Don’t Wait to Travel the South Pacific Islands!

Don’t Wait to Travel the South Pacific Islands!

I lived in New Zealand for almost two years but didn’t visit the islands of the South Pacific until my final months, instead electing to fly to Myanmar and Chile during the vacations of my first year. Why did I wait? I suppose for similar reasons never trying to visit the Caribbean from the United States. I thought there won’t be much to do beyond the beach and I could only handle several hours of beach relaxation, especially in places where the sun was so strong. I thought traveling the islands would be expensive and, since they were so remote, lack infrastructure for solo travelers. What I didn’t realize is the islands of the South Pacific are filled with friendly people, a wide assortment of aquatic and outdoor activities and a fascinating cultural heritage. My advice is don’t wait! If you’re thinking about what island to visit first, I’d recommend: 1) Fiji- Paradise for solo travelers I was a bit hesitant to visit Fiji because I thought it would be too touristy but I also figured it might be the best option for solo travelers like myself. Yes, it’s a bit touristy when you first arrive in Nadi but there’s so many islands that everyone spreads out and you can easily find a tropical piece of paradise that you share with a few dozen others. Furthermore, the infrastructure makes it easy and affordable to get around on your own and there’s many backpackers there who had just finished working holidays in Australia or New Zealand or were on round-the-world trips. Everyone in the boat to my first resort was traveling alone so making friends was easy. I spent a week in Fiji with a night in a beach backpackers near the airport then took the ferry to the Yasawas Island group. I had done some research and chose to split my time between Barefoot Kuata Resort and Manta Ray Resort, which was recommended by a friend. I was lucky because both of these places turned out to be good choices but I didn’t realize that all the islands offer different activities so I’d recommend thinking about what you want to do then staying at a resort that has it. Humpbacks during a heat run in Vava’u, Tonga. Photo by my friend @delacordilleraalmarAt Barefoot Kuata, the main activity was scuba diving with bull sharks. It’s possible for people even without their diving licenses (like me) so each person is paired with an instructor, you swim down about 12 meters and hide behind a coral wall. They feed the sharks, and supposedly the wall of bubbles distracts the sharks from the fact that there are people there but the instructors have metal poles just in case. (Very safe, haha). It was absolutely an incredible experience to be just feet away from bull sharks, reef sharks and other colorful fish with no cages separating you from the mighty fish. The one downside of Barefoot Kuata is its only a couple hours away from the main port so the island gets pretty busy with day trippers but beyond that, it was perfect. Manta Ray Resort, as the name suggests, is famous for the option to snorkel with manta rays. In the mornings, they have people waiting to see when the mantas swim during the channel, then when they are spotted, people run through the resort shouting “manta ray swim!”, everyone grabs their snorkeling gear and piles into the boat. The actual manta ray swim was a bit disappointing for me just because there were so many tourists, from this resort and others, following these mantas in a herd. However, this resort has an incredible snorkel spot right off its shores so after returning from the official swim, a staff member saw a manta when I was snorkeling, dropped me off near it and I had a private swim with a manta ray. It was a good workout, trying to keep up, and an absolute magical experience. The one “downside” of Manta Ray is it was more of a family resort so if you’d prefer a holiday without kids running around, maybe chose another. 2) Tonga- Humpback Whale Swims & The Friendliest People One of the friends I made in Fiji headed to Tonga straight after to fulfill her bucket list dream of swimming with humpback whales. Tonga and the Dominican Republic are supposedly the only two places you can do this, as the whales seek warmer climates for calving season between June and October. She spent a few weeks in Vava’u, one of the main island groups, doing a 10-day whale cruise, followed by several day trips with...