Mapu'a 'a Vaca Blowholes at Houma, Tonga stretch for 5kms

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

Comments (19)

Ian Stehbens on July 18, 2008

The Blowholes at Houma on Tonga's SW coast are truly spectacular. For 5 kms 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 reef 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 photographer. 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 what a privilege just to stand in awe.

Andreas Wiesner on July 19, 2008

Spectacular picture! Your series about Tonga is great! By the way, have you seen the "camel" in this picture?

Cheers, Andreas!

juan jose romero on July 19, 2008

Dear Ian, Thank you very much for the spectacular photo and the great explanation: very graphic, very visual. How interesting your whole series about Tonga, including the photos of the Royals watching your art. Thank you, good weekend! Juan José

M and R on July 19, 2008

Ben loved showing his class this photo of the Camel. He loves the blowhole photos from his trip with Granddad to Tonga. He uploaded his photos onto his computer and has them as his continuous screen saver. Without any help from Mum or Dad. R

Ian Stehbens on July 19, 2008

Yes, Andreas, I had a ride on him. But did you see this camel wandering around Houma when you were there?

I am very pleased that you have seen the series on Tonga. We had spectacular conditions both here and on east coast of 'Eua as you will have noticed. There had been a depression pass through the Pacific just ahead of our arrival, and we caught the tail end of the rain, but the best of the swell was rolling in!

And Juan José it is always special when you encourage me with you appreciation. I hope you saw some of the experiments with the macro that you inspired, and glowed a little when you saw your influence in them. It is quite amazing how some of the ordinary things around us are beautiful when artistically photographed. Thank you for your blessing.

And I am proud of my grandson, Ben. I hope he is next able to upload some of his photographs onto Panoramio, Robyn. JJ encourages me, I encourage Ben, so I'd like Senor Juan José Romero to see Ben's work too.


juan jose romero on July 21, 2008

Hello Ian, good morning! of course I've seen and enjoyed your macro pics, the of de sea-warm with its ink deserves a full page in the national geographic! And you have many many beautiful pics: you've always been an artist and you'll always be.

And I'm sure that your grand son has learnt many things from you, so I'm looking forward to seeing his photos...

Have a wonderful week! JJ

Ian Stehbens on July 21, 2008

This afternoon, in the cloudless blue sky over central Sydney, a skywriter wrote GRAZIA, which I presume was a sign-off for this one and a handing on of the baton for the next World Youth Day to be held in Madrid, I understand.

And I did not have my camera!!!

So of course I thought of you JJ, and other Iberian friends.

And now to read you comments is further joy. I want so much to develop my artistic eye and mind. Thank you so much for affirming me. I do hope young Ben might upload his pictures soon. I will continue to urge him to do so.



EVA_L on July 21, 2008

Amazing phenomenon! A beautiful and mysterious photo, dear Yan!

Greetings from Kiev. Eva

Ian Stehbens on July 21, 2008

Dear Eva,

Thanks for your comment for I always look forward so much to your opinion. The vertical jets of water are certainly unforgettable. I am sure this phenomenon must happen elsewhere in the world, but so far I have never seen or heard of this happening anywhere else.



Luud Riphagen on July 23, 2008

Very spectaculair and beautiful photograph Ian. Greetings Luud

Ian Stehbens on July 23, 2008

Dear Luud,

It is very special to receive such affirmation form you - thank you very much. And it is indeed an incredible phenomenon. It was the best I had seen the blowholes, and I just marvelled.

Best wishes,


May M. B. (Swissmay) on July 28, 2008

Beautiful photo of this fantastic scene, Ian! Surprising, I think I could stay there for hours and watch this spectacle! BTW. Seeing the thumbnail, I saw the "camel" as well! ;) It seems to be watching amazed at the performance.

Warm wishes, May

Aubrey Skelly on August 4, 2008

Wonderful energy in this photo, well captured, Ian would love to have been there, congrats, Aubrey :) my august photos

pal_sandipan on August 8, 2008

Very nice shot. Voted.

Ian Stehbens on August 16, 2008

Dear May, Aubrey, rfaraon and pal_sandipan,

I am sorry to seem slow in replying, but I have just returned from a remarkable trip to Indonesia, and have I opened up to enjoy reading your comments.

It is certain May and Aubrey, that you would have been as mesmerised as I was while watching this continuous spectacle. I am not aware of anywhere else in the world that this happens but I am sure there must be many other places for it only requires a raised coral reef to confront the ocean swell.

Kind regards to you all,


[Thanks for you vote, pal_sandipan.]

Ian Stehbens on August 23, 2008

Bonjour Patrick et merci beaucoup.

I trust you have a safe voyage and I know you will love Tonga, especially Port au Refuge at Vavau, for all yacht-ties do. I thought this phenomenon worthy of winning the unusual section, but I am not campaigning!


Ian in Sydney (if you get here you will have to make contact!)

Bulbas on March 20, 2009

The reef is looked powerfully, a tremendous picture

Ian Stehbens on March 22, 2009

Hi Bulbas,

These vertically jets of water are forced up the shafts in the coral platform by every wave that surges against the reef front. It is an awesome display, wave after wave, hour after hour, for 5 kms along the coast.


Ian Stehbens on June 8, 2014

Yes, this is for real, Vacaciones de verano. The free waves smash into the fringing reef and explode, shooting up into the air through holes in the reef. It is like this for 15 kms along the coast.

Thank you for your visit and appreciative comment.

Kind regards,


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Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 18, 2008
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    by Ian Stehbens