Category Archives: THE 3S

PACIFIC ISLANDS BY ANDREW RAYNER

Pacific Islands. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Andrew Rayner, the author of a wonderful book called ‘Reach for Paradise’, gives his recommendations.

Visit The Marquesas Islands

The Marquesas Islands are stupendous and unspoilt. The high Pacific island of the imagination is here, spectacular scenery, untrodden beaches, ruined cities, mountain spires, and people recovering their culture after the devastation of white man’s diseases and colonial rule. Should it be lagoons you seek, consider the New Georgia area of the Solomons, whose huge areas of reefs and islands and villages scattered through the lagoons of Marovo and Vona Vona are unsurpassed. And for atolls, dream of the Tuamotos. Vast rings of rock with coconut fringed beaches surrounding seas of astounding coral. The narrow passes through which 500 square miles of water oxygenate with the tides nurse a true kaleidoscope of life.

Snorkel the coral

I believe nothing on land is as beautiful. Coral damage is so far local, usually the result of run-off from the land. Everywhere swim, snorkel, and dive if you can. Undersea life is so prolific in the islands of PNG that there must be countless as yet unnamed shells, sponges, fishes. Seek out nudibranchs, nature’s exhibitionists.

Attend the dancing, listen to the music, and talk story with the people

And, I’d add, whatever one’s religious views, go to church. In these ways one can start to be part of this mysterious Blue Continent and perhaps soak up a little of its mana.

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SAMOA BY SIENI A.M.

Samoa. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Sieni A.M., the author of ‘Illumine Her’ and ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’, gives her recommendations.

Visit Namua Island

If you want a true departure from the rigors of life, then this is the place to go. A short boat ride from Upolu (and if you’re lucky you’ll see turtles skimming the ocean floor), you’ve reached the island where beach fale dot the sandy banks furnished simply with comfortable foam mattresses, pillows, and mosquito nets. Dusk is my favorite time of the day because there’s no electricity. Lanterns are instead provided and the only sounds are those of the waves crashing on the beach. Breakfasts and dinners are prepared by the family caretakers, and other than a few fellow solitude seekers, you pretty much have the island to yourself. In the daytime, you can hike up a trail that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and spot dolphins, swim in the water, or read in the fale where the breeze is always blowing. Anything that combines nature with reading is my ideal form of escape.

Enjoy High Tea at the Plantation House

For a unique experience that combines the vibrancy, flair, and hospitality of the Pacific together with the etiquette, polish, and culture of English high tea set against a tropical backdrop, the Plantation House at Alafua offers this and much more. The hostess, Marita Wendt, will welcome you warmly and set about making your visit a truly enjoyable one. Perfect for intimate gatherings, bridal showers or a simple mother-daughter date, it’s also the ideal place to throw on that pretty dress and take a significant other or overseas guest to. Afterwards, a browse through the boutique will make you want to refurbish your entire home (and wardrobe).

Visit Baha’i Temple

Nestled in the cool mountains of Tiapapata and away from the busyness of town, this place of worship is one of seven around the world and is known as the Mother Temple of the Pacific. Open to everyone regardless of religion, social status, or ethnicity, and built on acres of lush land with views of the Pacific Ocean and tropical rainforests, the surrounding gardens and peacefulness lend a reverent quality and spiritually uplifting experience to someone who wants to reflect, meditate, and pray. For temple services, anyone is welcome to attend them on Sundays at 10 am.

PACIFIC ISLANDS BY GWENDA CORNELL

Pacific Islands. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Gwenda Cornell, the author of an amazing memoir called ‘Pacific Odyssey’, gives her recommendations.

Visit The Marquesas Islands

In my opinion these are the most beautiful islands in the Pacific. I did not visit them during that first voyage as we dipped south via Easter Island, Pitcairn and Mangareva on the way to Tahiti. I have visited them on several occasions since both by air and by boat. Their rugged peaks and lush vegetation cannot be surpassed anywhere in the world. Make sure to take some walks inland and discover old tikis and maraes among the tropical forest.

Visit Tuvalu

The islands of Tuvalu were one of our favourite places, but they are now one of those places threatened by rising sea waters and have much changed. But still try and see them before they disappear completely.

Visit islands that do not have airstrips

If you are sailing in the Pacific any of the islands that do not have an airstrip or have little communications with the outside world are the most interesting to visit. Often because they get few visitors they always extend a warm welcome to those who make the effort to get there. Make sure you have something you can give in return, whether it is some gift or a service if you have some special qualifications. It might just be repairing a broken outboard engine or supplying some needed medicines. The northern Cook Islands, parts of Vanuatu or the Trobriand islands are some of such places.

VANUATU BY RICHARD SHEARS

Vanuatu. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Richard Shears, a well-known British journalist and the author of a fantastic book called ‘The Coconut War: Vanuatu and the Struggle for Independence’ gives his recommendations.

Visit Mount Yasur, Tanna Islands

Vanuatu in recent years has lost much of its traditional way of life, so I think it would be valuable for people to try to experience that which is left. Of course some things are ‘immovable’ – so I would certainly suggest a visit to the active volcano on Tanna, which is the only volcano in the world where tourists can stand on the actual rim and look down into its interior.

Watch the land divers of Pentecost Island

While these are tourist activities, it is also quite a sight to watch the land divers of Pentecost, the Vanuatu version of bungee jumping!

Trek into the interior of Santo

An organised trek into the interior of Santo is also an experience to be enjoyed for those who are prepared to battle the humidity, heat and the mosquitoes. And depending on the time of the year, it can also be quite cold.

FIJI BY MICHAEL BLAHUT

Fiji. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Michael Blahut, one of the authors of ‘Bula Pops!: A Memoir of a Son’s Peace Corps Service in the Fiji Islands’ gives his recommendations.

Visit Taveuni Island

It is the third largest island in Fiji. We flew there via Nadi airport, an experience in itself. We travelled this island from one end to the other, and you can do this by hitchhiking or taking a bus. The bus rides are fun too. They go everywhere. We went to Lavena and the Bouma National Heritage Park, where there’s a beautiful waterfall to go swimming in.

Fly down a natural waterslide, Taveuni Island

There is also a natural water slide on this island made of rock that is very slippery. Fun to ride but a bit rough on the butt. Just ask people, and they will point you in the right direction.

Go snorkeling along the reefs, Taveuni Island

Taveuni is also a great place to go snorkeling along the reefs. The fish and reefs are breathtaking. You just have to come early – before dusk – as the sharks begin to move in, we are told. We stayed at a small primitive resort that was comfortable and friendly. They let us stay there until the ship came in.

FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA BY JONATHAN GOURLAY

Federated States of Micronesia. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Jonathan Gourlay, the author of ‘Nowhere Slow: Eleven Years in Micronesia’ gives his recommendations.

Visit Nan Madol

If you have made it to Pohnpei, you will see the ruins of the ancient city of Nan Madol. Anyone with even a passing interest in Oceania will have heard of it. Nan Madol hasn’t quite captured the imagination the way that Easter Island has, but that’s okay. It just means that Nan Madol is less-traveled. The best way to get the full impression of Nan Madol is to tour the ruin’s many waterways in a kayak. (The usual tour also involves a trip to some nearby waterfalls and a coral atoll. All-in-all, a good day out.)

Visit Sakau Markets

The easiest place to sample Pohnpeian sakau (a kava drink made from pepper root) is at one of the local markets (‘market’ really means ‘bar’). I prefer markets in Kitti on the south side of the island and away from the main town of Kolonia. In Kitti the markets are usually on the side of the road, so you get the added entertainment of being able to watch traffic. Markets are the best place to meet and talk with Pohnpeians in a relaxed atmosphere. Just don’t blame me for what may happen in your stomach after a night of sakau.

Visit The Cloud Forest

The mountainous interior of Pohnpei is incredibly lush. It’s one of the rainiest places on earth. It’s so humid that even without rain you feel like you can drink the air. Get a guide to show you the many waterfalls or even do an overnight hike across the island. Your guide should be able to relate / make up some awesome legends about all the various topographical features. When you’re done with the hike, go snorkeling on one of the atolls that encircle the island. Then go get drunk at a sakau market. If you do this and it wasn’t one of the most intensely colorful days of your life then you lead a much more colorful life than I do.

PACIFIC ISLANDS BY GRAEME LAY

Pacific Islands. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Graeme Lay, the author of ‘The Miss Tutti Frutti Contest’ as well as several other books set in the Blue Continent, gives his recommendations.

Hike over the hills of Pitcairn Island

It’s a small but very rugged island, and the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean are sublime. The whole ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ story is bound up in the island’s history too, and there are many relics of the mutiny to see there today. It’s a fascinating place and the people are marvelously friendly. All 57 of them! Pitcairn is hard to get to, but well worth the effort.

Drive or cycle around Rarotonga

The coast road or the inland road provide constantly changing views, of the lagoon and the mountains of the interior. There are lots of great places to stop off at along the way, too, for a snack, a coffee, a fresh coconut drink or a beer. I’ve followed the roads around Rarotonga many times and never tire of them. Invariably I end up at the bar of Trader Jack’s, on the Avarua waterfront, one of the great ‘watering holes’ of the South Pacific.

Visit the markets of the islands, such as the ones in Apia (Samoa), Avarua (Rarotonga) or Papeete (Tahiti)

The goods for sale, whether it’s fresh fruit and fish or snack food or souvenirs such as black pearls or pareu, are always great to sample or buy. The market in Papeete is enormous and sells everything you could possibly want. The food vans on Papeete’s waterfront, a short walk away, provide great places to dine cheaply while watching the sun go down over the lagoon.

GUAM BY TANYA TAIMANGLO

Guam. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Tanya Taimanglo, a well-known Chamorro author of such books as ‘Attitude 13: A Daughter of Guam’s Collection of Short Stories’ and ‘Secret Shopper’, gives her recommendations.

Visit the Sirena Statue

Located in the capital of Guam, Hagåtña, it is the embodiment of the legend I am most fond of. I mention it in the first short story of my collection, ‘Resurfacing’. I also have a children’s book I released in 2010 dedicated to this mermaid legend, with illustrations by my brother, Sonny Chargualaf.

Visit Inarajan

A good friend, mentor and renowned artist on Guam, Judy Selk Flores has dedicated herself to restoring and maintaining Chamorro Culture. She created a History Center formerly known as the G. Flores store. She has nurtured its restoration and culture ebbs and flows there now. There is also a wonderful cultural tour I want to experience, called Gef Pa’go Cultural Village. Visiting the southern part of the island will never disappoint.

Spend Wednesday at the Chamorro Village

The night market in the heart of Hagåtña is a Mecca of culture. Food, art and dancing. I’ve been able to attend in the past, and can’t wait to see how it’s grown.

COOK ISLANDS BY KATHY GIUFFRE

Cook Islands. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Kathy Giuffre, the author of ‘An Afternoon in Summer’, gives her recommendations.

Visit The Beachcomber Gallery

This is a terrific art gallery right in town in Avarua. There is black pearl jewelry and lots of crafts form local craftspeople. It is also a great place to see some of the best of the local artists’ work, including paintings, sculpture and tivaevae. Some artists have studios at the beachcomber, so sometimes they can come chat with you about their work or you can go out to the studios and watch some of the pearl carvers at work.

Do the Cross Island Trek with Pa

Hiking across the whole island and going into the very steep, rugged interior with a guide who knows so much of the lore and history of the island.Along with being a true expert on all facets of traditional life in the Cooks, Pa is a warm and friendly guide who is happy to help interested people find out more about the island and to explore the nature and the culture of the island. A lot of the activities for tourists center around the beaches, so this is a great chance to get to see another aspect of Rarotonga.

Visit one of the outer islands, like Aitutaki

This really gives you a chance to get away from it all and get the feel for what the Cooks were like fifty years ago. There are flights pretty much every day from Rarotonga to Aitutaki (book in the office at the airport) and you can go for the day, leaving on the early morning flight and coming back in the evening. Or you can stay for a while – there are hotels for every price range on the island and the lagoon at Aitutaki is often mentioned by those who know as being one of the most beautiful places in the world. Amazing snorkeling!

MARSHALL ISLANDS BY PETER RUDIAK-GOULD

Marshall Islands. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Peter Rudiak-Gould, the author of ‘Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island’, gives his recommendations.

Visit Ejit Island, Majuro Atoll

This is a small island just by Majuro, the country’s capital city. It is a unique place, being the home of many of those displaced from Bikini Atoll by nuclear testing in the 40s. As everywhere in the country, people are friendly, but it is best to dress modestly, not take photos of people without their permission, and always say ‘yokwe!’ (hello) rather than looking like you’re sneaking around. Getting there is fun. Consult a tide table to make sure that you’re walking at low tide. Then walk or take a taxi to the end of Rita neighborhood (the far end of the island that the capital city is on). You can walk on the reef at low tide without getting your feet wet! Walk towards the next (very small) uninhabited island, then the next one, and then you’ll get to Ejit. Make sure that you walk back to Majuro before the tide comes up. When the tide is medium or high, it will be very dangerous to try to wade or swim back to Majuro. In a pinch you could ask nicely to catch the next small boat back to Majuro, but they depart irregularly and are not commercial boats.

Visit Arno village, Arno Atoll

This is a beautiful community that gives you a flavor of outer island living without requiring a lot of planning and logistics. You can take a boat from right by the RRE Hotel in Majuro. You’ll go through Majuro lagoon and out of the artificial channel on the south into the wide open ocean. Get a sense of what ancient (and modern!) Marshallese seafarers braved when they set sail. About an hour later you’ll arrive on Arno. There is a guest house that you can stay in. Explore the lagoon beach. The water is unusually choppy for a lagoon (Arno means ‘lagoon wave’), but it’s still very pleasant for a swim. The atoll is so large that you’ll see the curve of the lagoon beach disappearing in the distance; very beautiful. The island is quite thick here (about 1 mile) so you can explore quite a large swath of jungle. (Don’t worry about getting lost. Just head in any direction until you hear the sound of waves!)

Visit Leb Island

Difficult to get to, but well worth the visit. Leb is a single island rather than an atoll, and is much higher in elevation (though still very low!) compared to other islands in the country. Only about 100 people live here. An unusual feature of the island is the large (semi-)freshwater lake in the middle, which used to be a saltwater lagoon until the channels were naturally filled in over time, walling it in and turning it into a lake. There are beautiful mangrove trees fringing the lake on one of its sides. People are very friendly and they don’t get a lot of visitors. It’s only accessible by a chartered boat from Kwajalein or on the ‘field trip’ ships that goes around the country buying and selling copra (coconut meat) and transporting people. That is a huge adventure in itself! If you do go to Leb, ask for someone in Majuro or Kwajalein who has a connection there, and ask their permission and ask if you ought to radio the island first. There’s no guesthouse, restaurant, stores, or anything of the sort on Leb, so bring plenty of gifts (practical things like rice, flour, coffee, sugar, etc.) and ask to stay with a family.