“A fantastic and unique experience in the South Pacific”
Narelle and I have been fascinated by the humpback migration . . . and have always wanted to swim with whales. We are also keen on sailing holidays so Melinda Sea Adventures gave us the ideal opportuntity of doing both in the safe hands of an experienced crew. Christy, Mesi and Otis were brilliant and cruising the Vava'u archipelago was a dream. Exploring the islands, swimming in the warm waters and enjoying the onboard hospitality of the 52' Jocara was wonderful. Swimming with a mother humpback and her calf was an experience I will never forget. A holiday never to be forgotten. Martin P
“A magical week of sailing, snorkelling and relaxing...”
We chartered 'Jocara' for a week in May to celebrate my wife Glenys' 50th birthday and to explore the Vava'u islands. 'Jocara' is a 52 foot yacht provided by Melinda Sea Adventures and comes complete with owner /chef Christy, vibrant American skipper Otis and Tongan crewmember Noah.
Our days were spent in a casual mix of sailing in 15-20 knot trade winds, lots of snorkelling, swimming, exploring deserted tropical islands and visiting remote villages. On the islands under Noah's guidance we would gather breadfruit, coconuts, yams, lemons and the like for Christy to incorporate in to the evening meal. Noah also proved to be an adept fisherman and at times would disappear over the side of the boat at anchor with a filletting knife in his mouth to find octupus.
Noah's main task was however to make sure I did not drown. It was established early on that while my wife is a fish I am not so confident in the water. Jocara would anchor off a beautiful coral fringed island and Otis and Glenys would depart... to snorkel over the outer reef... Noah would load me into the dinghy, take me to the island and watch over me protectively as I snorkeled off the beach in shallow crystal clear water.
Evenings would commence with Otis's cocktail hour . . . followed by a gourmet meal supplemented by Noahs efforts of the day, some NZ wine and lots of conversation. On the evening of Glenys' birthday Christy baked her a cake and Noah caught a yellow fin tuna with which Otis prepared fresh sashimi with wasabe and soy sauce.
The Vava'u islands are a tropical paradise and if you enjoy sailing and snorkelling 'Jocara' is a magical way to spend a week.
Stella and Juergen Freund, Photographers
In Vava'u, Tonga we went with Melinda Sea Adventures which is run very well. The skipper knew how to operate the sailboat to be able to let us off the boat and have meaningful interactions with whales. We researched a lot on the web. After canvassing resorts, food and whale watching trips in Vava'u, a live-aboard like Melinda Sea Adventures offers had everything for an agreeable amount.
We were a very intimate group and there was great sensitivity in operating their whale watching/swim programme. The wealth of knowledge of the area and how to have meaningful interactions is key to having a great time.
We left port and headed straight to sea to find whales. First day we saw one right away and were lucky enough to swim with them and photograph the whale topside.
We stayed 3 nights on the boat and on the last night, about 3 or 4 in the morning, we could loudly hear the humpback whales singing. It woke us up and the singing went on and on as if the whales were beside us. This was beyond great. It was one of those "for the books" types of experiences that you will talk about for the rest of your life. It was fantastic.
“The Independence— A lifetime highlight!”
The wonderful memories that I have from my daysail on the catamaran "Independence" are flooding back as I'm writing this review. Our day on the Independence was more than I was expecting or could even ask for. Otis welcomed us like family and showed us some truly amazing parts of Tonga that you just can't experience on land. Otis arranged everything for us—The food was so delicious and fresh!—Perfect after a few hours spent snorkeling and relaxing on an uninhabited island with amazing white sand, perfect tiny shells and crystal clear blue water. All we needed to bring was our swim suit and camera! The deep water snorkeling in Swallows Cave was amazing! I would go back in a heartbeat if I could!! My friends and I made some incredible bonds with each other that day and memories I'll never forget. We also bonded with the crew and of course are still in touch. A must do, you won't regret it!!
“All in one PARADISE sea adventure with WHALES”
My sister and I enjoyed three nights exclusive use of the 'Jocara', a beautiful 52' sloop, with a marvellous firiendly 3 person Tongan crew. Noah, Mele and 'Ana provided personal local knowledge of the Vava'u islands taking us to awesome overnight moorings and on lovely on-shore rambles; as well as providing numerous amazing close up encounters with the whales we had gone to see. Noah is a careful diligent sea master working closely with 'Ana as a helpful and equally caring 'boat person'. While Mele puts together goreous meals utilising the local produce, and is a phenomenal 'whale spotter'. Reef explorations and snorkling were a further highlight! This trip has my highest recommendation!
“Great hosts, great weather and great surroundings from on board the Independence. What more could you ask for?”
This is a great all-day outing with a group of your best mates exploring Vava'u and its surrounds on some of the most unspoilt waters in the Pacific. Otis was a formidable host onboard the Indepedence, providing great hospitality . . . made us feel very welcome from the moment we boarded. The thorough local knowledge, laid back approach, and friendly nature made our day of island hopping, and exploring the various bays and caves an absolute delight. They also provided snorkelling gear, so all that you really need to bring are your swimmers and a camera. I would have no hesitation in recommending this day trip onboard the Independence to anyone visiting Vava'u!
Excellent food and cook
The most cheerful Tongan woman prepared our meals. The food was excellent. The crew did their very best and for that we had totally no complaints and we enjoyed ourselves onboard very much. In fact, I feel we made lasting friends. Being on a liveaboard has the best advantage of being out there at sea morning, noon and night. It is the most exhilarating experience but knowing how to swim well with a mask, fins and snorkel is a prerequisite to a successful encounter.
Perfect boat and crew for perfect islands...We spent an unforgettable week on the Independence sailing around the amazing islands of Vava'u in search of whales last October. Besides the islands revealed to be well beyond our expectation in beauty we could not have chosen a better arrangement to discover them.
The boat is really perfect for 4 people ( though it fits confortably also 6) and if you count hotels, regular whale watching days and food cost is not even particularly more expensive. We had a week of actually not great weather, with rough sea making it hard to spot whales but being on the boat and enjoying the sailing through the landscape still made it one of the best trip of my life.
Otis, the owner and skipper of the boat, is an amazing host completely devoted to giving the guest the best experience and he's also full of amazing stories and a pleasure to sit and chat with. You cannot sit on the front deck a minute that hes' going to get you a pillow ora drink to get more confortable, being super attentive while never intrusive. As it was hard to spot whales he would sail around for hours really trying hard to cover any possible spots and tryng to take to as many beautiful snorkeling spots as possible - and the reefs are really amazing, not much big fish but incredibly well preserved hard and soft corals.
The food was outstanding with our Tongan chef Mele preparing absolutely delicious dishes at every meal, as she is trained as a chef, and entertaining us with her bubbly personality and local stories.
Christy from Melinda also helped us book all the local flights and connections, so you can fully trust her to help with the holiday setup from he moment you set foot in Tonga.
Honestly don't think twice this is the way to see Tonga.
All day sail with Whales!
Out of all of our days in Tonga, our favorite was when we were very lucky to take an all day sailing trip aboard a 44-foot catamaran called the "The Independence" which is operated by Melinda Sea Adventures. We had perfect weather, we were treated like royalty, and enjoyed incredible service and food throughout the day. We were picked up around 10am along with 5 others. As soon as we were out of the Port of Refuge and past some of the small islands near the main town of Neiafu, we started to sail surrounded by beautiful white fringed islands with crystal clear waters. Almost immediately after setting sail, we spotted our first whale very close to the boat. Soon we had three humpback whales very close to the boat doing their tricks—blowing air out, flipping their tail up, rolling and surfacing. The whale got incredibly close to the boat and surfaced right in front of us. For the next thirty minutes, we had our own private whale show before Otis decided to move on.
“Fun Fun Fun!!!”
I was with a group of friends (10) in Neiafu Tonga . . . this year and we decided to spend . . . a day onboard the catamaran "Independence". They were so great! They made us feel so welcome and they really know the good spots to go snorkelling. They provided us with snorkelling gear, a great spread of food and an esky full of ice! . . . Do yourselves a favour and get onboard with Otis . . . I promise you will have a ball!
PARADISE snorkeling, sailing, exploring
We had a fantastic time on Jocara sailing around the beautiful islands of Vava'u. We swam out to deserted islands through crystal clear water and enjoyed the fine white sands as a crew member brought us cold drinks to enjoy on the beach. Noah skippered us to coral reefs and swam with us to show us the best spots. We swam in Swallows Caves as the afternoon light created a magical experience through the shoals of small silvery fishes that moved like curtains around us. The coconut and lime cake that Christy baked for Stew's birthday was a must have and we enjoyed the huge Wahou that Mele caught and cooked to perfection with breadfruit chips followed by tropical fruits. We celebrated with french bubbles as Tonga's duty free is terrific.
Photographic Trip/Bruce Watkins
Melinda Sea Adventures performed magnificently. They know the area, the whales, and know how to get people respectfully close to the whales. It was clear that the crew was there for the passengers and not the other way around. Each trip and each day was structured around what the passengers wanted.
They gave a very knowledgeable briefing. They work closely with research groups and have up-to-date information on whale movements and behaviour.
We saw single whales, mother and calf pairs, and groups of 7-10.
It is truly spiritual to have a 40-foot whale swim up to you a short distance away and look you straight in the eye. We swam next to singing whales, very loud and mesmerising. One night a singer spent the night beneath our boat, and sang to us most of the night. We also had encounters with spinner and bottlenose dolphins, but they were not as friendly as the whales.
Young calves were particularly curious, friendly and playful, and their moms did not mind us swimming with their calf!
We snorkeled and explored remote islands in the late afternoon, and visited a village for a local Tongan feast one evening. The food on the boat was delicious. Local, fresh ingredients are masterfully put together. Curry from freshly ground spices was memorable. The weather was mostly fine with clear, blue skies and calm seas. It is the tropics so we did get rain some days.
Clare (charterworld); I came back home from my honeymoon just yesterday. The time onboard with Melinda Sea Adventures was wonderful, Tonga is a piece of paradise on the earth . . . the crew was great in finding something to do: they often took us with the dinghy for a walk ashore or for an exploration of the coast around and they had care of us for everything. For all the time we had great sailing, great snorkeling, really good food and it was very interesting to explore the islands where we were anchored for the night.
I think we will never forget all the places and all the people we met, overall we will never forget the crew (Cristine for her magnificent cakes, Steve for all his stories and for the fun sailing and Mesi for his precision in doing everything). And I will never forget your courtesy and kindness in the organization of this trip.
Thank you so much!