Tonga – Ha’apai Islands & Cyclone Ian

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The remote Ha’apai Islands in Tonga were one of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel top 10 regions for 2014 and they were the last stop on my recent Tongan travels. I flew out of Ha’apai to Tongatapu, the main island, and on to New Zealand on Thursday 9 January, the next day Cyclone Ian arrived in the Ha’apai group. It was the worst cyclone to hit Tonga in 50 years and with wind speeds of over 200 kph it caused huge damage.

Ha'apai dive boat 542
Matafonua Lodge dive boat on Wednesday, I went out on two dives with them off Ha’ano Island

Ha'apai - fishing float tree 542

▲ Fishing floats hanging on the tree at the Matafonua Lodge.

Ha'apai - Fifita & Mariner's

Fifita Guest House and Mariner Café in Pangai, the main town on Lifuka where the airport is located. The Mariner Café is the only restaurant in the Ha’apai group! This photograph was taken on Thursday. The cyclone cut all communications to the Ha’apai group and although communications are being restored it may take a month to get electricity restored. Power poles and lines came down all over the island the first priority has been to restore power to the hospital. Check Matangi Tonga Online for the full story and pictures of the destruction.

I didn’t rush to get out of Tonga before Cyclone Ian arrived, I’d been booked on the flight that day from the beginning. Although it turned out to be a lucky escape, a day later and I’d probably still be there now!