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Swimming in a Bat Cave with Bait

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

September, 2015

We had been basing our daily game fishing trips in and out of Vavu’u for a couple of weeks now, and were enjoying the good weather, tagging and releasing anywhere from 1 to 5 billfish a day. As we passed in front of a particular sea cave, we had noticed that there were often small skiffs bobbing outside, with snorkelers in the water. Occasionally, we would see small private sailing yachts doing the same.

One evening, over drinks at the Aquarium Cafe, we queried the owner about this unusual activity. Mike learned us that Swallow’s Cave is a popular spot with the local tour operators for snorkeling and SCUBA tours. He recommended we give it a visit, if we could find a break in our busy fishing schedule. After a quick confirmation by TripAdvisor readers, we decided to give it a go, first chance we got some rough weather. Good weather is reserved for fishing.

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The limestone cave is situated on the northwestern tip of the small island of Kapa, a short 20 minutes from Vavu’u and is accessible only by boat. We decided to visit in the afternoon, to take advantage of the light entering the cave. Anchoring near the entrance is near impossible, due to the rapid drop-off of the seabed into deep water. Garry remained with the boat, drifting just off the cliff face, while Arnie, Marty and I donned wetsuits, grabbed our Go-Pros, and swam the short 10 meters to the cave entrance.

Once we crossed the threshold of the cave entrance, we were delighted to see 2 distinct bait balls of fish, swirling around like fluid lava lamps goop. The cave has a maximum depth of 16 meters, yet the entrance is only about a few meter deep. The shallower entrance seems to provide some sort of safe refuge for the bait fish from predatory pelagics. The water is incredibly blue, and it’s beautiful to see the fish backlit by the light filtering through the cave entrance. It was an amazing experience, swimming among the bait and seeking out the sleeping bats hanging from the cathedral ceiling. Just outside the cave, there is a small coral reef that deserves further exploration.

But beware, local fishermen sometimes capitalize on the fish migrating into open water, and will set their fishing nets directly across the mouth of the cave, even while snorkelers are still inside! I wonder how many Tongan Pa’anga/kilo swimmers are worth on the local fish market?

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