Tonga: Vava'u Landscape Photography — Part One: Beaches

landscape photography of Tonga beaches at Euakafa
Euakafa Beach is just one of many stunning deserted beaches.
This articles is about Tonga Landscape photography in Vava'u.  I recently returned from a 10 day trip in these beautiful islands.  Because there is no information on photography in the island group of Vava'u, Tonga, I want to share what I have learned.  In this article I will focus on many of the incredible beaches.  They are clean, empty, private, gorgeous and unspoiled.  These are reached by boat.  Many of the islands in Vava'u group are uninhabited and the only way to really get around is on the water.

I will give my best beaches a ranking from number one and on down just for fun and for interest!

#1:  Best beach in Vava'u Tonga:  Ngau and its' neighboring isle of Taunga.
This stunning beach is actually a stretch of sand reaching from one island to another.  At low tide one can walk without getting feet wet.  When the tide is a bit higher, wading from one beach to the other is equally fun.  Sand dollars are everywhere and you can easily leave with 10 or 20 "dollars" in your pocket if you want.  
Beautiful Island of south pacific
Ngau Lagoon has green and blue waters and endless sand.
Ngua sandy deserted island in Vava'u Tonga
Coconut Sprouting on Taunga Beach with Ngau in the distance!
#2:  Best beach:  Euakafa Island
Euakafa beach stretches forever and a walk along this beach is a walk into paradise!  On the southwest side there is a lava-rock tunnel to explore.  Coconuts and many other fruits grow along the jungle which borders the beach.  Snorkeling here is wonderful as well.
Vava'u best beaches Euakafa
Euakafa Beach is unforgettable!
Euakafa beach with green waters and sailboat.
Sail to the special beach of Euakafa.  The waters here are green and blue.
#3 Best Beach:  Maninita Island
This beach is unique because it is the most southern small island in all of Vava'u.  It is entirely inhabited by birds.  Circumnavigating the entire island takes a delightful 20 minutes.  Alternatively, one can cross the island through the center jungle and see all the birds flying over your head and hear them squawk.  The beach here is rougher sand and I have never seen any location with more hermit crabs.  They are everywhere, a crawling living beach.  Getting here is half of the fun as you will pass many small deserted islands along the way.  This is one of the few places where I felt like I was at the edge of the world.
Vava'u Maninita tiny deserted island
Maninita Island:  Swim ashore and explore!
Maninita beach in Vava'u Tonga.  Sail to reach this paradise.
Bird foot prints are the only marks on this beach!
#4 Beach Beach:  the Blue Lagoon at Foeata
This place is simply gorgeous.  The sand here is like powdered sugar in the texture and almost as white in color.  It is so soft I wanted to make my bed here forever.  The shallow sandy approach allows one to basically walk from your boat all the way to the beach without getting your head wet.  This is a great place for a picnic.  This beach is more discovered than the first 3 so you will probably have some other boats around and maybe some other visitors on the beach.  It won't be crowded however.
Tonga's Blue Lagoon
Sailboat and the Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon landscape photography in Tonga
Picture of Paradise at the Blue Lagoon in Tonga
#5 Best Beach:  Ofu
Ofu is a clean beach with tons of seashells and friendly fishermen.  Here I found the best shells of the trip, many on the southern part of the beach.  This is wide, lovely, protected and pleasant!
Ofu island beach with palm tree and calm waters
Ofu Island Beach and Palm Tree
#6 Best Beach:  Nuku Island
Nuku Island might rank higher on this list if we had a sunny day on my visit here.  The small deserted island is gorgeous and this has a large sand bar on the north side to swimming and lounging.  It's very lovely.  I came on a cloudy day, which may knock this beach down a couple of points.
Sandy beach of Nuku Island Vava'u Tonga
Nuku Beach has everything:  great sand, clear waters, palms, shells and deserted!

Best Beach Honorable Mention:  Port Maurelle
No pictures of this lovely beach but it is certainly worth a visit.  Great snorkeling here too!

Artist's Point, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with waterfall
Artist Point, Yellowstone National Park looking up at Lower Yellowstone Falls
In contrast to my previous post where I was all alone, at the incredible Artist Point in Yellowstone Park I had to wait for 30 minutes before I could find a place to park my car.  Then I walked out and was able to get away from civilization a bit to enjoy the spectacular view from artist point.  I've been here at sunrise when I had it entirely to myself.  I have also, in the middle of the day, such as on this occasion, and share the view that with many others.  Yellowstone National Park is a melting pot of all nationalities coming to enjoy the recent nature.  Under any circumstance, it is worth the visit.  I came with my family on this occasion but still enjoyed the photography.  If coming alone and primarily for landscaping purposes, I would suggest rising early or staying out late.  You will not be disappointed at this location.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Artist point, looking downstream across the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Gordon's hike rating:
Hike Difficulty:                   ★ Easy
Trail Condition:                   ★ Flat and Paved
Trail Hazards:                      ★ Minimal
Trailhead:                             Artist Point Parking lot, south side of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Time Required:                     1 hour
Distance round trip:              1 mile
Off the Beaten Path:             ★ No, especially during mid-day
Scenery:                                ★★★★ Excellent, 4 Stars
Photographic Potential:        ★★★ Good, 3 Stars

Wolf Creek, Madison Mountain Range, Montana

Wolf Creek in the Madison mountain range, Montana
Wolf Creek extends up to snowy mountain tops of the Madison National Forest
Landscape photographers go to many of the same places.  In Montana I had the opportunity to explore the Madison National Forest in the area of Wolf Creek.  This is known for bears, elk and being far off the beaten path.  Hiking up to peak, both the wind and the views were spectacular.  This is a photograph taken looking into Wolf Creek.  The mountaintops were covered with clouds and snow.  Summer in Montana can be a spectacular fleeting moment.

Gordon's hike rating:
Hike Difficulty:                   ★★★★ Strenuous
Trail Condition:                   ★★★ Moderate
Trail Hazards:                      ★★★ Moderate:  rocks, rare Grizzly sightings
Trailhead:                             Madison National Forest at D Springs
Time Required:                     3 - 4 hours
Distance round trip:              3 miles
Off the Beaten Path:             ★★★★★ Yes, 5 Stars
Scenery:                                ★★★ Good, 3 Stars
Photographic Potential:        ★★ Fair, 2 Stars

Kanarra Creek Ladder Before and After

old ladder at Kanarra Creek
The Old Ladder:  Only for the Brave
The Kanarra Creek ladder Is a man-made structure that makes this wonderful canyon more accessible to visitors.  The ladder by itself is also very photogenic.  Or, shall I say it used to be photogenic?  Having gone up Kanarra Creek over several years time, I noticed the change.  The top picture is of the old ladder.  It is entirely made of wood.  Some of the rungs were small, loose and slippery.  You may notice that the steps stop well before the top of the log.  The old ladder required a very large last step to get to the top and this portion of the log was very wet and slippery.  You can see that in the picture!  I slipped and nearly fell on this once myself.

Two or 3 years ago this ladder was enhanced by removing all of the wooden steps and replacing that with a metal ladder that is directly attached to the log.  The metal steps have teeth and texture so that they are not slippery and they go all the way to the top.  This is a much easier ascent.  However I feel like some of the aesthetic qualities of the original ladder have been lost.  Such is "progress".
the new Kanarra Creek ladder is safer
New Ladder:  Safer but not as photogenic