addition to assisting you with planning an itinerary for the trip and advising you how to contact the base, the return to base procedures and the emergency assistance procedures. It is suggested that you attend the scheduled chart brief that will be supplemented by the skipper during his time with you on the yacht. It is also suggested that you make it clear exactly what you want to cover, anchoring, docking, etc.
The skipper will be required to give you as much information as you require concerning the yacht and its systems, sailing skills and navigation in general.
The skipper fee does not include food or beverages for the skipper and are the responsibility of the client. It is suggested that you discuss this on the first day with the skipper and establish whether you will give the skipper cash for meals, whether you have included him in your provisioning or whether you will accommodate him as part of the group for meals ashore.
The skipper must have his own cabin. We prefer not to put the skipper in the bow due to the shared head sand size of the cabin. If you expect him to stay in the bow, please let us know well in advance so that we can choose the appropriate (small) skipper.
For one-day check out skippers it is your responsibility to get the skipper back to the base. If you prefer not to come back to the base you must pay for his expenses (ferry, taxi, etc.) to get him back to the base.
The average tip for a skipper is 15-20 percent of the skipper’s fee. This is, of course, at the client’s discretion.
The only place that clients can fuel the boat and refill their water tanks is at the base. At any stage throughout the cruising ground, clients will be no further than 20 miles from the base; therefore returning to the base to refill the fuel and water tanks will not be a problem.
The cost of fuel is TOP 3 per litre (GBP 1).
Cool boxes are available at the base on a first come, first serve basis at no additional charge. Please sign for these and return them clean and undamaged otherwise you will be charged for replacement. Only one per boat.
Banks and money exchange
Tongan Pa’anga (TOP), which is divided into 100 Senti.
Banks are available for changing money. There is a 24-hour ATM in Neiafu town.
Credit card information
Credit cards (Visa and MasterCard only) are accepted at a few restaurants in Neiafu town. Please note that as with all the establishments in Tonga, a five percent credit card surcharge applies. In general, the shops in Neiafu do not accept credit cards so it is best to have Tongan Pa’anga for use at restaurants, local villages and bars and for shopping in town and at the local markets.
A post office is located opposite the wharf. The red building behind the police station.
Opening hours are Mon-Fri from 9am-4.30pm.
Currency can be exchanged at local banks.
The official languages are Tongan and English.
Cost of living in Tonga
Prices vary between areas and from restaurant to restaurant, however the following is a guide for your reference:
A bottle of wine costs about TOP 28 (GBP 8.40) in a supermarket and from TOP 45-60 (GBP 13.4-18) in a restaurant.
A bottle of beer costs about TOP 4-8 (GBP 1.20-2)
A cheap snack costs about TOP 3 (GBP 1)
A three-course meal is likely to cost TOP 60 (GBP 18) per head
There are several restaurants around Neiafu Harbour as well as a few restaurants on the outer islands, aminly at the island resorts. Clients can also book a Tongan Feast, at one of the island villages in the cruising area. Traditional Tongan food regularly consists largely of root vegetables and fruit, usually boiled with coconut cream. A feast is incomplete without Tonga’s delicacies such as roasted pork and seafood. A seafood speciality is ‘ota ika’ (raw fish marinated in lime and coconut cream). Another favourite is ‘lu pulu’, which is corned beef and coconut milk wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in a traditional underground oven (‘umu).
Mango Cafe (In front of Sunsail base-Neiafu)
Tel: +676 70664
A modern waterfront restaurant built out over the water with a large deck. Generally has the best selection of wine in Vava’u. Mango is also home of the Vava'u Yacht Club and Vava'u Sport Fishing Club so there is always plenty of action to be seen.
Tongans do not expect tips, though no offence will be caused if special service is rewarded in this way.
There are no large supermarkets in Neiafu, only a handful of small stores. There are no shops or stores on any of the outer islands.
There a large range of handicrafts available including traditional tapa cloth and tapa crafts, woven crafts from Pandanus leaves, Tongan jewellery, wood carvings and more, all made locally and reflecting the proud culture and heritage of the Kingdom.
Electrical, phones and music
Ashore, 220 volt, 50 cycles. No shore power for yachts.
There is a 12 volt cigarette lighter outlet by the chart table on the majority of our yachts.
Using a local SIM card will work almost throughout all of the sailing area. Some anchorages are too protected to receive the cell phone signal but you will get reception on the phone in most areas. There are two cell phone providers: Digicell and Tonfon.
Free wireless Internet access is available at the Mango restaurant in front of the base. Diginet is a paid service available with coverage across most of the Neiafu harbour, A Diginet connection is also available outside the Tongan Beach Resort when on one of the resort moorings or ashore at the resort bar/restaurant. Diginet vouchers are available for purchase from Digicel in Neiafu or from the base.
All boats are fitted with a stereo and most have iPod outlets. We suggest that you bring applicable cables to ensure that you are able to connect your iPod to the stereo.
Car and jeep hire
You will need to visit the police ptation on Tu’i Road in Vava'u to arrange a Tongan driving license. They are open from 8.30am-4.30pm Mon-Tues and 8.30am-12.30pm Wed-Fri.
Driving is on the left hand side of the road at 40km/h in villages and in town and 60km/h between villages.
Pasifika Rental, Neiafu: 70 781 or 7512 628
Avis Rental, Neiafu: 70 873
There are several good walks from Neiafu, including up Mt. Talau (131m) which has excellent views over the harbour. Toafa Church on the west point of Vava'u has good views of the cliffs of Hunga Island and other islands.
Imagine hopping behind the wheel and driving yourself, while following your guide through bush trails on a small jeep-like kart, through villages, plantations, out to lookout points and along ridgelines of Vava’u.
We offer a wide range of food and drinks packages to suit your party’s needs.
Visibility is excellent and the diving is great. Lots of dive sites offering hard and soft corals, sea fan grottos, wall diving and magnificent caves. Equipment can be rented and diving tours arranged.
Beluga Diving Limited
PO Box 70 Neiafu, Vava'u
Kingdom of Tonga
Tel: +676 70 327
Padi courses, diving trips and whale watching. Located at Fangafoa Marina, Neiafu, Vava'u.
Beluga Dive Vavau has been owned and operated by the original owner for 15 years. Also, Dive Vava’u and Dolphin Pacific Diving.
From July to the end of October humpback whales calve and mate in the calm waters. It is not only the sight that is fascinating: the male whales also sing. Whale songs vary according to location: each year the song at each location changes.
Tonga is one of only three countries in the world where it is legal to swim with whales. This amazing experience is truly unique and accordingly porfesionally managed so it is safe for both humans and the whales. Swimming with whales can only be done through licensed operators, our yachts must stay about 1000 feet from the whales at all times. Please contact the base to book a whale swim adventure during your visit to Vava'u.
No fishing permits are required. Vava’u offers Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Striped Marlin, Sailfish and Short-billed spearfish, as well as pelagic species such as Yellow Fin Tuna, Dog Tooth Tuna, Mahimahi, Wahoo and Giant Trevally.
We have a range of snorkelling gear which you may wish to use. We are limited on children’s sizes so if you have your own you may wish to bring them with you.
Health and safety
Illness or Injury
For up-to-date authoritative advice on health protection, we recommend that you consult you family doctor.
If you get ill and visit the doctor or hospital during your trip contact a member of Sunsail staff as soon as possible on either a lead boat or at a Sunsail base or Club.
If you need to make a claim for curtailment due to illness, ask the base manager for assistance and contact your insurer’s emergency medical service immediately.
Your insurance company will assist with travel arrangements, advice and payment of bills. Obtain receipts for any medication, treatment or transport you have to pay for and submit with your claim.
All yachts are equipped with adult life jackets and harnesses. We leave it up to you to decide when personal safety equipment should be worn.
We have a limited supply of children’s life jackets (age 4+ only). If you have your own children’s life jacket we would encourage you to bring it along.
We suggest that children who are not strong swimmers should not be allowed in a dinghy without a life jacket or buoyancy aid and that they should wear a buoyancy aid or harness when on deck.
Children under the age of 16 should not operate an outboard engine and should be supervised at all times when in the dinghy.