While in Pangai, we spent some time researching where we should go next. Of the many sources of information, a pretty good one is the local cruiser’s bar populated with Palange (white folks). We were having a cold Maka beer and using the WiFi at Mariner’s Cafe talking to the locals and they put us on to Haano. While there, a English fellow named Darren Rice stopped by and we were told he was the proprietor of Matafonua Lodge on Foa island. Darren introduced himself and suggested we stop by when we were at Haano.
After snorkeling most of the day, we decided to run Iron Lady down to Foa and stop at the resort for a quick look before returning to our anchorage at Haano. As we were dropping the dink in the water, Darren was paddling out to us in a kayak and gave us directions on how to negotiate the reef and anchor off the beach.
We spent a delightful few hours with Darren, his wite and 3 children. Turns out that Darren owned and operated a fight school at Clearwater Executive Airport in Florida – a place I have been in and out of a number of times in my flying days. Small world. The business went south when gas prices skyrocketed and Darren sold the business and moved on. In his other life, he is a professional videographer and specializes in underwater filming. As such, he was familiar with Matafonua from his travels and jumped at the opportunity to buy it when its former owner put it up for sale.
The accommodations are simple but very charming. It can accommodate roughly 20 guests. The season is just starting here and we were the first cruisers to come around and they have had only 4 or 5 guests so far. Just one while we were there and he was from Vienna, Austria. Another small world thing.
Guests stay in huts on stilts overlooking the ocean. Bath facilities are shared in a separate building. All guests take their meals at the Lodge.
While there, Darren was showing us video of Cyclone Wilma which made a direct hit on Foa. While he was filming the storm surge, three enormous waves over 25 feet high washed over the resort destroying three or four of the huts. Before and after pictures showed a beautiful tropical paradise turned in to a waste land. Four months later, they are still rebuilding. The generator is still out but new plantings are taking hold.
Darren also told us about the humpback whales that visit here each year. The mothers come from the Antarctic to calve in the very bay we were staying in at Haano. They seek out the protected waters of the bay to shield their calves from the predators that pursue them in open water – primarily great white sharks that travel here all the way from New Zealand to prey on the calves.
Darren had some spectacular footage of his 4 year old son swimming with a mother and her calf. The mother even brought the baby to within touching distance of his son. It was breathtaking footage and is posted on YouTube. Darren is supposed to send me a link which I will post on my blog.
Unfortunately, the whales don’t arrive until sometime in June.
As the shadows started to get long, it was time to get back over the reef while we still had good light and get the dink aboard and move Iron Lady back to the safety of the bay at Haano.
Just another great day and tomorrow, we are off to Nava’U.