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digits1981

South Pacific and a world of choices

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Hi all,

 

Am new to this forum and diving but my wife and I are planning on spending a year backpacking through the South Pacific and Asia. We're probably going to start in the South Pacific in February or so and spend 2 months there. Besides certain places we may go for cultural reasons, some advice about MUST SEE dive spots would be wonderful. We can really attempt to get anywhere and would like to go to some spots that are perhaps less visited.

 

These are the locations I have higlighted as preliminary choice locations:

 

Cook Islands

Easter Island(more for historic and cultural interest)

Fiji*

French Polynesia*

New Caledonia

Samoa(cultural)

Solomon Islands

Tonga

Vanuatu*

Micronesia

- Chuuk Lagoon

- Yap*

Marshall Islands

Palau*

 

* Denotes that I have it down as a necessary place to visit.

 

It seems like a lot of places looking at it and it would probably be more desirable to stay in fewer longer than more for less time.

 

We're also planning on doing one live-aboard trip but have reserved that for the GBR I think. Also would like to to some diving in Indonesia and the Phillipines.

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Cheers and thanks in advance to anyone with recommendations. :D

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Not sure how much sight seeing you'll get in Chuuk - it's mainly under water.

From my travells you have left off southern highlands of PNG - Huli Wig men and also the Baliem Valley of Irian Jaya. May also want to look at Torajaland, Central Suluwesi.

 

For a live aboard, you'll get top diving at best cost in Indonesia, east of Komodo National Park

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you will also spend the same amount of money in French Polynesia in a week as you'd spend in a month in Indonesia...

 

If you are around tonga/tahiti in sept/october it might be worth a trip for the humpback whales, otherwise save your cash and sanity for the cheaper areas that are just as good.

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We're also planning on doing one live-aboard trip but have reserved that for the GBR I think.

I can highly recommend Undersea Explorer for this. I have done 5 trips with them and thoroughly enjoyed every one - and will go back again.

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I wouldn't bother with cook islands for diving. Its nice but just not really world class.

 

I visited Rangiroa in FP and there is nothing to see on land and really only two dive sites but wow the diving is great. Every dive there were 50-100 grey reef sharks + on various dives dolphins, mantas , silvertips

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Cook Islands

Easter Island(more for historic and cultural interest)

Fiji*

French Polynesia*

New Caledonia

Samoa(cultural)

Solomon Islands

Tonga

Vanuatu*

Micronesia

- Chuuk Lagoon

- Yap*

Marshall Islands

Palau*

Indonesia*

Papua NG(Definitely want to go culturally)

 

Okay, added Indonesia. While we are planning to go there for sure, I don't have a guide book for Indonesia yet and was only including places listed in the South Pacific guide book I have.

 

I put a strike to a few places we want to go for reasons other than diving. Now the ones left standing without strike-through are just diving related. The Great Barrier Reef is now questionable in my mind as I'm wondering if we should just do a live-aboard in Indonesia instead because the prices are brilliant there compared to the GBR.

 

Thanks for everyone's input and I'm sure this process of whittling down the list will have a few more edits.

 

Any more suggestions for places to go or not go would be wonderful. :D

Edited by digits1981

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Hi again,

 

Just to confuse matters further..

 

I think French Polynesia is one of the best places for diving with sharks and big stuff in the world when you have good weather and the correct season (i was there for almost 2 years)

 

However, there are serious downsides..

 

1. - The French - I have lots of French and Tahitian friends out there, but just as when you (probably) visited France as a small boy, if you don't speak the lingo you will get crap service and inflated prices. My intention is not to stereotype, just something i noticed, even the Tahitians used to joke about it.

 

2 is the cost - it's outrageous. A small 1 hour flight is probably $3-500US (unless you or the mrs is under 25) as you dont want to stay in Tahiti for your entire time. For small guest house room with no aircon you are talking $100 per person per night in Rangiroa - the same standard of room in Bali will cost about $20 and be in much nicer surroundings. Same applies for Diving, food, drinks etc...

 

For a long term trip i think you can get equally enjoyable dives/sunset/culture/beaches elsewhere for a lot less money, and the local Hinano beer is terrible too!

 

If you do decide to go to French Polynesia i would hope you dont regret it, but if you do Easter island is well worth a visit.

 

A lot f the wetpixel members have galleries on their websites with pictures from the locations you are thinking about, have a poke around and see what you like the look of.

 

The GBR can be a bit of a tourist trap if you end up on some of the bigger day boats etc. Up at cape tribulation is beautiful on the land, but for diving around Cairns you can probably find equal or better elsewhere in the places on your list.

 

Cor and Julie spend a lot of time in the Solomons, i'll grab their link for you now. EDIT: http://underwa.ter.net/

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Cor and Julie spend a lot of time in the Solomons, i'll grab their link for you now. EDIT: http://underwa.ter.net/

 

 

Wow, those Photos are amazing!!! Some of the most gorgeous I've ever seen.

 

I think we've cut French Polynesia from our list...it does seem quite pricey and my wife and I are no gluttons of luxury and I am more of a culture seeker than a luxury person. I think we're also going to maybe end up skipping the GBR in lieu of a live-aboard in Indonesia instead.

 

Plane tickets are pricey enough for sure and any cheaper ways to get access to what's nice and native is more pleasing for us.

 

Thanks for the comments once again. I think our list looks like this now:

 

Cultural

Easter Island(more for historic and cultural interest)

Samoa(cultural)

Papua NG(Definitely want to go culturally)

Tonga

 

Diving

Fiji*

Vanuatu*

Micronesia

- Chuuk Lagoon

- Yap*

Palau*

Indonesia*

 

Keep or Cut?

New Caledonia

Solomon Islands

Marshall Islands

 

We are going to many other places in SE Asia, but only after we've done some traveling in Japana, China, and a few other places so I've not included them in this list. I hope this list I have going is about right...it seems much nicer now and I think we'll probably end up cropping a few more names.

 

Anyone have an opinion of the last three on the list under "Keep or Cut?"

 

Thanks in advance again.

Edited by digits1981

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something you might want to think about...

 

You can only fly to Easter Island via Chile or Tahiti...

 

You can fly to Tahiti on Air NZ from LA, Rarotonga, and NZ direct. Air NZ also fly from Rarotonga to Fiji. Fiji to Tonga is a cheap flight on a local airline.

 

You can fly direst to Sydney and New York now from Tahiti if you chose to use it as a hub to get to the other islands.

 

Hawaiian also flies to many destinations in the South Pacific.

 

Continental service Micronesia in the most part, although there are some other airlines running from Japan/Philippines.

 

You can fly from Guam to Yap/Palau and you can fly to Guam from Bali.

I would guess that the Marshalls are accessed from Guam.

 

Not sure how to get to the Solomons, but i think it would involve Brisbane and/or Vanuatu, maybe fiji.

 

PNG is accessed by Australia and maybe Singapore, not sure where else.

 

 

What you are planning is a logistical nightmare!! Im not sure on the accuracy of what ive put there, but it's just to give you an idea

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something you might want to think about...

 

You can only fly to Easter Island via Chile or Tahiti...

 

You can fly to Tahiti on Air NZ from LA, Rarotonga, and NZ direct. Air NZ also fly from Rarotonga to Fiji. Fiji to Tonga is a cheap flight on a local airline.

 

You can fly direst to Sydney and New York now from Tahiti if you chose to use it as a hub to get to the other islands.

 

Hawaiian also flies to many destinations in the South Pacific.

 

Continental service Micronesia in the most part, although there are some other airlines running from Japan/Philippines.

 

You can fly from Guam to Yap/Palau and you can fly to Guam from Bali.

I would guess that the Marshalls are accessed from Guam.

 

Not sure how to get to the Solomons, but i think it would involve Brisbane and/or Vanuatu, maybe fiji.

 

PNG is accessed by Australia and maybe Singapore, not sure where else.

What you are planning is a logistical nightmare!! Im not sure on the accuracy of what ive put there, but it's just to give you an idea

 

Yes, I know. I'm not planning on planning these flights personally. It's too much to deal with actually and I'm happy to pay others to do it. I have been checking out www.airtreks.com and for a ridiculous amount of stops, about 20, including starting in New York and going to Belize and Mexico and then on to the South Pacific, through the S. Pacific up to Japan and ending up in Korea, it's about $10k. If we can average a flight price of $500 which includes one trans-pacific flight and Easter Island which is way out of the way is included, then I'd find that fair. I'll have to research it more and get actual prices as that is an estimate, but it's really not terrible for about 4 months of travel and that many flights.

 

I'm hoping to do some overland travel in Indonesia and the Phillipines.

 

Cheers

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If there is one thing I would add, after having being travelling for 6 months twice is twofold:

 

1) Don't underestimate how long you will want to be places as the longer you spend somewhere usually the longer you want to spend there.

 

2) Don't be too rigid (make sure you can change things) as you will find you hate some places and love others.

 

You sound like you are planning a hell of a lot, even in a year.

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If there is one thing I would add, after having being travelling for 6 months twice is twofold:

 

1) Don't underestimate how long you will want to be places as the longer you spend somewhere usually the longer you want to spend there.

 

2) Don't be too rigid (make sure you can change things) as you will find you hate some places and love others.

 

You sound like you are planning a hell of a lot, even in a year.

 

I totally agree. The South Pacific is really going to be the most rigid part just due to the fact that we do have to fly everywhere...but I think if we allot 3-4 months for those areas we will spend a good enough amount of time in each place that even if we do have to leave due to scheduling, we can at least know that we researched places and stayed long enough to see them and do what we were there for...I know what you're talking about.

 

We've sort of went from caring about going to quite a few places to really wanting to make sure we visit the ones that are going to be the most memorable...that's hard though because there are so many wonderful sounding places to go.

 

That said, once we end up in Korea we're going to travel probably overland for almost all of the trip from then on before departing India some year later. We had originally thought about flying some of the legs as my wife gets car and bus sick but that's almost too impossible to figure out. At least in the South Pacific we can pick diving and cultural points and just allot a week to two weeks per location depending on how interesting it sounds and hope that our timing is right.

 

Thanks for your words and I agree. I do have yet to find a place that I hate...quiet and/or beach days can keep me going for months as I'm a reaad-a-holic....pretty laid back traveler so I can deal with the bad and live with it for the short period of time that we'll have to if we end up somewhere rather unlovely.

 

Cheers and thanks.

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I know this might sound silly - but for this much south pacific travel, have you looked into "working" as a deckhand on a sailing yacht or boat? You can get basically free travel all over the south pacific, but it's hard work.

 

James

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If you go to Tonga, give diving a try there. I spent two years there as a Peace Corps vol, and the diving/snorkeling were often really great and the beaches usually empty. And if you're there in "winter" (May-October) you may get to dive or swim with humpback whales, as the creator of this website got to do. I'd spend as little time as possible on Tongatapu, especially since a pro-democracy march last year ended up sparking a riot that burned down a lot of the business district. Head to Ha'apai and Vava'u. Ha'apai is mostly small, flat little sandy islands, many of which have really nice beaches that you will have all to yourself. I lived in Ha'apai for two years, got out to a lot of the outermost islands (including Kao and Tofua), and I still miss the ease of life there. Vava'u is very different in that you have to make more of an effort to get out of town and find the beach, but the town itself (Neiafu) has much more in the way of restaurants and tourist infrastructure. And if you do get into the idea of hopping on a yacht and crewing your way around the Pacific, Vava'u is a major stopover for the yachties.

 

Here's the dive operator that's up and running in Ha'apai these days:

http://www.tonga-dive.com/bookings.htm

It appears that the Tongan economy and rising fuel prices have caused the price of diving to go way up, but there are some really nice sites in Ha'apai that very few people have been to, and again, you may get to see some whales.

 

PM me if you have any other questions about Tonga. I haven't been there in six years, but I got to know it and the people very well, and I'm always happy to talk about the place.

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The GBR can be a bit of a tourist trap if you end up on some of the bigger day boats etc. Up at cape tribulation is beautiful on the land, but for diving around Cairns you can probably find equal or better elsewhere in the places on your list.

Which was why I recommended Undersea Explorer. This boat goes to the Ribbon Reefs and the Coral Sea which are well beyond the limits of the day boats. The boat is also a research vessel and so is far from being a tourist boat.

 

They also do a far northern trip to Raine Island where they catch and tag tiger sharks. I plan to do this trip soon.

 

A group of mates and I are looking at where we'll go for our 2008 dive trip. I am having trouble finding anything that comes close to the value of UE - or at least does as many dives. Most of the trips we've looked at will only do 8-10 dives in a week. On UE we do 22 dives in 6.5 days (4 dives a day).

Edited by ATJ

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My 1 cent:

Check out Circle Pacific Fares... often have great deals and you get all of the major spots in the south pacific.

As for destinations, it really depends on what you want to do. You also have to look at the time you'll be there and what attractions are available at the time. I would check for weather during that period. For instance, Feb - Apr is still cyclone season for parts of the south pacific, which means it's low season and cheaper to go but if you have crap luck, you would be sitting through a very wet beach.

While Tonga is awesome for humpbacks, that's only from June to Oct, not Feb to May which is your travel plan.

As a destination, Tahiti is a great place. But if you are on a budget and just want a beach to read, Asia is the cheaper place to do it in.

Btw the south pacific islands doesn't really include Indonesia, especially since more of it's islands are closer to the Indian Ocean. :ninja:

However, since you threw it in, the pelagic life in Indonesian waters is decidedly lacking in many areas. There are a few areas like Komodo and Raja Empat where there are still some pelagics schools but once you see the pelagics in Palau and the other pacific destinations, you'll go ... errr why? What Indonesia does offer is marine biodiversity that is off the scale. Reefs that are covered in very many different species. Same for the Philippines. I would recommend doing Philippines and Indonesia with land based diving(especially in Bali and Sulawesi in Indo and Cebu and the Batangas region in PI) and consider either Komodo or PNG for your liveaboard experience.

Going back to the south pacific, of your list of keep or cut, the Solomons is a nice dive destination. Off Gizo, there are WWII wrecks and nice sites to dive on. But you'll see plenty of wrecks in Micronesia. You'd also probably access it from Australia so you can see if you feel like another island location after Vanuatu, Fiji and the others on your must do list. The same for New Caledonia. You'll find decent fares from Australia anyhow, better than anything you'd get from the US. So wait til you get there. The Marshall Islands is one that has to be planned, esp if you want to dive those deep wrecks off Kwajalien. If you are not qualified to dive deep wrecks, it's not really that interesting to go there in my opinion.

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Thanks all. We're still digging through information. Objectives are obviously to see as much for as little as possible. It seems like choosing a core group of locations in the South Pacific will be best and then we can do more traveling overland in Indonesia and the Phillipines which will cut back significantly on flights as will a live-aboard in Sulawesi or Komodo versus the GBR.

 

We will probably end up with 15 flights in 10 countries for 4 months and that will be about perfect I think what we expect to pay and see.

 

 

I think the list stands at something like this:

 

Cultural

Easter Island(more for historic and cultural interest)

Samoa(cultural)

Papua NG(Definitely want to go culturally)

Tonga

 

 

Diving

Fiji*

Vanuatu*

Micronesia

- Chuuk Lagoon

- Yap*

Palau*

Indonesia*

 

We've discussed replacing Easter Island with Galapagos as they're both pretty far out of our way flying from Los Angeles in the first place.

 

Thanks again all.

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Well then you should consider the ONE WORLD round the world ticket. It's in segments rather than miles and LAN CHILE will cover you from Chile down to Isla da Pascua and Tahiti. Then you can get from Tahiti to Oz on Qantas and track to PNG, Tonga, Vanuatu and Fiji. Then move to Indonesia and Philippines before hitting Micronesia via Manila on CONMIKE.

Best of all, you should get about 45-50k miles doing this trip and thus get 2 pcs of luggage more to lug. :)

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hitting Micronesia via Manila on CONMIKE.

 

:):)

 

he spells it with a U

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Okay, just in case anyone is interested, our plans have grown quite quickly due to a number of reasons:

 

Tonga

Fiji

Vanuatu

Solomon Islands

Indonesia

 

2nd Leg

Micronesia

- Chuuk Lagoon

- Yap

Palau

 

Once we hit Indonesia we're going to do some overland travel for a while before hitting Micronesia on our way up to Japan. For now, we're only buying a packaged ticket involving the first 5 places. Cut out quite a bit to get our ticket price down and places like Tonga and Fiji look like we can get a pretty large variety of experience out of them and might as well spend a bit more time somewhere nice than hopping around too much.

 

Thanks for everyone's help.

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If you're going to be in Tonga for a few weeks, it would be smart to talk with Peace Corps volunteers and see if they can get you in on some stuff like faikavas (kava drinking) or trips to places like Kao and Tofua, which are volcanoes in the Ha'apai group but tough to get to. Getting out there was without a doubt the highlight of my two years in Ha'apai, but you need a pretty big boat to do it safely. Be sure to spend a day or two on Uoleva, which is the uninhabited (except for a few people) island just south of Lifuka, the main island in Ha'apai. The southwest tip of Uoleva is one of the prettiest spots in Tonga, and there's often eagle rays, white-tip reef sharks, and turtles cruising by the wall there.

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I know this is a mostly diving related trip (at least the S. Pacific portion), but I'm noticing that New Zealand is missing from the cultural list. Its a lot different from all the other islands that you'll be travelling to, and might be nice to trade coconut palms for tree ferns.

 

There is diving here, and cultural stuff as well. I'm just offering up another option. Auckland International Airport can also serve as a base to get to Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Oz.

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Thanks a lot for the Tonga tips. They will definitely be taken into account. Looks like a wonderful spot, excited about going.

 

RE: NZ, I spent 2 months hitch-hiking and backpacking there about 5 years ago and love love love the islands. Would move there in a hot second if it weren't so far from family and Europe where we're aiming to move as is. Anyway, my wife hasn't been but I feel that NZ is at least a 2 month journey and I'd almost feel bad spending less time than that there as silly as it sounds. That being said, I would assume that some of the flights we book will require us to land in Auckland and fly out of there at least once and I wouldn't be opposed to spending one or even two nights in that area, but anything more would make me drool at the chance of heading back down to the South Island or going on a trek. See, now you even have me wanting to go more!

 

Thanks for the advice. :blush:

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Thanks a lot for the Tonga tips. They will definitely be taken into account. Looks like a wonderful spot, excited about going.

 

Can you not squeeze Samoa back on the list? When we were living in NZ we went for a w/end and it was awesome. The diving wasn't great - but it was good - we saw an electric flame scallop. LOVED the people there - we did a clean-up with the local scuba shop and the village kids, when we had finished they then all sang happy birthday to my boyfriend in Samoan. Very cool. (that was all on Savaii). Also some great resturants on the main island.

 

For Tonga - bare in mind if you are a light sleeper, cockerels are EVERYWHERE. Nice, but very noisy and they all wake up at different times. Take ear plugs (or defenders!). There's a great place to stay run by a german woman & her tongan husband in va'vau. (can find the name if you are interested). Eat the food it's great. And you can take one of their kayaks over to this island where a crazy man lives who told us he was one of the clash. as in the band. And Pink stays there (along with any other band you can remember). Nice guy though. On Hapai there is a GREAT (cannot recommend it enough) 'resort' at the end of the island near the big american resort. It's run by two aussies who are great and we always ended us sitting about after dinner drinking and chatting. Worth getting up at 4/5 am to catch the sunrise. Snorkelling off the beach here is great - take a rope, a kayak, a snorkel and mask and kayak out (watch the current). Kayaks can also be used to kayak surf the waves as they break on the island within view of the resort... easy to lose a few hours here.

 

Now i want to go on your trip. :)

 

Chrissie

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My wife and I have been all the places you're looking at and I have three recommendations:

 

1. (Not diving related): Go buy "Happy Isles of Oceania (Paddling the Pacific)" by Paul Theroux. Read it before you go... (excellent if not a little jaded travelogue of traveling through several of these spots)

 

2. (Not diving related): Find a book on the Polynesia diaspora across the pacific and the ancient wayfinding techniques they used to sail these vast distances. University of Hawaii Press has several good ones... (this is the best way to get an understanding of how all the people east of Fiji are related...)

 

3. (Diving related): The destinations you've listed are good, but they represent where the vast majority of divers go (mostly for good reason). I would add Samoa back on the list, and I would seriously consider Easter Island, the Marquesas, and Christmas Island (Kiribati) if I had the time... these all offered some of best diving we've ever done, and you will truly be off the beaten track for most of these.

 

"Journey doesn't begin until your lost..."

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