“Late last summer we were debating as a family where we should spend our winter family holiday,” the owner of Pacific HQ tells us. “We completed a holiday wish list of all the things each family member desired in a South Pacific location. Tonga ticked all the boxes and that was even before I told the kids about the amazing whale encounter opportunities we would see!” Having only just made Pacific HQ available on the charter market in Tonga, he also invited brokers Allan Jouning and Fleur Tomlinson from 37 South to join them so that they could experience Tonga’s charm as well.
Nukualofa, the capital of Tonga, is only a three-hour flight from Auckland and Tomlison describes it as a “raw paradise”, bursting with local culture and a sense of community. Jouning and Tomlinson spent three days exploring Nukualofa before joining up with the owner and family on Pacific HQ. Originally a commercial fishing trawler, Pacific HQ’s owner completely rebuilt her to be a seaworthy, long range explorer, perfect for cruising the less-travelled waters of the South Pacific. Welcoming and homely, she has four en suite super king staterooms and one master stateroom with its own lounge on the upper deck.
“It had been 20 years since I last set foot in the principality of Tonga,” the owner says. “It was then considered some what of a backwater for visiting yachts and expats seeking some what of a reclusive existence … and a few sports fisherman like myself who would travel the planet for great wilderness fishing opportunities.” He made sure that on this trip he would be able to make the most of Tonga’s unmatched fishing by bringing along Pacific HQ’s 14m game fishing chase boat Hookin’ Bull. “When we arrived the owner was on board Hookin’ Bull,” says Tomlinson. “He was doing what Hookin’ Bull and her crew do best, catching record marlin, giant trevally and other really big fish.” Despite being relatively new to sport fishing, Tomlinson says that the activity actually turned out to be a highlight for her and Jauning, who reeled in a 51lb trevally. As you would expect, there was never a shortage of fish during the trip, so the crew regularly donated their catch to local villages and even used them to trade.
Tonga’s remote location means that tourism is still relatively new and unlike in more popular destinations, you are unlikely to see many other yachts during a visit, if any at all. “We visited one beach where the sand was so white and untouched, it would have been months and months before any other human had stepped on to the island,” recalls Tomlison, who describes a couple of abandoned thatched huts that must have been used by locals. “It was something out of the movie, Castaway. Beautiful, big shells, the majority of which had crabs still living inside of them, all miles away from any other land.”
As with any good holiday, the days were centred on good food. As well as the freshly caught fish, chef Paul Wells prepared exciting meals that incorporated local and international flavours. On the last night the group experienced a traditional Tongan meal at Big Mama’s Yacht Club on Pangiamotu Island. The ‘banquet’ consisted of a whole pig cooked under the sand in the traditional Tongan style, bowls of fresh ceviche, fresh salads and plenty of yam and taro.
“The 10 days we spent in Tonga was judged best family holiday ever,” the owner tells us. “Without exception everyone wished to return the following New Zealand winter to capture some more perfect R&R in an environment that offers plenty for everyone.”
Pacific HQ and Hookin’ Bull move between Tonga and the Bay of Islands New Zealand, available for charter in both areas through 37 South.