Spectacular Mapu'a 'a Vaca Blowholes at Houma, Tonga

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Comments (11)

Ian Stehbens on July 18, 2008

The Blowholes at Houma on Tonga SW coast are truly spectacular. For 5 kilmetres along the coast, the reef platform has been raised, and as the waves arrive at this coast the rising wave pushes water up through numerous holes in the reff platform creating a stunning spectacle. And as the wave rises closer the fury of ejected water pushes jets up to 10M in the air, then almost immediately this is followed by the wave crest slamming the reef face and creating a vertical wall of water that makes a whiteout for a photogrpaher. This wall of water can be more than 15M high. Then just remember as you marvel at this majestic display that it continues for 5km along the coast.

And whta a privilege just ot stand in awe.

But there's more yet. The water that has been split on the reef platform then must flow as backwash returning to the ocean, and as it does the play of water on the coralline surface has created marvellous travertine patterns. With a sediment free Pacific here, the water is translucent turquoise and the foam brilliant white.

To the awe, the power and majesty add colour, variety and mood.

Craig Ward on July 19, 2008

Spectacular display from mother nature,nicely captured to share,and reading your stories are most enjoyable ,to have an understanding of how the photographer felt so very well put to words,to our great benefit,Thanks Ian , Cheers from Craig :)

Ian Stehbens on July 19, 2008

Your appreciation is worth the effort to write stories, explanations, and reactions, Craig. Thanks for appreciating them and saying so. Don't you just love the dogs - awesome to me, but it is nothing to them except the familiar sounds of home.



EVA_L on July 21, 2008

Wonderful scene, Yan! These dogs are not afraid a storm! You became friends with them?

Best wishes. Eva

Ian Stehbens on July 22, 2008

It is a wonderful and spectacular place to be, Eva. The dogs see this every day, for almost every wave pushes water against the face of the reef, and jets it up through the blowholes in the reef platform. It is better than any fireworks display, and for these dogs it is just the norm. And the dogs are friendly too... a bit too friendly sometimes. Passive dogs, explosive water jets!

I am sure there must be other places in the world where there are blowholes like these in the front of the raised reef platform, but I as yet don't know of anywhere else. So this is a unique image for me and a special moment.

My very warm regards,


Luud Riphagen on July 23, 2008

A this one you really can see the enormous volume of the water wall. Very nice shot Ian. Greetings Luud

Ian Stehbens on July 23, 2008

Yes Luud. And all this is being ejected through holes or natural shafts in the reef platform, with every wave!

Kind regards,


jhk on July 24, 2008

Spectacular indeed, Ian! Fantastic shot. With all the noise around them, the dogs look as calm as if they're enjoying a day at the beach (which I guess they are ;) ). Besides that, they add some scale to the photo - those water jets are huge!

Thanks for sharing the photo and the stories.

Kind regards,


Ian Stehbens on July 24, 2008

Huge indeed, Justin! And the dogs just enjoy a life at the beach, their owner spends much of his time waiting for visitors so that he can talk them into having their shoulders massaged! I find it interesting how the spectacular can be surrounded by the mundane, and noise consumed by silence.

Great to hear from you, my friend, and thanks for your appreciation.


Bulbas on March 20, 2009

Beautiful show

Ian Stehbens on March 22, 2009

I am pleased that I can show you a little of Tonga, which has may have been unknown to you before this, Bulbas.


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Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 18, 2008
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Ian Stehbens