Unforgetable: On the ferry from Tongatapu to Vava'u (Tonga) | The Family Without Borders

The Family Without Borders

The Travelling family

South PacificTonga


Unforgettable 24-hours ferry trip

After watching those pictures you might say: too crowded, too many people, too dirty. And you might be right. But those 24 hours on the ferry from south to north of Tonga was our best experience in this country.

A flight between Nuku’alofa (the capital of Tonga on the south) and Neiafu town (north, Vava’u islands) takes 45 minutes. A ferry: 24 hours. The choice was easy! (yes yes, we are looking for adventures)

The worst in travelling by ferries on Pacific – is waiting for them. You never know if the ferry will go this week, you should go on asking, calling, visiting the harbour. And once you are there, because the ferry *should* start in the evening, you will still spend one-two-three hours almost getting in. If you are not in a hurry and if your kids are non deadly tired – it’s ok.

Once you are in – you need a good place. Since you will spend a whole day there: eat, sleep and live, it should be under the roof, in an even place, with enough space for some mattress. So we tried to be the first ones on the boat and took a nice place. In just few minutes all the space was taken and people were just looking at each other with the curiosity in eyes: so who will be my closest neighbour for next 24 hours?

Even without having much toys with us, our kids had the most from all the kids on the ferry. Some little books, some ropes and… simplz the attention of parents. Very fast our corner became a ferry kindergarten. Playing, smiling, preparing simple sandwiches for everybody around (just imagine that some of the kids had just peanuts for the whole way!)… Watching, observing each other, a lot of talks during day and night. It’s amazing to be forced to be in such a situation, where you cannot hide, where you have to interact.

It was crowded. Everybody had just a little space, very often touch each other by accident at night. Especially when the waves became bigger in the middle of the ocean. A lot of people didn’t fit under the roof, and were sleeping in different positions just next to the ship’s side. And in the middle of the night it started to rain. In just one second, all the people inside move even closer together to make space for the wet ones. All the people moved! Without a word, without complaining or pretending it doesn’t apply to them! I’m really not sure if something like this would happen in Poland or Germany… Would it?

There were 4 more white people on the whole ferry. 2 of them booked a cabin, 2 of them were sitting in the corner, not talking with anybody. There were 4 laptops on the whole deck. And nobody was reading any book. In the middle – mainly women with kids. Outside – men smoking one cigarette after another. In the very deep night it became a bit calmer. Tom spend a lot of time with Tupou, the navigator of the boat, listening to many sea stories. I was looking at the tired faces, trying to guess their stories and asking the right questions.

We made beautiful contacts on this boat. We have visited people afterwards, to see their life outside of the mat on the ferry.

„You are the nicest white people I have ever seen“ – one older woman whispered to my ear, when we were leaving the boat. I haven’t noticed her before. She must have been between those hundreds of faces watching us for the last 24 hours. Is there anything nicer we could have heard?


This post is also available in: Polish

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  • Małgosia
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 19:57 | Permalink

    This is truly beautiful. Please me the secret! What are “the right questions”, so that I could travel at least a little like you some day: )

    • Anna Alboth
      Posted July 24, 2014 at 10:21 | Permalink

      Hahaha! I guess if you let people talk about what they really want to talk..

      • erikah
        Posted January 11, 2015 at 05:21 | Permalink

        You should just shut up and mind your own business its not funny either….errrrr

  • Posted July 16, 2014 at 14:04 | Permalink

    Pozytywnie do świata nastawieni ludzie jak Wy tylko takie dobre słowa mogą usłyszeć jak ta starsza Pani wyszeptała :)

  • Posted July 18, 2014 at 15:08 | Permalink

    cool !

  • Posted July 29, 2014 at 20:09 | Permalink

    Przypomina mi to 4-dniowa nasza wyprawe w dol Amazonki. Tyle, ze tam byly hamaki. Wszyscy gringo skupili sie razem, a my rozwiesilismy nasz hamak wsord miejscowych. Z jednej strony 7-letnia dziewczynka ze swoim dziadkiem i wujkiem. Tak do nas przylgnela, ze szybko zostala uznana za nasza corke (nikogo nie dziwil fakt, ze ja nie mowie za bardzo po portugalsku, natomiast ona jak najbardziej!) Za nia podczepila sie do nas cala grupa dzieciakow: jadly z nami owoce, malowaly moimi pastelami, robily mi makijaz (jedyny w ciagu 14-miesiecy podrozy!). Z drugiej strony na hamaku spala starsza kobiecina, ktora generalnie sie do nas za bardzo nie odzywala, natomiast na koniec podarowala mi przesliczna recznie robiona torbe.
    Genialne sa takie wyprawy. Na Toga na pewno tak jak i wy zdecydowalabym sie na prom, a na Amazonke z checia bym wrocila.

  • Posted February 13, 2016 at 23:48 | Permalink

    Hi there, thank you so much for this post, I am researching into visiting Tonga in a few months tome and would love to take the ferry to Vava’u rather than fly (for experience admonitory reasons : )

    How long did you stay in Tonga?

    I shall now search for more from you on this magical place :)


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