Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tonga Holiday Part 2!

Hello everyone. After spending most of the day at the beach, we decided to go check out the famous Tongan blowholes!

We left the beach and took a scenic route to get to the blowholes. On the way we stopped at this spot with these funky trees.

Got out of the car and looked over the edge. The drop off was basically straight down and looked scary. This spot is famous because of huge amounts of sharks. When a container comes to Tonga with perishable foods that spoiled during the trip (chicken and meats), it is brought here and dumped over this cliff. Monster sized sharks in huge numbers then come and becomes a feeding frenzy. The biggest sharks in Tonga are the tiger sharks!

Tau, one of my divers is really a small Tongan. We were joking around that he might get blown over the cliff from the wind -ha! ha!

With a heavy duty surf pole, this would be a great fishing spot. Probably would have to use a rope gaff to haul the bigger fish in though.

One side of the island looks mostly like this. This side gets punished from the heavy waves. The other side of the island is much calmer and not so deep.

Coconut trees are everywhere. A long time ago, coconuts were the biggest export in Tonga. But now the plantations have been abandoned and anyone can go and pick them. If we get thirsty we can always find coconuts on the ground that have fallen.

A view of a lovely beach. It is a 20 minute hike down from the cliff where I am standing. Note the little barrier reef, all kinds of cool stuff can be found in the lagoon side.

Once again a little road that takes us to paradise!

To my surprise an observation platform had been built to view the blowholes. I had not been here in years and this was something new.

What is a blowhole? Basically there are holes in the rocks that come up to the top from the sides where the waves crash in. The waves come in and force the water into these little tunnels. The water then becomes a jetting force out the holes on top. When a big wave comes, the jets of water can reach really high into the sky. They have these in Hawaii as well.

It was pretty windy and the sky had become overcast.

Pretty cool to see white jets of water blowing into the sky all along the coast!

It was starting to get dark so time to go home. On the way we stopped at a flying fox sanctuary.
These large fruit bats are protected and only the king is allowed to eat them. Speaking of eating, we were eager to get back home to make one of our favorite island foods - pizza!

The above picture and the following are from another day but we prepared all the ingredients to make the pizza before heading out earlier in the day. Capping the holiday with a great pizza is all it takes to make it a perfect day!

We buy the dough from a bread shop that bakes fresh bread everyday. We roll it and place it in this pizza pan. The yellowish liquid you see on the dough is olive oil!

Great cheese is what is all about! Due to close proximity to New Zealand, Tonga has great imported dairy products. You heard of Hawaiian style pizza? Well we are making a Tongan version with ham, bacon, onion, tomato, and fresh chopped pineapple - wow!

It is a real treat when we have "pizza night"!

On other nights, I make my own famous spaghetti!


Ok guys and girls that is it for today. It was an exciting and relaxing day in South Pacific paradise island of Tonga. Really what Tonga is, is Hawaii before it got developed.

You wanna get a laugh, go check out these videos below. It is me and my two divers having fun making pizza and eating it. Please forgive the language used, my divers are from a ghetto neighborhood in East Palo Alto which is really a bad area in the Northern California. These two guys got in trouble with the law over 10 years ago and got deported back to their native island. I always make fun of them over the way they talk, but hanging around them too long, I end up talking like them - ha! ha!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Tonga Holiday Part 1!

Hello everyone. So once in a while there would be a public holiday in Tonga. These days are very special as whole families get to get out and enjoy the surroundings. Either it be going to an island for a "roast a pig" picnic or just hanging around the local beach. For much of the weekdays, everyone is busy either working or "gathering" (going to the bush as they say) or fishing. Saturday is only half a day and people get ready for Sunday, buying goods for the next day as everything shuts down on Sundays. Since the locals are not allowed to work or seen having fun on this "God's Day", holidays are really the only time for an outing.

Today's post is how I spent such a day in Tonga.

Today I decided to go hang out at my favorite "fishing hole" on a lovely beach. So pretty much there are no cars on the road as everyone is already at the beach or having relatives over for a feast. The road above is the main highway that cuts through the island. It would take you about 45 minutes going 30 miles an hour to go from one side of the island to the other, so yes, it is a pretty small place.

Here is the little road leading to the beach, a real tropical paradise ahead!

It seems some people are already here!

This beach reminded me of Serangan turtle island in Bali!

The tide was going low and always excited about venturing out!

A large chubby Acropora abrolhosensis colony nestled in between some macro algae!

Crystal clear water where waves are rough are a prime place for Micromussas. I always look out for these corals but none were seen today, only bunches of mostly Acropora species.

And here is my favorite fishing hole!

I picked up this shrimp fly in a Hong Kong fishing store. Looks pretty real and if I was a fish, I'd eat it!

I tied this little curly tail jig on the same line as the shrimp fly.

There were some kids swimming in the hole and I had to watch out not to hook them!

First cast yielded me this very cool purple goatfish!

As you can see, this hole is pretty deep, drops down to about 20 feet in a matter of footsteps!

Little kids were amazed that I was able to catch this trumpet fish with a lure!

Got another fish but got snagged on the bottom at the same time. This kid swam down and got my fish out - way cool!

Another goatfish caught on the curly tail jig. Actually I didn't catch anything on the shrimp fly but everyone loved the jig. Must have been the curly tail squirming in the current that the fish can't resist.

Locals love to eat raw fish. This goatfish soon became a snack!

Being the nice cool guy I am, I let one of the kids try out my pole.

He caught another goatfish!

Tongan gangstas!

More and more people started showing up and soon couldn't fish anymore.

So how big are Tongans? These kids are only 14 years old and taller than me already. You can take a look at these kids in action here.


So after the above picture was taken, we decided to check out the famous Tongan blowholes way down the coast. That is coming up next!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tongan Clams!

Hello everyone. Today, I would like to talk about one of everyone's favorite inverts for the reef aquarium - the giant clams of Tridacna!

Before I left Tonga, the government officials with conjunction with the AusAID guys were going on a field mission to bring back brood stock clams from one of the other major Tongan islands - Haapai. This island group is relatively shallow and boasts huge diversity of marine life. The water is warmer than the capital island of Tongatapu and very isolated with only few people living. There is virtually no tourist thing going on and I know there are some crazy wild clams to be found!

Below are some clams that were found on that trip. I left Tonga and went back a few months later and took these pictures. Some of the clams were already at the fisheries but all the large ones are definitely new.

Couple of wild maximas. You won't find the crazy ultra grade maximas in Tonga, most are what I would consider 1st grade. But the one on the left is pretty nice, sky blue with a gold rim!

The clam on the right corner is a squamosa. The two larger green ones are derasas, and the others are smaller maximas.

Nice looking maxima - blue gold with a black rim!

So this was a total shock to me! These are croceas. I have never seen or heard of croceas before in the Tongan islands. I took a double look after thinking they were maximas, never in my wildest dreams thinking croceas were found in Tonga waters. Years ago, I got permission to bring in croceas to propagate from other places but never got around. Of course the fisheries people thought that they were maximas!

I once snorkeled around Haapai's main island and saw tons of these blue maximas embedded in the reefs, as shallow as two feet!

Green coloration of a squamosa. The Vietnamese versions of these clams look just like this. The color resembles the typical colors of a derasa.

Black maxima with gold rim. Although we don't have the ultra blue ones, once in a while we will find the highly sought after "black and white zebras"!

Some baby derasas that were propagated. These guys grow extremely fast and by far the easiest clam to be artificially spawned and raised at the fisheries!

Wow!! First glance I thought it was an exceptional derasa. But a second look and I was like, holy crap, a blue squamosa! Yes a true blue squamosa, not some little blue specks and people selling/calling them blue squamosas, but the real deal, the "real mccoy"!

A close up look of the 20 inch monster! The mantle was fully opened but closed up slightly when I took the pictures.

Not a blue squamosa but still nice. Note the sky blue specks on the rim of the mantle!

Another squamosa resembling a derasa!

This monster dark blue derasa is well over 24 inches!

Blue variations on the derasas seem to be common in Haapai. Check out the pink mouth opening - pretty cool!

Not quite so nice as the other derasas but a healthy large specimen for spawning for sure!

I've seen crazy metallic blue derasas in Tonga before. This one is not quite there yet, but still nice!

Just to give you an idea of how big the clams are - the width of the concrete tanks inside measurement is 5 feet!

A nice array of wild clams ready to be spawned!

What a beautiful sight! Two wild giant clams that are blue in color when they are supposed to be green!


Ok guys that is it for today. I hope you enjoyed and learned something new about the giant wild clams of Tonga. Couple of quick notes, interestingly enough I did not see any large maximas that were brought back from Haapai, yet large maximas appear on the tables of the fish market in Tongatapu. And one thing you might have been thinking "where are the gigas"? Gigas are not endemic to Tongan islands (but who knows one day one may be found like the croceas). Back years ago, gigas clams were brought in from Australia to be propagated. Around certain areas of the reefs, the fisheries have broodstock. These are strictly prohibited and some are quite large.

Currently I am not sure if the above clams have been spawned yet or not. I will have to return soon to Tonga and find out, it has been a year already!


Aquaculture Northern Bali

November Corals Collection Part. 1

November Corals Collection Part. 2

Aquaculture - November Shipment

Coral Showcase - September 2008 Inventory

Holding Facility's Corals Collection Showcase 2007