This year I visited Greece for the first time to take part in a week-long yoga retreat. Anyone who has watched me try to touch my toes will understand why Continue reading
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
In a few months’ time I would be in Cairns, the scuba capital of the Southern Hemisphere and gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but I didn’t want to waste any time there figuring out how to clear my mask or hover precisely two inches above the coral. With this in mind, I saw the Cook Islands as a practice course, with small reefs and the odd minnow dotted here and there.
Our little chug-chug boat lurched out over some of the roughest waves the Cook Islands had seen that year and I could have sworn I was going to be sick. This was how I started my first open water PADI training day. I had felt like an idiot back in the hotel pool, squirming my way into a wetsuit and waddling around in a heavy air tank, while people in bikinis lathered on more sunscreen and kids cannon-balled around me. When we reached the dive site and the engine stopped, the little boat bobbed up and down and I would have given anything to be back doing laps in the pool. My stomach churned round like a tumble dryer, while the first couple of divers strapped themselves into air tanks. The two of them were Real Divers – qualified and experienced but behind their masks they looked like two startled kittens about to be thrown in the bath. I, on the other hand, needed to get into the water, or I was going to be sick everywhere.
The waves threw me around as I swam to the dive-marker at the front of the boat and I could feel nausea pulsing behind my nose. ‘It’s happened before,’ our instructor had said in her merry New Zealand accent back on the boat, ‘people have been sick underwater. You just have to blow the chunks out through your regulator. I wouldn’t recommend it though.’ Continue reading