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Friendly Islands Kayak Company ‑ CLOSED

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Neiafu, Tonga
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About Friendly Islands Kayak Company
Entering our 23rd season of operations in the Kingdom of Tonga, Friendly Islands Kayak Company is a model South Pacific eco-tourism operation committed to protecting the local culture and pristine natural environment. Our aim is to provide friendly, professional service in a safe, responsible manner. The Vava'u and Ha'apai Islands are not great paddling distances apart allowing time for snorkeling, whale watching and village visits. The hallmarks of our adventures are indigenous guides; a healthy balance between activity and relaxation; idyllic beach camps and fine food. Our resort based kayak trip features similar highlights, but without the sand between the sheets!
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Friendly Islands Kayak Company
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ShaunaRachel wrote a review Jan 2017
Santa Barbara, California16 contributions22 helpful votes
My partner and I did two trips, back to back, with FIKC in Dec. 2016-Jan. 2017. First we did the 6 day kayaking trip in Vava'u. Then we did an 11 day kayak and camping trip in Ha'apai. FIKC did an outstanding job of communicating with us before the trip. Sharon was so very helpful and organized in every way. All of the arrangements she made (accommodations and transfers) worked out beautifully. She was always quick to respond and nothing but helpful. All of the equipment was top-notch and well maintained. The islands and the waters around the islands - all the places we paddled - were just gorgeous. I loved that KIKC had us stay at Mandala Resort in Vava'u and at Matafonua in Ha'apai. Two awesome accommodations. On the down-side, I got the sense that Sharon, the owner, hasn't been to Tonga in awhile and has left the business in the hands of local people who don't have the same level of care or enthusiasm for the trips. Not that anything was terribly horrific but just not quite to the level that we were led to believe. Both of our guides, while very competent and capable, seemed a bit "checked out," like they just weren't that into what they were doing. Both seemed to want to avoid stopping to snorkel. Neither shared much (stories, info, history) about the places we were paddling and visiting. Finally the 11 day trip (which has 9 days in the kayaks and camping) could easily have fit into a 5 or 6 day time frame without missing out on anything. Hopefully the owners can breathe some new life into their guides and possibly revamp the trip itinerary or the descriptions online for the 11 day trip to make for a more interesting trip.
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Date of experience: December 2016
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Response from FIKCO, General Manager at Friendly Islands Kayak Company
Responded Jan 14, 2017
Thank you Shauna and Rachel for your measured review of FIKCo and your experience on tour. I too found it a pleasure corresponding by email and sharing your excitement leading up to your Tonga kayak adventure. As you say, our equipment is top notch and our guides very experienced. Unfortunately, it is common in the tourism industry for experienced guides to suffer from "burn out" particularly at the end of a busy season, and am sorry that this appears to have been the case with your two guides. I'll be heading to Tonga in July, as I do annually, to prepare for the season, conduct quality control checks on and off tour, and assist with training our junior guides, (who have no shortage of enthusiasm!). Since it takes many years of training and on-water experience before an assistant guide is ready to safely lead their own trips, our most senior guide has agreed to stay on for the time being. However, I am considering hiring a western lead guide this season (as was our policy many years ago) to take the pressure off our senior local guides and to give another of our local guides a much needed break from guiding. Finally, I'm in the process of revising all of the trip itineraries and have taken note of your comments regarding the Ha'apai 11-day itinerary. Your Ha'apai trip was blessed with favourable weather, but it is not uncommon for the wind velocity to be 20+ knots. Strong wind does not pose such a problem in Vava'u where paddlers can "sneak" in the lee of the many islands. In contrast, the Ha'apai islands are low lying, such that the shorelines are more exposed, and the "fetch" and currents generally greater. Thus, the Ha'apai kayak expedition is 9 days long to allow for not only slower paddlers than you two who are fit and experienced, but also for the possibility of one or more lost days of paddling owing to inclement weather. Thank you once again for your valued comments. I am pleased that overall you enjoyed your tropical adventure.
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Mrs G wrote a review Jul 2016
Sydney, Australia25 contributions11 helpful votes
Loto, Io and Sharon were friendly, capable guides who shared this truly stunning archipelago with us. I don't think you can appreciate the beauty of Vava'u without exploring it's vast waterways from a kayak. As with any tropical island, expect tropical weather. We had sun, rain, wind, whales, an earthquake (half of us slept through it), shooting stars, freshly caught fish, french toast and fruit salad, and a fire on the beach. The windy weather resulted in us spending the week camped on Ta'unga island. Lucky us!!!! It was STUNNING! A really comfortable camp was set up (sandwiched between two beaches) and we enjoyed swimming, snorkelling and kayaking from our base. Tents, thermorests and kayaks were in good nick. Meals were hearty and there were ample fresh water supplies. Our guides shared so much interesting information about Tongan customs and practices. Malo aupito Sharon, Lotu and Io!
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Date of experience: July 2016
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Response from FIKCO, Owner at Friendly Islands Kayak Company
Responded Aug 2, 2016
Delighted that you enjoyed yourself on tour, Lou. You derived the utmost from your tropical adventure escape thanks to your flexibility and adaptability. It was great to have you on board. You gelled well with the Gold Coast outrigger club women (AKA the Mama Mia ladies!), and Lotu, Io and I appreciated your relaxed approach to the sometimes challenging weather and sea conditions. Hope to see you again in the Friendly Isles - maybe on our 9-day Ha'apai expedition, which is designed specially for adventurous spirits like you! Cheers, Sharon
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katen27 wrote a review Jan 2016
Canberra, Australia71 contributions9 helpful votes
My expectations were high for the 3 day kayak tour of Vava'u, largely due to the high cost. On the morning of the first day we had our first disappointment. The weather meant we had to stay on the main island rather than kayaking to a more remote location as planned. They lent us the kayaks to paddle around a small bay, but after one loop it became tedious. Apart from that there were no organised activities. We paid OVER $550AUD PER DAY (between the 2 of us) for this trip, so we assumed there was going to be something that warranted the cost. Unfortunately, that night my partner got very sick with a tummy bug (which I came down with the next day) so we had to go back to our hotel. The tour guide called a taxi for us, which we had to pay for (and they overcharged us compared to what we had been paying for taxis up until then). All up we paid about $1700AUD to hang out in a tent 10 minutes away from our hotel. On top of that we had the taxi costs and the cost of the extra night in the hotel. We had 3 basic meals and half an hour kayak. The tour guides were friendly enough, but kept to themselves and did not add much to the whole experience. We received ZERO REFUND. Yes, I understand that IF the weather was fine, and IF we didn't get sick, this might have been an OK experience. But in my opinion the price is too much for what you get, and the risk is way too high in the case of anything at all going wrong.
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Date of experience: October 2015
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Response from FIKCO, General Manager at Friendly Islands Kayak Company
Responded Jun 16, 2016
It is most unfortunate that your long-awaited South Pacific dream vacation was marred by strong wind and illness. My guides were in fact genuinely concerned when your partner advised the day before your trip was scheduled to depart that he was feeling unwell and equally concerned when you subsequently came down with the tummy bug. Travel insurance, including comprehensive medical cover, is a prerequisite for participation in our tours as is signing a waiver agreeing to the terms and conditions of participation. I agreed that compensation for the activities and meals that you missed was in order and offered to write a letter to your insurance company in support of your claim for the unused portion of your tour package plus the extra night's accommodation, meals, taxi transfers, doctor visit, medication and any other expenses you incurred as a result of your illness. When I checked back with you a couple of days later, you thanked me for my offer of support and said you would look into your travel insurance. I never heard from you again. The wind subsided and the other participants were fit and keen to continue on the remainder of the itinerary. Had they been land bound for longer, our guides would have offered them alternative activities, as per our company policy, including cycling, bush walks, village visits and paddles in sheltered lagoons such as the paddle you did on the first day. Adventure travel can be frustrating when events don't go to plan. However, we cannot control the weather and, despite your impression, my guides do their best to keep our guests happy often under difficult circumstances.
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Janeutarzan wrote a review Jan 2016
Fitzroy Falls, Australia7 contributions
My sister and I returned to Ha'apai in Tonga this year, having first visited on an 11 day kayak adventure with FIKCO in 2011. I was reminded of what an amazing time we had on the kayak trip - paddling along side humpbacks - tramping around deserted islands - great camp food - wonderful guides. Ha'apai is an extraordinary group of islands to visit - low-lying islands ringed with deserted sand beaches and stunning coral reefs - truly off the edge of the earth. And from July to October the humpback whales come to visit - a travelling camping kayak trip was an incredible way to experience it.
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Date of experience: August 2015
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Response from FIKCO, Owner at Friendly Islands Kayak Company
Responded Jan 10, 2016
It's great that you and your sister had the opportunity to return to the Ha'apai Island Group. Your description of its natural attractions certainly does them justice and travelling by kayak is certainly a fantastic way to experience all that Ha'apai has to offer. Thank you for your positive words about our guides, who I know appreciated your cheerful company on tour.
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Wjs1976 wrote a review Aug 2015
32 contributions16 helpful votes
This company makes you sign a waiver that you won't get a refund if the trip gets canceled because of weather. Luckily I was only on a day trip not a multi day. Sure they may need to cover expenses but they shouldn't expect to make a profit from it? I'm giving them a 2 instead of a 1 as they gave me back $50 after I asked. The kayak may be great but I recommend not to pre-book until you see a forecast. I went on a really expensive bike ride instead
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Date of experience: August 2015
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Response from FIKCO, Managing Director at Friendly Islands Kayak Company
Responded Sep 24, 2015
It's a shame that your kayak day trip had to be cancelled for safety reasons owing to the strong wind warning, It is standard practice in the tourism industry for waivers to include a non-refund clause if a trip is cancelled owing to weather or other circumstances beyond the operator's control. However, our company policy is to offer alternative activities, which in your case were either a full day guided land tour by taxi or a full day guided mountain bike tour including lunch. While you reportedly enjoyed the bicycle tour you decided to end it before noon and so I considered a partial refund was in order. The overhead costs of a kayak tour and bicycle tour are the same, and we do need to make a small profit to cover fixed overhead costs as well as necessary repair and renewal of equipment. It is possible to wait until the day of departure before booking a day tour, but we cannot guarantee that a guide will available and so we recommend advance bookings.
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