Friendly Islands Kayak Company

Water Sports Company of the Year - Tonga / Luxury Travel Guide Asia & Australasia Awards 2017

FAQs

If you have any queries you are very welcome to contact us via email, phone or fax. Alternatively you can use the online form on our Contact Us page. You may also want to refer to the list of frequently asked questions, and answers, below.


When is the best time to visit Tonga?

May through January is the best time for kayaking in Tonga. In these tropical climes, daytime temperatures are between 23 and 28 degrees Celcius (76 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit) with a mean humidity of 74%. Later in our season (i.e. December and January), temperatures increase slightly and the chance of rain is marginally higher.

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How would someone who has never camped before cope on your trips?

People with little or no camping experience do not find camping on our Tonga tours unduly difficult as the warm climate is most favourable for camping. Not to mention the low precipitation during the winter months, our peak kayaking season. There are grassy as well as sandy (beach) tent sites on nearly all of the islands that we visit.

We typically base camp for two nights on one island at least once, sometimes twice, on every tour. By not having to break camp each day, our guests enjoy greater relaxation time and the luxury of paddling near empty (hence lighter) boats on day excursions to neighbouring islands.

Camping gear (tent, groundsheet and mattress) is included in the cost of your kayak package. Our spacious tents feature two doors for ventilation, mosquito screening and factory seam sealed rain fly. We also provide deluxe foam air mattresses (Therm-a-Rest R) that convert into comfortable camp chairs. We suggest bringing along a sheet plus a summer weight sleeping bag that can be opened up to serve as a quilt. The temperature is warm in the daytime, but can be cool at nighttime. Please contact us if you still have apprehensions about camping or any other matter.

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How much of a nuisance are biting and stinging insects in Tonga?

We try wherever possible to camp in breezy spots as wind tends to keep mosquitoes at bay. They are only a nuisance after a rainfall and or when there is little wind. A good mosquito repellant is an effective prophylactic for the majority of people. However, if you are especially sensitive to mosquitoes it would be wise to wear long sleeves and pants in camp. Wasps are generally not a nuisance. Our guides carry oral anti-histamine and an anaphylactic shock treatment kit, but if you know that you are allergic to wasps it is a good idea to bring your own personal supply.

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What type of toilet facilities do you provide when camping?

We use a variety of camp toilet systems in the Vava'u and Ha'apai islands. At most camps our guides dig a common pit toilet, brushing the foliage away and, where possible, positioning the pit where there is a limb or branch to hold onto. The pit toilet is normally within 50-75 metres of camp and well marked. A paddle in the vertical position indicates that the toilet is vacant and a horizontal paddle or paddle on the ground indicates that it is occupied. A spade or coconut full of soil is added to the pit with each use. Another toilet system entails digging individual small holes in the intertidal zone (or area between the low and high tide lines) at night, then covering the hole to let the ocean take care of the rest. Feminine hygiene waste may be burned in the open fire that our local guides build every evening. Lastly, our guests have access to a flush toilet that we built near our camp close to Taunga village, which we regularly visit for cultural feasts

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Do I need previous kayaking experience?

The concept of kayaking is still new to many people who may have visions of paddling in small unstable kayaks typically used on river trips. In contrast, we use very stable seaworthy double kayaks especially designed for the ocean environment. Double kayaks are easy to paddle and enable us to balance the group in terms of physical strength, stamina, and paddling experience. In this way, no one feels pushed beyond their limits and one person can take a break from paddling while their partner maintains the rhythm. Thus, no kayaking experience is required; all persons of moderate fitness adapt very quickly to the paddling skills required. Your professional guides will cover boat handling basics; paddling strokes; use of the foot-controlled rudder; boat entries and exits; and rescue procedures in the protected warm waters of the Port of Refuge.

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What make of kayaks do you use?

We use primarily single and double fibreglass kayaks including Tofino and Dusky Bay doubles and Arluk, Southern Aurora and Puffin singles. All our equipment is maintained on a regular basis to a high standard.

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Do I have a choice of paddling a single kayak?

The issuing of single kayaks is at the guides' discretion as it depends not only on our guests' ability, but also weather conditions and group composition (i.e. the ratio of novice to experienced paddlers). For instance, in the interest of safety, if the forecast is for 15-20 knot winds, then the guides prefer to balance the group by pairing the more experienced paddlers with the beginners in double kayaks. Having said this, there is usually at least one single kayak on tour, which may be shared amongst those paddlers who possess solid support strokes.

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Why do you not use sit-on-top kayaks on your trips?

There are several reasons why we choose not to use sit-on-top kayaks:

a. Because of the limited storage capacity of sit-on-tops, companies that use these also use support boats that burn fossil fuels, are noisy, require more support staff, and ultimately make the trip more expensive for you, the consumer.
b. One's sense of adventure (derived in part from being self-sufficient) is less on support boat trips. One of the main reasons why our guests sign up for our trips is the fact that they prefer to be self-sufficient.
c. Because sit-on-tops do not have rudders these kayaks do not track as well as our sea kayaks which are all fitted with rudders. In 10-15 knot winds paddlers of sit-on-tops tire more easily as they tend to use far more sweep strokes to correct their course.
d. Sit-on-tops are slower and less stable than a fully loaded traditional sea kayak.
e. Sit-on-tops do not have back rests where the traditional sea kayak has a comfortable seat and back rest to ensure maximum comfort for long distance touring.
f. Paddlers of sit-on-tops are more exposed to the natural elements (e.g. sun, water, wind) and are therefore at greater risk of sunburn, heat exhaustion, and even hyperthermia in the tropics than are paddlers who are seated with a fitted spray skirt inside the cockpits of traditional sea kayaks. Traditional sea kayaks also tend to be a much drier ride than sit-on-tops.

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What kind of physical shape do I need to be in?

A moderate level of fitness is recommended. Some pre-trip upper body strengthening and toning exercises is a good idea. On tour, stretching before and after paddling is encouraged.

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How much paddling will we do in a day?

We paddle in the mornings for a maximum of two to three hours, interspersed with frequent rests at sea and on land. As distances between islands are relatively short, we have the luxury of paddling at a leisurely pace. We usually reach our camping destination by lunchtime. For the more energetic, there is an optional afternoon paddle.

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What other activities should I expect on my Tongan adventure holiday?

Most people who join us on tour are seeking a balance between paddling, kayak sailing, snorkelling, bicycling, whale watching, birding, bush walking and visiting villages. We take advantage of every opportunity to pause and appreciate the lush coastal vegetation; comb white sand beaches and the inter-tidal zone; bird and whale watch; explore sea caves; snorkel colourful coral reefs; and visit villages. Following the kayak trip, you may participate in sailing, diving, whale watching and fishing excursions. If you wish to participate in a variety of water sports then our Adventure Week is for you!
(for details go to our Tours and Prices page)

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Does your menu include seafood and/or meat or is it strictly vegetarian?

Our menu comprises primarily vegetarian cuisine with an international theme (i.e. Polynesian, Asian, Mexican and Italian dishes). We make creative use of the delicious tropical fruits and vegetables available and of the fresh seafood caught by our Tongan guides as extensively as possible. We also try our best to please every palate. Please let us know well in advance of your trip of any food and drink allergies and/or dislikes. A variety of meats is included in the fare at the traditional feast we attend in an outer island village.

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Once I have sent you my trip deposit does your package price remain stable?

Yes, once we have received your trip deposit, our prices for packages, optional extras and rental equipment will not change.

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What do I need to bring?

You need only bring lined nylon stuff sacks (or dry bags) for your personal effects and a light sleeping bag or sheet & blanket. We provide all other community camping (tent, therm-a-rest mattress) and kayaking equipment. A recommended personal equipment list is provided once you book a trip, but it is available at any time upon request.

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Do I need to bring a wetsuit?

During the winter months (July-September) we recommend that you bring a half wetsuit (farmer Jane or John) but only if you want to stay in the water for more than 30-45 minutes.

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What wildlife will I likely see?

Kayakers may encounter sea-turtles, porpoises, humpback whales, flying foxes and numerous seabirds such as the white-tailed tropic bird, lesser frigate, brown boobie, crimson crowned fruit dove and a variety of terns to name a few. Tonga is considered by researchers and whale watch enthusiasts to be the haven of the South Pacific for humpback whales. Our naturalist guides are keen to share their growing knowledge of these magnificent mammals.

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Can I bring my family?

Yes, we welcome children and are able to organize exclusive family trips depending on the availability of guides. Vava'u, with its sheltered waterways and favorable climate, is the ideal place for young people to develop their paddling skills. Our family trips (one or more families) are exclusive departures (i.e. we do not normally mix adults with children). In this way, the paddle plan may be structured according to the children's unique needs and abilities. Children of all ages are accepted provided they feel comfortable on the water. We offer a 15% discount to one family and a 20% discount to two or more families, providing the trip is booked directly as opposed to through an agent or wholesaler.

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How long have you operated kayak tours in Tonga?

Since 1991.

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