|Area||138 km2 (53 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||131 m (430 ft)|
|Highest point||Mount Talau|
|Largest settlement||Neiafu (pop. 3,731)|
|Pop. density||108.1/km2 (280/sq mi)|
|Ethnic groups||Tongan (majority), European, Chinese, Pacific Islanders.|
Vavaʻu is an island group, consisting of one large island (ʻUtu Vavaʻu) and 40 smaller ones, in Tonga. It is part of Vavaʻu District, which includes several other individual islands. According to tradition, the Maui god created both Tongatapu and Vavaʻu, but put a little more effort into the former. Vavaʻu rises 204 metres (669 ft) above sea level at Mount Talau. The capital is Neiafu, situated at the Port of Refuge (Puatalefusi or Lolo-ʻa-Halaevalu).
Myths and legends
In Polynesia, it is said that the islands were created by the god Maui, who reached into the bottom of the sea with his magic hook, caught something on it, and pulled it up to the sea surface, and it became the islands of Vavaʻu.
Don Francisco Mourelle de la Rúa, commanding the Spanish frigate Princesa, was the first European to come to Vavaʻu, which he did on 4 March 1781. He charted Vavaʻu as Martín de Mayorga, naming it after the man who was the Viceroy of New Spain at that time. Captain James Cook had known about the islands a decade earlier, but the people in Haʻapai had told him it would be no good for him to go there; they told him there was no harbour. They may have told him this to dissuade him from going there; but Cook heeded their advice.
As it turned out, Mourelle found excellent anchoring, in Vavaʻu, which he desperately needed, because he had failed to find a harbour at the last two places he had tried to land, Fonualei (Bitterness island) and Late. He gave the harbour at Vavaʻu the name Port of Refuge, although his original port of refuge had been the bay on the west coast of the main island, near Longomapu.
Whaling vessels were among the first regular Western visitors to the islands. The first on record was the Fanny, on 17 June 1823, and the last was the Robert Morrison, from July through September, 1883. These vessels came for water, food, and wood - and sometimes they recruited islanders to serve as crewmen on their ships. They stimulated commerce and were significant agents for change on the islands.
The Vavaʻu island group is spread out across an area that measures about 21 km from east to west and 25 km from north to south. Vavaʻu had 13,738 inhabitants at the 2016 census, 5,251 of whom lived in the capital, Neiafu. The islands in Vavaʻu District, outside of the Vavaʻu Group, are uninhabited. The main island of ’Utu Vava’u, at 97 square kilometres (37 sq mi), is the second largest island in Tonga.
Vavaʻu is a coral reef with cliffs in the north rising to 200 metres (660 ft) above sea level. On the south side, the island group is dispersed into many small, scattered islands and waterways. The largest of the waterways, the fjord-like Ava Pulepulekai channel, extends 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) inland from the harbor of Neiafu (the capital).
The north coast of ’Utu Vava’u island is a raised platform of coral cliffs. The southern coastline is low and irregular, and opens out into a network of channels, bays, and islets, forming one of the best-protected natural harbors in the Pacific.
’Utu Vava’u is also home to the ʻEneʻio Botanical Garden, which is Tonga's only botanical garden.
Vavaʻu’s climate is by far the warmest in Tonga (apart from the Niuas, which are the northernmost islands in the kingdom). Its warm climate and fertile soil makes it a haven for growers of vanilla, pineapple, and other tropical fruits.
- Fulivai was appointed governor of Vavaʻu in July 2011.
- Sione Laumanuʻuli Luani was governor until he died suddenly on 12 May 2010.
- Samisoni Fonomanu Tu'i'afitu was appointed acting governor of Vavaʻu in 1988, and then governor in 1991. He died on 4 October 2005.
- Fatafehi Tuʻipelehake was governor from 1952 until 1965.
- ʻAkauʻola Siosateki Tonga Veikune Faletau was governor from 1936 to 1939, before becoming the minister of police, a post he held from 1939 until 1952.
- Viliami Tungī Mailefihi was governor from 1912 to 1918.
Vavaʻu is popular with sailors and other tourists, because of its scenic beauty. It is one of the most prominent tourism sites in Tonga. From May to October, the Port of ’Utu Vava’u welcomes sailing boats from all over the world and arranges for tourists to dive with humpback whales and explore underwater caves. The island is served by Vavaʻu International Airport.
Tourism, agriculture, and fishing are the main sources of income for the inhabitants. The vanilla beans grown here are considered among the best in the world. Giant clams are farmed, and pearls are cultured.
- Landin Carrasco, Amancio Mourelle de la Rúa, explorador del Pacífico Madrid, 1971, p.79.
- Robert Langdon (ed.) (1984), Where the whalers went: an index to the Pacific Ports and islands visited by American whalers (and some other ships) in the 19th century, Canberra, Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, pp.239–40. ISBN 086784471X
- "Census 2016". Tonga Department of Statistics. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
- Noble Luani dies suddenly in Vava'u
- ['Akau'ola Siosateki Tonga Veikune Faletau]
- Olander, Doug. "The World's Best Sailfish Spots". sportfishingmag.com. Sport Fishing Magazine. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
- Gerstle, Donna (1973). Gentle People: Into the Heart of Vavaʻu, Kingdom of Tonga: 1781–1973. San Diego: Tofua Press. OCLC 800856.
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Vavaʻu.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vavaʻu.|