|'Eua sea cave|
The whole experience was made more surreal by the fact that it was Tani who had discovered the body of my friend Wolfgang tied to the seabed a short way up the same reef (see 'Wolfgang's Last Dive' below).
'Eua is on the edge of the Tongan Trench, a deep rift in the earth's crust that plunges south to Antarctica, and up which the humpback whales migrate each year: a whale super highway. 'Eua itself was thrust up by seismic activity 40 million years ago, and its elevated coral reefs are honey-combed with caves and sink holes, some of unimaginable depths.
The reefs are encrusted with a smorgasbord of corals ... candy pinks, chrome yellows ... delicate lavender blues ... like the execution of divine sculpture garden. I have been diving these reefs for years now, and they never cease to amaze with their improbable perfection.
As much joy, is being taken diving by a bunch of magnetic Tongans, I have grown to know and love. Finau, a stocky forty year old, whose gentle eyes belie his immense knowledge of the sea, marine diesels, diving, carpentry, engineering and ... tropical cuisine. Sam, a former commander in the Tongan navy ... a massive man, built like Jonah Lomu, who like Finau disguises his immense knowledge with a quiet-spoken humility.
Afterwards, devouring pizzas created in the home-made pizza oven at Ovava Tree Lodge, even allowing for the effects of post-dive euphoria, I realised this was one of my favourite spots on earth.