Category Archives: Oceania

Tales of a Traveller: the Self-made Desert Island Castaway

Ever dreamed of a simpler life? How about one where every day holds promise of blisteringly blue skies, the sound of gently lapping water, the rustle of palm leaves in the breeze and little else — instead of honking car horns, the drizzle of rain and a cramped commute? I know which I’d rather.

How many of us ever actually do it, though? Pack the bags, sell the possessions and escape…

In 1952, New Zealand-born bushcraft and survival enthusiast, Tom Neale, realised his lifelong dream of living a simpler life, marooning himself on a deserted island in the South Pacific with nothing but a pair of cats, a damaged boat, some books and a few chickens. The island was Suwarrow in the Cook Islands, and in fact it was more of an atoll, uninhabited since the war and 580 miles northwest of the archipelago’s main island of Rarotonga. He was to live on this sliver of sand, on and off, for the next 25 years.

Neale had been something of an oceanic nomad from a young age, spending his twenties and thirties roaming the South Pacific islands and taking up odd jobs along the way. It was when he crossed paths with a writer and traveller named Robert Frisbie on Rarotonga, that his desire to escape to a life of blissful isolation was truly fired up. Frisbie had been briefly stranded on Suwarrow with his family during the war, and his fond account of it captured Neale’s imagination, prompting him to book passage on a ship travelling in close proximity to the island. Continue reading

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Beneath the Surface: Snorkelling in the South Pacific Islands

Turquoise waters, white sugary sands, razor-sharp volcanic peaks and velvety rainforests; the islands of the South Pacific epitomise what many would consider ‘paradise’. You may never have visited these oceanic Edens, however, you will almost definitely have found yourself longing for such surroundings whilst scrolling through your Instagram feed, or leafing through a travel magazine on the train. From the Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea, all the way to French Polynesia, where 118 islands scatter an area of 2000 sq. km, each palm-pricked archipelago is home to a unique culture, history and landscape, which for centuries has made them the stuff of oceanic legend, luring explorers, dreamers and adventurers to their exotic shores.

Today they are a sought-after holiday destination for everyone from honeymooners to outdoor enthusiasts. Granted, they aren’t among the most accessible destinations on earth — and they certainly aren’t cheap so if you’re living off a student loan perhaps bump a visit to your bucket list — but for those who live on the continent, or those who are looking for the romantic getaway of a lifetime, or are perhaps even backpacking Oz, they are a little slice of tropical luxury worth not passing up.

So you’re flights are booked, and you’re mulling over your itinerary, daydreaming about basking in a hammock strung between two creaking palms with a Mai Tai in hand, or embarking on a trek into the shadowy depths of the jungle to a remote village, well, one thing that absolutely must make the list is snorkelling. The South Pacific islands are impossibly photogenic above water, but below lurks a hidden subterranean wonderland to easily rival the scenery above. Here are four of the top places to take the plunge into an underwater paradise:

Moorea, French Polynesia

Part of French Polynesia’s Society Islands, Moorea is a geographical marvel boasting eight jungle-carpeted peaks flanked by shimmering aquamarine waters. Beneath the crystal clear surface lie kaleidoscopic coral reefs weaving with everything from butterfly fish to black-tip reef sharks.

WHERE TO SNORKEL? Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort is set on the edge of a lagoon and features 112 bungalows built over the water. Okay, so it’s a bit of a budget-shatterer, but if you are looking for somewhere that bit more luxurious (honeymooners maybe?) then this is a top choice and boasts some of the best snorkelling on the island.

For smaller budgets, a snorkelling tour will take you to some of the island’s most exquisite snorkelling sites, including Moorea Lagoon, on a five-hour cruise. Continue reading

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Broome: the Pearl of Western Australia

If, like me, you are from a modest-sized country where a six-hour drive to Scotland seems quite the ordeal, you will agree that the coastal town of Broome in the Kimberley region of Western Australia is the definition of ‘off the beaten track’. Broome is approximately a two and a half hour flight from its closest major cities, Perth and Darwin, and a staggering eight hour plane journey from Australia’s east coast. In this time, most European’s could have crossed oceans and reached whole other continents, never mind stayed within the same country. Yet, as with many secluded destinations, a visit to Broome is worth the lengthy journey.

The town’s history is a fascinating one steeped in the harvesting of oysters — a cultivation known as ‘pearling’. The industry is fruitful, however, prior to modern-day technological advancements, it was a dangerous job and one that was initially forced upon Aboriginal slaves who would dive hundreds of metres to the sea bed in search of the precious gems. When slavery was abolished, pearling in Broome was an occupation assumed by Asian workers who had arrived on Australia’s shores looking for a new and prosperous life. Nowadays, the industry has replaced these life-threatening dives with machinery, and Broome remains one of the primary centres for pearling in Australia.

This rich history, combined with breathtaking coastal scenery, makes Broome a thriving tourist destination despite its remote location. The town is hailed for being the gateway to the Kimberley wilderness, however, there is as much to see in Broome itself as there is in its surrounding area. The ambience in the town is relaxed and laid-back; the climate warm and tropical; the sights unique and varied. Its landscapes are also captivating; Broome is where the burnt orange of the outback meets the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean, and its offerings to visitors are as valuable as the pearls hauled from its coastal depths. Continue reading

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The Open Road in Eastern Australia

During the heat of the summer holidays last year, my partner and I took a two week long trip down the East Coast of Australia. We set out from Brisbane with just our car, a tent, two surfboards and an esky. We had vague plans of stopping to stay with friends along the way but it was a liberating feeling to start out with a ‘let’s just wing it’ attitude.

I have close family friends who own property near Bendigo in Victoria and we planned to spend a big New Year’s party with them around the pool, and in the surrounding country. Living in the city can really put a strain on the most patient of us, and we both needed a break and a chance to change routine.

The distance from Brisbane to Melbourne, for those not familiar with the size of Australia, is about a 20 hour drive, and we had plenty of sights to stop at along the way. The coast road is the most scenic for tourists and provides the beaches, national parks and taste of seaside living that most visitors crave. We stopped in Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and arrived near Newcastle on the first day to stay with friends who lived right on the beach.

Author’s own

Shoal Harbour and the beaches near the city of Newcastle and further down towards the Central Coast of New South Wales are pristine, safe, and very close to hiking trails through national parks. For visitors who want to camp, there is a $5 app called Wikicamps which provides information on all of the free camp spots throughout Australia, complete with directions on how to get there and the services offered at each site. There is also an excellent book called ‘Camps: Australia Wide’ by Philip and Cathryn Fennell which gives useful information on camp grounds, some free, some not, and a lot of pictures to help readers find that perfect spot.

We took mostly inland roads on the way down and there are so many camps to stop at along the way, which is by far the cheapest and most interesting way to see Australia. Driving can be boring, but it is flexible and gives the opportunity to stop whenever and wherever you like! Continue reading

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Autumn in the Barossa Valley

To many, the arrival of autumn’s mild days, chilly nights and heightened rainfall is one met with minimal enthusiasm; it is an unwelcome reminder that the even less desirable conditions of winter are just around the corner.

In Australia, autumn begins to unveil itself in March, and folk are forced to bid goodbye to their globally sought-after summers for yet another year. However, Continue reading

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