Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tonga - Day 3!

Hi everyone. Today is Sunday and pretty much the whole island shuts down. On Sundays, no work is allowed and all businesses are closed (except for bread shops that open in the evening). If the locals are caught working (even walking around in water is a crime), they can go to jail. The town becomes like a ghost town.

Lucky for me, I was able to get my suitcase late last night. This means I am going to look for corals tomorrow morning! But since today is Sunday, nothing to do but relax and go fishing!

I fit my Ulgy Stick fishing rod in my suitcase like this.

Before heading out to the beach, we decided to stop by the fisheries clam facility. I was really surprised by what I saw!

Many of tanks were empty, but the ones that had water in it, had some aquaculture activity!

Aquaculture plugs, similar to Indonesian ones.

I was pretty impressed, definitely somebody knows what they are doing!

The stock was another story though, I was not impressed.

There were some nice acros but most of the cultured items were brown. From the looks of it, it looked like the corals were being grown at the facility. For best results, the corals must be grown out in the ocean. Even with the water being constantly pumped from the ocean to the tanks, it is not the same.

This was disturbing, huge dead giant clam shells. Looked mostly like gigas clams.

A nice maxima, probably one of the brood stocks.

Another maxima and a derasa in the brood stock tank.

More maximas and derasas.

Maximas and derasas, plus squamosas and few others are found locally in the reefs. Croceas and gigas clams are not endemic to Tongan waters. Gigas clams were introduced from Australia many years ago for aquaculture in Tonga.

The big snail on the left is a trochus. This large snail was also brought in from Australia for the purpose of aquaculturing. The fisheries spawn these big snails from time to time. They are strictly protected in the wild.

Artificial rock looked pretty good, a bit heavy but alright!

Some more empty tanks. These huge fiberglass troughs are about 16 feet by 5 feet wide.

After having fun at the facility, we headed out to the beach. Being Sunday, the roads were empty.

On the way, we got a phone call from my other guy and said that they were preparing my favorite for lunch - roast pig! I normally don't like pork because they smell, but the ones here in Tonga do not smell at all. I guess all the coconut that they eat make them "clean". Fishing had to wait until after lunch!

"This little piggy ended up on a stick"!

And here are my divers, Teau on the left and Tau on the right. They both grew up in the Bay Area (East Palo Alto), got in trouble with the law and got deported. The dude on the far right is Tau's cousin roasting the piglet.

I gave a try at roasting!

Here is a pit in the ground that is used as an oven to bake all kinds of foods.

This thing is called "ota'ika", a local favorite. It is made with raw chunks of fish (mahi mahi), coconut milk, and vegetables. Taste so good, it would blow your mind! One time I ate this but made from raw maximas and squamosas - totally gross!

Three types of "Lu" (the food we bought on the street yesterday) - beef, corned beef, and lamb!

With huge chunks of tapioca roots, we were ready to eat!

This is my plate. I got to eat the front left leg - lots of meat. The meat is very tender and taste a bit like turkey. The skin is like butter in your mouth, totally not good for you but
so good...

These tapioca roots were cooked in the ground, sometimes people use the oven, but most prefer the old ways and use hot rocks in the earth.

Tau is probably the smallest Tongan on the island. Not only does he collect great corals, but cooks a mean meal!

Wish you were here honey (wife)!

It is all about eating with fingers - just like Indo!

Ok so the pig and Teau look alike - don't they?

After eating, we talked about what we were going to do tomorrow. What corals we were going to look for, and where abouts. Preparations in the morning is important - getting fuel for the boat, picking up scuba tanks, and buying food for the day. Should be exciting tomorrow!

We got back on the road again and headed for the beach.

We got to the beach and found grave sites (far up from the water). These type of graves can be found all over Tonga.

Some are nicely decorated and it is normal for people to visit their past loved ones on Sundays.

And here is the beach, nice isn't it!

The tide was going out and I just needed to find a good spot to fish.

While I looked around for a good spot to fish, Teau and Tau went looking around for inverts. I told them to find some turbo snails.

This area was not so good for corals, there were some but not much.

Couple of pups came running up to me to play, reminded of my dog Joyluck.

Sea cucumbers are a hot item right now. The season ends soon and I hear the big Asian companies already have left - taking tons of these things with them. Virtually all of these guys have disappeared in the shallow waters (my divers tell me this). It would be a good thing when the season stops.

I spotted this anemone in a shallow pool, looks like a Heteractis malu.

So this is what we were looking for, Tongan turbo snails. Look similar to the Mexican ones but gets bigger in size. These taste good eaten raw with tobasco sauce. This particular one is too big for the aquarium, need to find smaller sizes.

The turbo snails like to hang out in this area, on the edges of the barrier reef.

So Teau called to me to tell me that a monster sized blue green parrotfish was laying in the rocks. Tau went first to check it out and said "damn, that is a big fish"! I hurried over there but the fish was gone, probably spooked by the two "ghetto" guys (that is what I said to them:)).

I managed to find an ideal spot among the rocks, and through out my curly tail jig and caught this coronet fish on the first cast! Man was I excited!!

Small mouth but a long slender body gave me a good fight!

"Look what I caught honey"!

The next few casts yielded this small travely looking fish. I also caught goatfish and banana wrasses!

It was getting late and the sun was starting to set. We left but vowed to come back and fish all day next time. On the way back to town, we stopped at a bread store that had just opened up, and bought these "meat pies". Let's just say that it served its purpose as a filler to our stomaches, nothing more!


Ok guys that is it for today. It was fun but tomorrow, back to work, collecting corals! Stand by, tomorrow's post will be really exciting!


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