SURF’S UP: INDONESIA VS SAMOA
Rote isn’t exactly a secret for surfers, who make up most of the tourists on the island. Seasoned surfers will have heard of T-land (Besialu Reef), the more popular break on the island with three sections that can range from a smaller wave to one that tops two metres high.
The island is small, but landmass doesn’t affect its gnarly swells – after all, there’s a reason surfing champions have been known to live on the island. The stunning beaches and local culture add to the charm. Given its popularity with those looking to shred the swells, there are plenty of places to stay from hostels to resorts. The Malole Surf House is a simple, eco-friendly surf lodge located in popular Nemberala Beach, overlooking T-land.
The staff members can tell you all about the island’s best surf spots, and also run a fleet of boats that can take you there.
Top-notch surfing on a Pacific island with few other people sharing the waves. That’s what you get when you pack your bags and head for the Samoan island of Savai’i. It may be one of the largest islands in Samoa, but its shred is still somewhat free of line-ups. With a glistening aquamarine ocean and a coastline full of excellent spots to grab a board, you’ll struggle to decide where to start.
Our hot tip, though, is a trip to Aganoa Lodge. Situated within an hour’s drive of multiple surf spots, Barneys will be able to hang left in the lodge’s exclusive reef-sheltered beach, while more experienced surfers will be guided to the island’s hottest breaks, with a mixture of rights and lefts up to four metres.
DIVE INTO THE BLUE: MYANMAR VS NIUE
Dive into the depths of this virtually unknown archipelago just off the south coast of Myanmar and discover an underwater world – whale sharks, manta rays, turtles, rainbows of coral, an abundance of other marine life – that could give the Little Mermaid a run for her money.
Liveaboard boats are a popular way to experience the group of 800 islands, which are covered in dense jungle growth and surrounded by azure waters. From the small fish of High Rock, the tunnels of Stewart Island, nurse sharks of Shark Cave, and the famous site of Western Rocky, plus so much more, an eight-day trip with the Smiling Seahorse will offer you the opportunity to discover the undiscovered.
The unsuspecting island of Niue may not be the most well-known dot of land in the South Pacific, but for diving enthusiasts this is a watery playground not to be missed. Visibility is unrivalled – almost as far as a hundred metres in certain areas around the island – and these are considered some of the best conditions in the world.
The top diving spots to check out on Niue are the Limu Pools, the Matapa Chasm and the Dome, a favourite among locals and tourists alike. A sloping wall, two gullies and a large open cave form the popular site, and it’s a great location for first-timers or nervous divers to gain experience. A vibrant array of anemones, moray eels and flatworms reside in these waters, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to get in and explore if you’re game.
CULTURAL HOOPLA: THAILAND VS PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Naga Fireball Festival
A paranormal, other-worldly phenomenon or nothing more than a clever hoax? See for yourself at the Naga Fireball Festival, held in the Nong Khai province of Thailand, along the Mekong River.
The two-day festival takes place in October at the end of Buddhist Lent, when the intensity of the fireballs is said to be at its peak. Check out the long-boat racing, food fair and a light and sound presentation. The glowing fireballs appear at night and rise from the depths of the Mekong River into the air for hundreds of metres before suddenly disappearing. Many believe the fireballs come from Naga, a fabled serpent that lives in the water and shoots the orbs into the air to welcome Buddha back to earth after Lent. Skeptics say it’s nothing more than flammable phosphine gas rising from the river and spontaneously combusting. You be the judge.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Kenu and Kundu Festival
Held annually in Alotau, the Kenu and Kundu Festival celebrates the society and traditional culture of the locals. The festival binds together the history of these people with their modern existence. One of the main highlights of the festival is the traditional war canoe races. Other events include dances, drum performances, crafts and food.
This three-day cultural celebration shares the rich history of the Papua New Guinean people from this province. Visit and you’ll have the opportunity to engage with locals and immerse yourself in a vibrant and colourful display of history.
PARTY LIKE IT’S 1999: SINGAPORE VS FIJI
DJs, drinks and food surrounded by translucent waters? What more could you ask of an epic island party? Cloud 9 sits atop Ro Ro Reef within the Mamanuca Islands, just a boat ride away from Port Denarau. Don’t be fooled, this is no secluded hideaway, and the party’s popularity as grown over the past few years, but it’s too cool not to include. This floating bar hosts regular DJ sets and events, and is even open to private parties.
Between downing delicious cocktails and staring out to the horizon while lounging on a day bed, you can dive into the clear waters for a snorkel, jump on a jet ski, or dig into some delicious Italian wood-fire pizzas.
It’s the Ship
Get ready for one of Asia’s biggest parties. It’s The Ship sets sail on a round trip from Singapore to Phuket and back again for a three-night festival at sea. Have access to all the ship’s amenities including its 12 bars, seven eateries, an arcade, theatre, pools and plenty of parties in between. Past acts have included Sander van Doon, Big Shaq, Darude, Paul Van Dyk and Hot Dub Time Machine.
With so much to fit in, you’ll not want to head to bed (or have a memory blank).
WAVES OF WONDER: MALAYSIA VS VANUATU
Just because Deer Cave was recently stripped of its ‘world’s largest cave’ title (that honour now goes to Hang Son Doon in Vietnam), it doesn’t mean you should automatically cross it off your must-see list. Located in Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, it remains an incredible natural wonder. At more than two kilometres in length and up to 122 metres in height, the sheer enormity of it is impressive. Not surprisingly, its name, Deer Cave (Gua Rusa in Malaysian), comes from the native deer that would enter the cave for shelter and to lick the salt-bearing rocks.
A trip to the cave requires a three-kilometre ramble along a plank boardwalk that weaves through peat swamp, by limestone outcrops and past a sacred Penan tribe burial cave. Highlights inside include the Garden of Eden, a lush patch of thick vegetation that thrives thanks to a light-filled hole in the cave roof, and an uncanny side-on profile of Abraham Lincoln that’s carved into one of the cave’s skylights. Bring a torch and you can even stay for the mass bat exodus, when more than three million flying mammals leave the cave in search of food.
Along the northwest limestone coast of Vanuatu’s Tanna Island is the brilliant Blue Cave. A short boat ride will take you to the cave’s small, unsuspecting entry. Once inside you’ll discover the sun’s iridescent glow streaming through a hole in the roof, making the water glow a vibrant turquoise and illuminating the water and rock formations below. It’s all pretty special. If you’re a beginner swimmer, don’t worry – you will be able to get in providing you are able to put your head underwater. If you’re still nervous about having to go under the water, visit during low tide to give yourself the best chance of experiencing the cave.
Once you’ve finished exploring the inside, be sure to head to the cliff platforms outside and jump into the crystalline ocean waters to soak up even more of Vanuatu’s natural beauty.
THE TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT: LAOS VS SAMOA
Prepare to be impressed by Tad Yuang, a towering 40-metre waterfall that spills out of the Laos jungle in spectacular fashion. More specifically, it’s located on the Bolaven Plateau, which is slowly becoming more accessible to travellers. Local volunteers have worked tirelessly to create safer viewing platforms, and other amenities and stalls continue to pop up nearby.
A rather steep, slippery path winds its way down to the bottom of the falls, but it’s worth manoeuvring so you can cool off in the pool below and bask in the immense power of the surging twin torrents. There’s even a designated picnic area at the top, and quite a few walking tracks that lead deeper into the surrounding rainforest. Our tip? Get there super early or stick around until dusk when the crowds have dispersed, and you’re more likely to have the falls all to yourself.
When in Samoa, do as the great Samoan warriors of the past used to do and bathe in the crystal clear waters of the Togitogiga Waterfall. While the name might be difficult to say getting there isn’t, and the waterfall is conveniently situated just a few kilometres from Samoa’s first national park, O Le Pupu-Pue.
Overgrown tropical gardens, offering sweet relief from sun, encroach on the deep swimming holes that are fed by multiple cascading falls. The best time to visit is during the wet season, from November to April, when the falls are at capacity and the pools are primed for cannonballs into the blissfully cool waters below. Thanks to a recreation area, changing rooms and toilets, Togitogiga has been known to get busy, but if you can handle a few extra people splashing nearby, there’s really no better place to be on a hot Samoan day.
GROSS OUT: THAILAND VS TAHITI
Elephant dung coffee
It’s no secret coffee is one of the world’s most widely consumed beverages. And considering it seems that every second person nowadays is trying to whip up an iconic and delicious brew (blue algae coffee, anyone?), it’s no surprise some strange concoctions have popped up.
In Thailand, the current craze is elephant dung coffee. A herd of 20 elephants in northern Thailand is responsible for this taste sensation. Along with their normal diet of fruits, veggies and plants, these ellies also consume large quantities of coffee beans. They marinate in the stomachs of these huge creatures before being excreted the next day. The downside, other than knowing your coffee has passed through the bowels of an elephant, is that it’s actually one of the most expensive cups of joe in the whole world.
If you’re wanting to try some of the local cuisine in Tahiti, look no further. Fafaru is a dish ingrained in Polynesian culture, and is simply fish or shrimp that’s been marinated in fermented seawater. Sounds tasty, right?
Crushed prawns placed clean seawater then left to decompose. Once that’s done the water is strained ready to use as a marinade for fish, usually tuna. The longer it’s left, the stronger the flavour. If you can somehow manage to get past the smell, the fish is said to be deliciously tender. It’s usually served with another Polynesian delicacy known as miti hue, or fermented coconut pulp, creating a well-balanced meal that’s both sweet and salty. We suggest those with weak stomachs might want to steer well clear.
DIVING WITH GIANTS: PHILIPPINES VS TAHITI
Away from the chaos of the Philippines’ main dive spots in Oslob are the protected reefs of Tubbataha. With about a hundred hectares of stunning underwater sanctuary to explore, it’s the perfect spot to dive beneath the ocean’s surface and experience the majestic marine world that lies below.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, the sanctuary’s diversity of the marine life is astounding. Perhaps the most incredible creatures you’ll come across are the whale sharks, one of the largest fish species in the ocean. Given their exclusive diet of plankton, these spotted behemoths pose no risk to humans and are more than happy to share their watery home with us. Swimming side by side with these docile critters is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Hanging out in the depths of the warm Tahitian waters are some of the most magnificent sea creatures: mighty humpback whales. These calm beasts can reach up to 16 metres in length and weigh almost 30 metric tons.
Not unlike the whale sharks of the Philippines, the humpbacks survive on a diet of krill and other small fish and are unlikely to harm humans. Their inherently curious nature means it’s not unusual for them to come close to investigate any loitering whale watching boats. Peak season for whale watching is anywhere from June through to October. When out on the water you will be guided by professionally trained divers and swimmers who will ensure that both you and the whales are safe during your trip.
ROCK THE BOAT: INDONESIA VS SOLOMON ISLANDS
Climb aboard this magnificent ship and sail off into Raja Ampat’s sunset. The 26-metre eco-friendly yacht, named Sequoia after the ancient tree, is a contemporary take on traditional wooden yacht. Custom-made amenities and features welcome guests to this state-of-the-art vessel, with its three spacious bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, a sky deck for movies under the stars, and a gourmet kitchen.
But life isn’t all about what’s on deck. On this private charter, you’ll be able to snorkel, paddle board, tube, kayak, water ski and more.
Solomon Islands Discovery Cruise
With eight days aboard the MV Taka, you’ll see more of the Solomon Islands than you ever thought possible. Depart from Honiara and spend the next week surrounded by more culture and history than you could ever imagine. With cultural immersion a key part of your journey, you’ll interact with locals of all ages and backgrounds during village and school visits.
While onboard there’s the opportunity to take a step back in time to the Pacific front of World War II, and explore shipwrecks and other significant sites. It’s not all about education though – there’s plenty of time for relaxation, snorkelling and paddle boarding, among other activities. What’s more, when not tied up with Solomon Island Discovery Cruises’ passengers, the ship is available for private hire. Count us in.
PISS UP: CAMBODIA VS COOK ISLANDS
Cerevisia Craft Brewhouse
Built from the ground up by its owners, Cerevisia Craft Brewhouse is a testament to hard work and a love of tasty beer. The desire to spread the delicious beverage to the locals spawned the idea, and now the aromatic bevvies are finished with enticing flavours that make locals and travellers alike say, “Maybe just one more then.”
The success of the brewery spawned two tap rooms and more than 20 restaurants that feature Cerevisia beer on their drinks menu. One of the two taprooms, Botanico Wine and Beer Garden, has cemented its place in the community offering live music, exceptional food and trivia nights, and the chance to knock the top off a couple of froffies.
Rarotonga Brewery in the Cook Islands is locally owned and adored. The goal of this brewery is to create a consistently delicious beer that can be appreciated by locals and visitors alike. And believe us: there’s nothing quite as refreshing on balmy, tropical nights as a crisp, cold lager. You’ll find this tasty drop in restaurants and establishments across the Cook Islands, so it’s never too hard to get your hands on one while you’re over there.
Like many of its compatriots, Rarotonga Brewery aims to be as environmentally minded as possible, using kegs and flagons to avoid products ending up in landfill. If you find yourself on Rarotonga, stop by the brewery and have a look for yourself.
MARINE SAFEGUARD: MALAYSIA VS NEW CALEDONIA
Tun Mustapha Park
It’s the largest marine protected area in Malaysia and below its glistening turquoise surface, Tun Mustapha Park is home to coral reefs, mangroves, dugongs, sea turtles, sharks and more than 360 species of fish. It took almost 13 years to protect this colourful undersea world, but now, using a mixed approach to satisfy marine conservation, local communities and fishing industries, the aim is to boost biodiversity over the coming decade.
Covering more than a million hectares, the park encompasses more than 50 islands across the Kudat, Pita and Kota Marudu districts, from where travelers can swim, snorkel and dive to get up close and personal with the inhabitants of the deep.
Natural Park of the Coral Sea
Established to protect and ensure the future of New Caledonia’s exceptional aquatic ecosystem, the Natural Park of the Coral Sea is the world’s largest marine park. Covering an astounding 1.3 million square kilometres, the park also encompasses the world’s largest lagoon and second longest barrier reef, and acts as a sanctuary for turtles, whales, sharks, giant clams, sea birds, an array of fish species and the world’s third largest herd of dugongs. The highest level of protection for the world’s last unspoiled reefs – Chesterfield, Bellona, Entrecasteaux, Pétrie and Astrolabe – safeguards 28,000 square kilometres of pristine reef.
Some small eco-tourism groups are able to gain permits to access these reefs. This watery wonderland is best explored at sea level, so to truly get an idea of the park’s rich diversity, make sure you get wet.
BEER BUST: LAOS VS SOLOMON ISLANDS
Bintang isn’t the only beer in town when it comes to Southeast Asia’s amber goodness. Beerlao, produced at a local brewery since 1973, is a popular thirst quencer for visitors to the region.
This beer is created using locally sourced ingredients like jasmine rice, with imported malt, hops and yeast from France, Belgium and Germany. It’s crafted by Lao Brewery, a company that prides itself on being culturally and environmentally minded with sustainability and social responsibility at the top of its priority list. So when you knock back a cold Beerlao, you can do so virtually guilt free. Well, that’s what we’re telling ourselves, anyway.
When it comes to this island nation’s most popular drop, there’s no beating Solbrew. The Honiara brewery was established in 1993 and designed the silver and gold cans and green bottles to pay homage to the Solomons’ history and spirit. There’s nothing more refreshing in the island heat and never looks out of place in the hands of anyone across the South Pacific. Bottoms up.
IT'S NOT REALLY CAMPING: LAOS VS COOK ISLANDS
Rosewood Luang Prabang Hilltop Tents
Embedded into the lush jungle hillside of Luang Prabang, Rosewood’s Hilltop Tents offer modest luxury. Designed to incorporate both the Laos local culture and the strong French colonial influence through the architecture and use of textures, colours and fabrics, the six 75-square-metre tents bring indulgence and culture together in a stunning display.
Each tent has its own king-size bed, bathtub and plush day bed, plus a private deck where you can sit back, relax and listen to the sounds of the jungle. Take your relaxation one step further with a visit to the spa and enjoy one of the traditional Lao therapies, or take a dip in the lavish pool while watching the natural waterfall cascade right next to you.
Ikurangi Eco Retreat
A passion to create a luxurious yet environmentally sustainable option for
travellers has resulted in Ikurangi Eco Retreat, the first purpose-built eco
accommodation in the Cook Islands. Overlooking the dramatic mountains
of Rarotonga, four safari tents combine luxe finishes with sustainably sourced materials to create one idyllic and eco-friendly package.
Composting toilets, biodegradable toiletries and free bicycles are all part of the Ikurangi way. Creature comforts aren’t sacrificed – they’re simply presented in a stylish, unpretentious way. Each tent includes a private outdoor shower, large king-size bed, fully screened windows, natural soap and lotion, and electricity points for charging all your gadgets. From here, you can explore the serene natural beauty of Rarotonga, and enjoy the island’s adrenaline-inducing adventures, nature, food, culture and pampering. You’ll be diving into your natural surrounds in no time.
ISLANDS TO SEE BEFORE THEY’RE SEEN: THAILAND VS TUVALA
On the eastern outskirts of the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Kood is a so-far unspoiled nirvana. The island has it all for visitors wanting a fully immersive experience: beaches, jungles, waterfalls and luxury resorts. As the fourth largest island in Thailand, with a population of about 2,000, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in the culture and lifestyle from the moment you step foot on the beach.
The best way to explore the sandy shores – the entire western edge of the island is an expanse of pristine beaches – is on a boat. The eastern side of the island is largely undeveloped and, in some areas, an inaccessible mass of jungle. Spend your days hiking, swimming, relaxing and basking in the absolute peace and tranquillity on this almost undiscovered paradise.
Located halfway between Australia and Hawaii, Tuvalu is a tiny tropical speck in the Pacific. Comprised of just nine islands – six are actually deemed coral atolls – and with a population of just 11,000 people, it’s one of the world’s smallest countries. Devoid of tour guides, cruise ships and organised activities, it’s definitely no tourist mecca like its neighbours Fiji and Vanuatu, but that’s where its charm lies.
You’ll have palm tree-fringed beaches to yourself and reefs bursting with colour and sea life to explore at your leisure. The friendly locals are more than willing to share their knowledge and cultural traditions in the form of dance, basket weaving and woodcarving. But don’t delay your trip to Tuvalu – with rising sea levels threatening to completely engulf the low-lying nation, there’s no telling when climate change will wipe this isolated South Pacific paradise off the map.
SAIL UP THE RIVER: THAILAND AND LAOS VS PAPUA NEW GUINEA
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Step aboard the Sepik Spirit for a voyage into the depths of Papua New Guinea’s waterways. This purpose-built craft, which has been designed to glide through rivers and tributaries with ease, follows a route that includes the Karawari, Sepik and Krosmeri rivers.
The villages that line these riverbanks are rarely visited by foreigners, and when the Sepik Spirit docks at different settlements, tourists are showered with warm welcomes and invitations to visit spirit houses, learn about rituals or purchase tribal art. Photo opportunities abound around every bend, so have your camera at the ready to capture the dense forests lining the Karawari River or the sun setting over the wide expanse of the Blackwater Lakes.
Journey down the famed Mekong River on a vessel unlike any other. Gypsy is a lavishly appointed 41-metre, two-cabin rig that will transport you past charming villages in total comfort. Travel from Luang Prabang through to Thailand’s Golden Triangle on a four-night trip, or do the reverse and spend two nights travelling from Thailand to Laos.
This ultra-exclusive private cruise is tailored to accommodate just four passengers, which means your every wish and desire is met. Wood and thatched features give the boat a traditional feel, but modern amenities and an on-board chef whipping up first-class fare means there’s no chance of mistaking this boat for just another typical river cruiser. If there’s a better way to explore the Mekong, we’d like to hear about it.
LUXURY’S LAP: INDONESIA VS TAHITI
Deep in the Anambas archipelago is Bawah Reserve. A series of six secluded private islands, this resort, with its 35 luxury suites boasting panoramic views of the ocean, is one for the ages.
Accommodation options range from overwater bungalows to garden and deluxe beach suites, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. If you worry about being bored spending days lying on the beach, think again. You’ll have access to the Aura Spa and Wellness Centre, plus there’s hiking, snorkelling, stand-up paddle boarding and stargazing, plus the beach cinema and swimming pools, to enjoy. There’s even a chance to sail off into the sunset on an island cruise.
The French Polynesian island of Tetiaroa, also known as Brando Island, was once described by its namesake as, “beautiful beyond my capacity to describe”. Who are we to argue with Marlon Brando?
The Brando is next-level luxury – think transfers on a private plane, 35 exclusive villas, award-winning cuisine and white-sand beaches frequented by sea turtles, manta rays and exotic birds. While it may seem tempting to while the lazy days away by the pool, moving only when required to reach for a cocktail or apply another layer of sunscreen, activities at The Brando are endless. Test out your snorkelling skills, splash out on a kayak, learn how to scuba dive or pedal off on a bike. But with a mission to foster enriching travel experiences, support Polynesian culture and traditions, and protect and sustain the island’s precious natural environment, you can relax in peace knowing The Brando is doing its bit to best preserve this fragile piece of the South Pacific.
CANYON EXTREME: PHILIPPINES VS VANUATU
Your fitness will be tested on this Cebu canyoning expedition as you wander along a cliff’s edge and hike down to expansive caverns for an adrenaline-pumping experience. Starting in Kanlaob River you’ll walk, jump, swim, climb and abseil your way toward Kawasan Falls, passing ravines, rocky chasms and tropical jungles. While the stunning surrounding scenery may appear peaceful this experience is anything but, although it’ll all be worth it once you arrive at the stunning blue waters of Kawasan Falls.
So strap on the life vest and helmet and try not to overthink things as you jump right into anadventure that will push you to your limits.
This challenging trek – a full-day adventure to Millennium Cave – will test you both physically and mentally. The hike to the cave weaves along jungle paths then there’s the opportunity to clamber over rocks and cliffs before canyoning into waters at the base of the cave.
It may be exhausting, but the feeling of accomplishment will far outweigh any muscle aches. Thankfully, though, between the rushing waterfalls, the flowing river and the monstrous size of the cave, the awesome scenery will have you completely forgetting just how tough you might find the trip.
CATCH OF THE DAY: THAILAND VS NEW CALEDONIA
Freshwater fishing in Thailand has been a way of life for centuries, and if you journey to Phang Nga you can try your hand at catching a monster fish for yourself. With an exotic range of creatures lurking in these waters, you can never be sure just what will be at the end of your line. Several of the species below the surface weigh more than 50 kilograms, so be sure you’ve got your muscles ready.
Exotic Fishing Thailand offers half- and full-day fishing packages, so you can tailor the activity to suit yourself. Be sure you bring a camera because you’ll want evidence of these beasts to show people back home – this is catch-and-release fishing only.
Traditional fishing practices are alive and well in this small French territory. It’s not just a way to feed the family, either – it’s also considered a social event that can bring the whole community together.
Traditional fishing tours are available in Noumea, depending on tides and weather conditions. On-foot fishing is a great option for the kids, and might even nab you some tasty clams. If the wind isn’t too strong, try your hand at parachute net fishing, a true art. You’ll also learn how to spot or attract fish. Who knows? You may even master throwing the net so it lands in a perfect circle in the water. Guess that’s dinner sorted.
LIVE LIKE TARZAN: LAOS VS VANUATU
The Gibbon Experience
If you’ve always dreamed of swinging through the trees, spending the night high up in the forest canopy and making friends with monkeys, this is your chance to turn those Tarzan fantasies into a reality.
The Gibbon Experience in Nam Kan National Park connects some of the world’s highest treehouses via a maze of ziplines. Once settled in your treetop retreat, you might even get the chance to meet with the local gibbon families. It’s a pretty basic set-up, but when you’re more than 30 metres above the forest floor and waking up to the roaring sounds of the jungle, you’ll forget about that. Besides, it wouldn’t be the complete Tarzan experience if you had a butler on call, now would it?
La Maison du Banian
Just 10 kilometres out of Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila is La Maison du Banian. Constructed in the branches of a banyan tree, this simple, thatched treehouse blends beautifully into its surroundings, so you’ll feel connected with the natural world.
And even though it’s environmentally friendly, you don’t have to go without creature comforts. Solar power and kerosene lamps keep the lights on, and an open bamboo bathroom is located nearby. A fireplace provides warmth on chilly nights, and a vegetable and fruit garden means you won’t go hungry. This accommodation will see you immersing yourself in nature, recharging and experiencing simplicity at its finest.
LIFE’S A BEACH: MALAYSIA VS VANUATU
Finding unspoiled beaches is becoming harder as more tourists flock to all corners of the globe. That’s not to say uncrowded stretches of coast are impossible to find. Take Kapas Island as an example. This tiny speck in the ocean, just two kilometres in length, can be found just 15 minutes from Marang, off the east coast of Malaysia. The cerulean waters are just begging for a day of paddling in a hired kayak, or there are more than enough shady spots to hang your hammock and settle in with a good book. What makes Kapas Island even better, though, is its diversity.
Sure, we love a solid relaxation sesh, but we dig the option to dive and snorkel through reefs or trek through jungles even more, and that’s all possible here. There are no five-star resorts, bustling restaurants, internet connection or even ATMs, but that’s even more reason to love it. We’re all about minimalism when the right location calls for it, and this is one island we’d happily get shipwrecked on.
To classify as one of the best hidden beaches in the South Pacific, there’s a few things most visitors would expect to see. Glistening white beaches with barely a footprint to be seen? Absolutely. Azure waters, clear enough to see to the bottom? That’s a given. Maybe a rustic beach shack – walking distance to the beach, of course – serving seafood fresh from the ocean? Sure, you gotta eat. That just about sums about Port Olry, a secret oasis on the island of Espiritu Santo.
It has somehow managed to stay hidden from the hordes of tourists and cruise-shippers who frequent Vanuatu in search of their own slice of tropical paradise, and has instead adopted an infectious laid-back charm that is irresistible. The pristine natural landscape, complete with a thriving sea turtle population, doesn’t hurt either. Hurry, because the wonders of Port Olry won’t stay confidential for long.
FROM NEW HEIGHTS: MALAYSIA VS TONGA
Via ferrata, for the uninitiated, means iron road in Italian, and is used to describe a mountain route equipped with rungs, rails, fixed ladders and cables. At 3,776 metres above sea level, Low’s Peak Circuit and Walk the Torq trails on Mount Kinabalu in Sabah are, respectively, Asia’s highest and first via ferrata.
No prior climbing experience is needed to tackle the mountain when you head off with Mountain Torq – a skilled guide leads the way along the well-equipped routes. The climb takes more than four hours to complete, however, so a decent level of fitness is required, but there are plenty of opportunities along the way to rest and admire the vista. When you’re traversing swinging planks and balancing on tightrope walks, the adrenaline kicks in and you won’t even notice those burning muscles.
It may be a relative newcomer on the scene, but Tonga is slowly and steadily garnering attention from curious climbers. The majority of the climbing takes place on the untouched limestone cliffs of the King’s estate at Fangatave Beach, on the northeastern side of the island of ‘Eua.
You’ll need to register beforehand to gain access to the estate and climbing areas, and bring all your own gear, but once that’s sorted 25 pitches await, ranging from grade 17 to 24. To protect the pristine landscape and guarantee the future of climbing tourism, volunteers from Kaka Maka Group are working with Tongan locals to ensure the burgeoning outdoor venture is developed responsibly and sustainable. With 50 more routes in development, our advice is to book those flights to Tonga asap and get in before the crowds start assembling.