It’s December 31st, so naturally we thought we’d add to the innumerable end-of-year lists floating around the social sphere. We’ve been asked several times about our best experiences in the South Pacific; the absolute must-dos in this part of the world. After five months on the road, there are so many but if we had to choose, these would be our top five. Of course, it hasn’t all been peachy. To even things out, we’ve added our top five lows as well.
1. Mount Yasur volcano, Vanuatu
Yasur is one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world, meaning you can go right up to its rim and watch its fireworks light up the night sky. It is probably the most incredible natural wonder we’ve ever seen. Read more on the Jack Wolfskin Outdoor Blog or on Rough Guides.
2. Swimming with whales, Tonga
We can’t think of enough superlatives to describe this experience: wondrous, humbling and majestic would be a good start. Read more in The day we almost didn’t swim with whales.
3. Diving in Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga
Breathing underwater for the first time is strange and surreal and weirdly addictive, so much so that we decided to do an intensive PADI course. Peter passed with flying colours and I– well, more on that below. Peter’s first independent dive among wrecks and turtles was a highlight in particular. Read more in Diving with turtles in Samoa.
4. Bora Bora Lagoon, French Polynesia
Surprisingly, French Polynesia ranks towards the bottom in terms of places visited (below Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Cook Islands). The reason is that it feels a lot more commercial, but there is no denying that Bora Bora Lagoon is pretty much heaven on Earth. Read more in Bora Bora lagoon tour: money well spent.
5. Staying in a beach fale, Samoa
Samoa was probably our favourite country overall. In particular, we loved Vaiula Beach Fale on the north coast of ‘Upolu. Run by Dave, a local businessman and raconteur, these fale offer a stunning stretch of beach, easy access to amazing natural wonders, delicious local food and likeminded travellers. Read more in A million-dollar view without the price tag.
1. Camping at Beverly’s, Fiji
We took this video on Day 1. By the evening of Day 3, I was in meltdown mode. The relentless dogs, the filthy commode, the toad that landed on my foot in the bathroom at night, the lack of sleep due to an inadequate air pillow – it all added up. Thankfully, the couple of times we’ve camped since have been far, far better! Read more in City girl, country boy: camping together for the first time.
2. Quitting the PADI course, Vanuatu
I hate quitting, so struggling with the PADI course and subsequently quitting wasn’t what I had expected. Quitting means that I can’t dive unchaperoned and I’ll always pay more than if I were qualified. Publicly, I say I’ve learnt to quit. Privately, I still hope to give it another go one day.
3. Ruining our GoPro, Tonga
I genuinely think this broke Peter’s heart. We were diving in Tonga, I with my chaperone and Peter independently with his dive buddy (a necessary safety precaution). After an amazing 45 minutes, we came up. Peter’s first words were “I think I’ve ruined my GoPro” – a mere two weeks after he bought it. Indeed he had and he laments it almost every day.
4. Losing our luggage, Samoa
We hadn’t planned to stay in Apia for very long. Capital cities tend to be noisy, dusty and often charmless so we always leave as soon as we can. Alas, Fiji Airways lost our luggage so we had to stay in our charmless hostel for two extra days wearing the same sweaty clothes. Needless to say, our first night was spent washing underwear.
5. Running out of water on Mt. Matavanu, Samoa
If it hadn’t been for three medical students driving down the trail, I’m sure Peter and I would have fainted not only from dehydration but heat and exhaustion. Matavanu was a 6-hour hike and although it rarely got steep, the utterly relentless Samoan sun had as teetering on the edge. Thankfully, the medics made space for us in their car and plied us with plenty of water. I guess saying you’ve met Da Craterman doesn’t come easy! Read more in Meeting “Da Craterman – world famous in Samoa”.