Start Planning a South Pacific Escape
Most of the island nations in the South Pacific have been successful in controlling
the threat of Covid-19. There are strict measures in place to prevent transmission of the virus from tourism. As vaccination rates increase worldwide, it is time to plan ahead for a trip to one of these destinations in paradise. Each South Pacific island has a uniqueness you won’t find anywhere else. Here are of some of tropical escapes your clients have been dreaming of while in quarantine.
Like most of the South Pacific, Fiji boasts sapphire waters, and the underwater life is so colorful. The culture here is as beautiful and welcoming as the scenery. Fijians always greet you with a hearty “Bula.” Customs like firewalking and kava ceremonies remain. Kava, a traditional drink in many South Pacific Islands, numbs your mouth, can give you a buzz, and tastes like muddy water. It is fun to participate in a kava ceremony at a native village. Food is steamed under a pile of leaves, and after lunch, everyone dances doing a sort of six-step-that’s six small steps forward arm and arm with a villager, and six steps back with repeats. Currently, all travelers need permission from the government of Fiji to enter. Strict health and testing requirements for Covid-19 are in place. www.fiji.travel
COVID cases have been detected in New Caledonia in the last year even though travel here is restricted and all arriving passengers are required to quarantine for 14 days. Currently, U.S. citizens are not permitted to enter, but this is a bucket-list destination once restrictions are lifted. Located west of Fiji, New Caledonia was once a French penal colony. How can living on an island with a verdant landscape and white sand beaches surrounded by the world’s largest lagoon be punishment? Add to that great diving and snorkeling. Check out the giant Kanak huts at the culture center – one is almost 92 feet high. If you are a hiker, trek the grassy trails of La Riviére Bleue Parc on the west side of the island. This lush area exhibits every imaginable shade of green and is home to the crested cagou, one of the world’s rarest birds. These flightless creatures amble alongside the road.
Travelers to Vanuatu will have to wait until borders open again, post the Covid-19 closure. This friendly, 80-island republic located northwest of Fiji has managed to keep cases to a minimum, and want to keep it that way. The former New Hebrides is where James Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific and where you will find glowing sunsets and a dazzling night sky with millions of stars. Port Vila, Efate, the capital, is a chockablock of bars, restaurants, souvenir and duty-free shops looking to reopen once tourism resumes. On Tanna Island, beautiful wild horses roam its dusty plains. You can stand on the edge of Yusar Volcano’s 490-foot deep crater as it spits and sputters sulfur smelling steam puffs. Or, visit the primitive tribe at Lacalanka Village. Tribesman are untouched by the modern world.
French Polynesia (Tahiti)
Heavily dependent on tourism, French Polynesia reopened its borders in July but then temporarily suspended travel again due to a rise in the number of cases of Covid-19. The President recently announced that the islands of Tahiti will reopen once again as of May 1, 2021.
The islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Raiatea and Huahine are picture perfect. No pollution, no crowds and an average air and water temperature of 79F. Who hasn’t dreamt of spending time in this land of swaying palms, soft breezes, mostly cloudless skies, jaw-dropping sunsets, white sand beaches and turquoise waters? The smell of jasmine seems to be everywhere. It doesn’t get better than this.
From Tahiti, you can travel to Easter Island (aka Rapi Nui). However, because of the current situation in Easter Island, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Easter Island. Tourists usually come to see the 887 moais, huge monoliths fashioned from stone with big eyes, protruding noses and thin lips. They vary in size but average about 14 feet high and weigh approximately 14 tons. Natives believed these statues protected them and the island’s many horses from harm. Most moais, 397 to be exact, are at Ronu Raku quarry. As you follow the winding paths more and more appear. Atop the quarry is a lovely volcanic lake. To see the 15 iconic moais that sit on a platform with their backs to the sea, visit Ahu Tongariki. www.easterislandtourism.com
As a Covid-free zone, the Cook Islands’ borders are closed to almost all travelers. Once travel resumes, visitors will be welcomed by low-keyed islanders who live by the motto, “Island time is whenever. After all, you are on vacation.” They are so mellow and their island so beautiful, it seems like they are on holiday, too. Encircling the main island, Rarotonga, is a pearl necklace-shaped reef. Snorkeling and diving are awesome. And, just feet from shore on the island of Aitutaki, beautiful coral, blue starfish and a host of undersea denizens abound. Since islanders align themselves to New Zealand, you can enjoy the tasty NZ wines at reasonable prices.