Uoleva Island, Tonga

Uoleva is one of those classic postcards or webpage images of a south sea island. Clean white sand beaches, abundant coconut palms, and clear blue shallow waters with the visible shapes of coral bommies and reefs. It is easy to imagine being castaway on such an island without a care.

But as with most natural places, there is always an alternative to relaxing, such as beach combing, swimming, snorkelling and exploring the island. The coral reef has a rich display of marine life to explore with a snorkel. The warm, clear waters promote coral growth which supports animal life like feather stars, fan worms, sponges and sea squirts. Fish of many shapes, colours and habits provide you with unlimited opportunities to watch their behaviour. Some dart in and out of corals while others sit on the bottom waiting for food to pass by.

Many fish gather in schools to search the reef for algae to feed on, while other schools swirl in the water column nabbing passing plankton. The island has some visitor accommodation but is still mainly used by locals for coconut growing and pig grazing. If you see a mound on Uoleva it is probably a traditional pigeon snaring trap. The Tongans boat over from the adjacent island of Lifuka, or wade over at low tide. It was at Lifuka that Captain Cook named Tonga the 'friendly islands’ after a welcome feast. Little did he know that the feast was part of a plan to slaughter him and his crew that did not quite happen. The name 'friendly' stuck though and is very appropriate today.

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