Oceania

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Oceania.

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Rhythm and Vines – Gisbourne

29 DECEMBER – 1 JANUARY.

THERE’S A LOT OF COMPETITION FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE FESTIVITIES – WHY HERE?

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If you want bragging rights over your buddies in the slower upper reaches of the globe, then feel free to boast about being way ahead of them in seeing the first the sunrise of the New Year.

AND WHAT’S GOING TO KEEP US AWAKE TILL THE GLORIOUS MORNING?

When Rhythm and Vines first kicked off in 2003, it had one stage and 1800 guests. These days, over 25,000 festival goers flood in to Gisbourne to check out the many musical stages hosting big-name international acts like NERD, Tinie Tempah, Tame Impala, Mark Ronson, as well as home-grown legends like Shihad and The Naked and Famous. In 2014, R&V introduced the Arcadia Spectacular, a fiery performance space based on Glastonbury’s famous fire-breathing stage. There’s also a stand-up comic stage for a little light relief.

THIS CAN’T BE JUST A ONE-NIGHT-STAND!

The festival is a three-day camping extravaganza with a range of different site options available. Our pick: the two-person eco tent provided by the organisers which looks a bit like a cardboard cubby box. Just bring your sleeping bags and plonk your recyclable fort in amongst the vines.

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Aranui 5 Sails Through Dreamy French Polynesia

 One early morning, midway through our 13-night journey from Tahiti to the Marquesas Islands, the Aranui 5 was gently pitching in the deep blue Pacific swells. Beyond the clutter of cargo, cranes and loading gear on her bow, Ua Pou’s mist-enshrouded basalt spires, some soaring ter a height of 4,000 feet, loomed. From our balmy, breeze-enhanced vantage up on Deck 10, it could easily have been a scene from King Kong or perhaps some long-forgotten tropical adventure film relegated to the wee hours of television’s Turner Classic Movies.

Almost as unique as the Jaggedly lush Marquesan scenery unfolding before us was the actual vessel transporting us there. In many ways, although she is barely a year old, the Aranui 5 harkens back to another era, that of the hard-working combination passenger Jiner and freighter. Decades ago, combi-liners like her were a common entity in ports around the worlds but with the advent of the jumbo jet and the containerization of cargo, these hybrid ships met a sudden, decisive demise.

Taking her name from “The Great Highway” in Polynesian, the Aranui 5 provides an essential service to the six populated islands in a chain of 15 that is more distant (nearly 3,000 miles) from the nearest continental land mass (Baja California) than any other in the world. In exchange for Marquesan copra (a coconut product), bananas and other local commodities, she brings automobiles, construction v. materials, televisions and other essentials that -would be difficult, if not impossible, to transport via air since the region has only two small airstrips. In many of the tiny ports she visits, she is greeted like a cherished relative bearing gifts, and her guests are often welcomed by locals with hand-crafted beads leis and/or tiares (fragrant flowers that are worn behind the ear).

Externally, the Aranui 5 is a quirky-looking vessel with a long foredeck housing two large cranes and four holds leading to an imposingly tall block of passenger accommodation. Internally, the ship is laid out according to ancient Chinese Feng Shui principles (based on the flow of mystical energy) and infused with Polynesian motifs and tropical color schemes. This combination of design elements owes much to the ship having been built in China for a Tahitian family of Chinese descent.

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Outdoors In Fiji – South Pacific

Fiji’s sea spray of more than 300 scattered islands means this South Pacific nation is more water than land – and diving, snorkeling and other outdoors adventures reign supreme.

ON WATER

NAMOSI HIGHLANDS

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White-water rafting along the gorges of the Upper Navua River

North of Pacific Harbour on Viti Levu, these steamy highlands have compelling mountain scenery—dense rainforests, deep river canyons and tall waterfalls. Rivers Fiji offers excellent kayaking and white-water rafting trips into its wilds. For gorges and grade two/three rapids with entertaining local guides, try the five-hour trip along the Upper Navua River.

KAYAKING THE YASAWAS

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Separated from each other by a deep, narrow channel, the volcanic islands of Kuata and Wayasewa are the first stop in the Yasawa chain coming from Nadi. Kayaking between the two is a great way to spend a calm-water afternoon; many local resorts offer free kayaks. For multi-day safari trips skirting the Yasawas, try Southern Sea Ventures. Tailor-made trips start at four days, and include stops for snorkelling and village visits.

SURFING CLOUDBREAK IN THE MAMANUCAS

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Tubes of up to 250m can form on this colossal left-hand break in the Mamanuca chain, off Fiji’s western edge. Experienced board riders don wetsuits daily in an attempt to catch the perfect wave and professional surfers are regularly drawn to its magnetic blue waters. Although there is no scenic beach-break for picnicking spectators, non-surfing mortals who want to get close to the action can join the flotilla of small boats that makes the daily pilgrimage offshore.

UNDERWATER

SHARK DIVING

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Bull sharks patrol Fiji’s waters – dive with them if you dare

The fringing soft coral reefs off Viti Levu’s Coral Coast are heaven for divers. The lagoon by the offshore island of Beqa (‘Be-nga’) is one of very few places in the world where you can dive with uncaged bull and tiger sharks. Beqa Adventure Divers is a sustainable operator that offsets its carbon footprint; two-tank shark-feeding dives cost £125.

SAWA-I-LAU CAVE

SAWA-I-LAU-CAVE

The limestone island of Sawa-i-Lau in the northern Yasawas houses two gorgeous grottoes. Shafts of daylight enter a great dome-shaped cave where you can swim in a beautiful natural pool. With a guide, torch and courage, you can also swim through an underwater passage into an adjoining chamber, decorated with carvings of unknown meaning. Most Yasawa resorts run trips here.

KADAVU

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Snorkeling at Split Rock

The Great Astrolabe Reef hugs the southeast coast of Kadavu island for about 60 miles and is home to a vibrant assemblage of hard- and soft-coral formations. On the western side of the reef, Split Rock is the most coveted dive site, but others include Broken Stone and Vouwa, and all have similar characteristics: twisting canyons, tunnels, caverns and arches. Most Kadavu resorts run trips from around £160 for a two-tank dive.

ON LAND

SIGATOKA SAND DUNES

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These impressive dunes skirt the shoreline near the mouth of Viti Levu’s Sigatoka River. Windblown and rugged, they are around three miles long, up to half a mile wide and on average about 20m high, rising to 60m at the western end. Walking trails lead to the coast across open rolling grassland; allow one or two hours for the self-guided walking tours.

COASTAL WALK  

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This beautiful pool can be seen on Lavena Coastal Walk

Taveuni’s three-mile Lavena Coastal Walk follows the forest edge along white- and black-sand beaches. It passes peaceful villages before climbing up through a landscape straight out of Jurassic Park to a gushing waterfall, reached via a clamber over rocks and a swim through two deep pools. The walk is managed by Lavena Lodge and entrance is £10; you can also arrange take a boat one way and walk back.

KOROYANITU

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Wildlife trekking in Koroyanitu National Heritage Park

Despite being just half an hour’s drive from Nadi airport, Koroyanitu National Heritage Park seems deep within Viti Levu’s interior. It’s very beautiful, with walks through forests of native dakua trees, birdwatching, ancient sites and waterfalls. There are six small and largely self-sufficient villages within. Most visitors get here through Abaca (‘Am-ba-tha’) village, but you’ll need a guide.

Essentials

TRANSPORT

Cathay Pacific flies to Nadi International Airport on Viti Levu (Fiji’s main island) from London via Hong Kong. Other one-stop routings go via Los Angeles, Seoul or Singapore. Factor in 25 hours or more (including transfer time) to reach Fiji. From Nadi and Suva airports onViti Levu, Fiji Airways runs flights to outlying islands such as Taveuni and Kadavu. The Yasawas and Mamanucas are accessible by frequent ferries, including Awesome Adventures Fiji.

WHERE TO STAY

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Beach-shack living at Mai Dive Astrolabe Reef Resort

  • The balcony views and the lobby’s suspended 7m outrigger canoe create a powerful first impression at the Coral Coast’s family-friendly Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort. The bures (thatched bungalows) have hand-painted bark cloth ceilings.
  • Coconut Grove Beachfront Cottages on Taveuni comprises three breezy cottages with a great restaurant, a golden-sand beach and tranquility by the truckload. Diving and sightseeing trips can be arranged.
  • Stylish bungalows line the beach at Mai Dive Astrolabe Reef Resort on tiny Ono Island, just a few minutes’ boat ride from the Great Astrolabe Reef. It’s run by an Australian-Fijian family; food is excellent.
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The Great Outdoors – SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Baby, it’s cold outside, but not in the southern hemisphere where New Zealand is located. It’s summer and the warm sunlight is enough to beckon thousands of Kiwis to step outside to explore the natural playground that is their backyard. This country of endless coastline, a myriad of inland lakes, rivers and mountain streams means water-based activities are aplenty this time of year as well. The best way to explore the majesty of New Zealand is with a road trip across the South Island.

A quick six-day or longer itinerary allows for ample time to hike through Arthur’s Pass National Parkin Christchurch, take a scenic heli-flight over the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, and bike around Mt Cook Village and Lake Tekapo.

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A beautiful view from Lake Tekapo

Pencil in adrenaline-filled activities as well by malting a necessary stop in Queenstown — bungee jumping, skydiving, ziplining and white-water rafting are just some of the activities available. For animal lovers, stop by Oamaru as well to visit the Blue Penguin colony where 200 of these birds make their daily pilgrimage from the water to dry land for the night.

MAKE IT HAPPEN

Fly to Christchurch on South Island on Qantas Airways from Singapore with one stop in Brisbane, Australia first. Flights from Kuala Lumpur include an additional stop in Singapore (from US$713; qantas.com). For a similar six-day itinerary, check newzealand.com for their detailed South Island road trips.

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A campervan at South Island – New Zealand

Road trip like the locals and hire a campervan for a real outdoor living experience. Most campervan rental companies include accessories like gas cookers, bedding, tents and more. Escape Campervan Rentals has one of the most comprehensive packages with pick-ups and drop-offs in both Auckland and Christchurch (from US$95 per day before tax; escaperentals.co.nz).

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A Beautiful View from The Water Pool Villa – Milaidhoo Island Maldives

The Water Pool Villa at Milaidhoo Island Maldives  has a vast overwater deck, which jets out to give panoramic views of the lagoon (Talk about an ideal setting).

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We hear that this villa also has a private freshwater infinity pool. Milaidhoo, as of press time, was set to open on November 1 in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Baa Atoll region of the Maldives. This resort, part of The Small Luxury Hotels of the World, was created with couples in mind. We suggest grabbing a romantic dinner at the resorts signature restaurant, which is designed to mimic the look of three traditional Maldivian sailing boats.

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Dunedin Railway Station – New Zealand

One of New Zealand’s finest historic buildings, Dunedin Railway Station is also one of the best examples of railroad architecture in the southern hemisphere. Although not large by international standards, the station’s delightful proportions lend it an air of grandeur. It was designed in the Flemish Renaissance style by New Zealand Railways architect George Troup, whose detailing on the outside of the building earned him the nickname “Gingerbread George.”

BEGINNING OF DUNEDIN’S RAILWAY

In the early 1860s, gold was discovered in Dunedin and miners poured into the region. The money gold brought in ensured that, for a time, Dunedin was the commercial capital of New Zealand and railroads were built to transport the growing population. The first rail journey, with the new “Josephine” trains, was from Dunedin to Port Chalmers on September 10, 1872. In 1875, a second station was built in Dunedin to ease the busy first one; a third followed in 1879. The number of passengers continued to grow, so Dunedin Railway Station was commissioned.

AN ARCHITECTURAL CHALLENGE

The construction of Dunedin Railway Station was a great feat of engineering. Built on the foundations of the old harbor, iron-bark piles had to be driven deep into the reclaimed land to prevent flooding. George Troup used a number of railroad staff, whom he had trained in the art of stonemasonry, to help build the station. Machinery, including cranes, was loaned by New Zealand Railways for use during the building work to reduce costs. It is believed that New Zealand’s first electrically driven concrete mixer was used in the station’s construction. Costing £120,500, the station was seven times larger than its predecessor, Dunedin’s third station, built in the late 1800s.

THE DESIGN OF DUNEDIN STATION

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George Troup (1863-1941) arrived in New Zealand in 1884, after emigrating from Scotland following an apprenticeship in architectural design. He quickly secured a job with New Zealand Railways in Dunedin, where he was employed to design bridges and stations. He was soon promoted to head of the architectural branch, and while working in this new role he designed Dunedin Railway Station. No expense was spared to create this magnificent building. The roof is adorned with red Marseille tiles, while the exterior stonework features lavish, ornate detailing— referred to as “Gingerbread style.” Inside, the mosaic floor is covered with decorative tiles, some of which feature images of railroad engines, wheels, signals, and wagons.

Exterior Stonework

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Beige Oamaru limestone detailing provides a striking contrast to the darker Central Otago bluestone on the walls and the finely polished Aberdeen granite of the columns.

Dormer Windows

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Projecting from the sloping gable roof, these are typical Flemish architectural features.

Turret

This provides a visual counterbalance to the main clock tower.

Stained-glass Windows

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Two imposing stained-glass windows on the mezzanine balcony depict two approaching steam engines with lights blazing, facing each other across the ticket hall.

Roof

This is covered with clay Marseille tiles from France.

Frieze

Cherubs and foliage adorn this frieze from the Royal Doulton factory in England, which encircles the ticket hall below the wrought-iron bordered balcony.

Ticket Windows

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These are ornately decorated with white tiles and a crest featuring the old New Zealand Railways logo.

New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame

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This features imaginative displays recounting the exploits and achievements of famous New Zealanders.

Sandstone Lions

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These finely carved creatures, one on each corner of the clock tower, guard the cupola behind them.

Platform

Situated behind the station, the half-a mile (1-km) long platform is still a departure and arrival point for travelers.

Staircase

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Complete with wrought-iron balustrades and mosaic-tiled steps, a staircase sweeps up from the ticket hall to the balcony above.

Mosaic Floor

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More than 725,000 Royal Doulton porcelain squares form images of steam engines, rolling stock, and the New Zealand Railways logo.

FLOOR RESTORATION

By 1956, the original floor had subsided dramatically. Exact replica mosaics had to be laid on a new concrete foundation in order to alleviate the problem.

KEY DATES

1906: Dunedin Station is officially opened by New Zealand’s prime minister.
1956: The station’s clock tower is restored.
1994: The station is sol d to Dunedin City Council for a nominal sum.
1996-98: The exterior stonework is cleaned and space is created for a garden.

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Wellington: Big City Life In The Breathtaking New Zealand

The sign says it all. Ten tall letters perched high on a hillside above the airport. The original plan was for them to read ‘Welly wood’, a reference to the city’s recent contribution to world cinema. But the locals deemed this too predictable. So instead, the sign says ‘Wellington’, with the last three letters apparently blown off course by two swirly, blustery lines.

By most indices, New Zealand’s capital is the world’s windiest city — a fact with which it seems entirely comfortable. Down on the waterfront you’ll find a bronze statue of a naked man, leaning intowellington the breeze. It’s a pose every Wellingtonian knows all too well. It doesn’t help matters that it’s a particularly hilly metropolis, so much so that many houses have their own private funiculars. But these challenges seem to have helped forge the city’s sense of identity; I’ve even heard some locals admit the icy blast of the dreaded Antarctic ‘southerly’ wind makes them feel strangely at home.

For all its dubious weather, Wellington is an impressive place, a mini San Francisco with a bohemian streak and idyllic bayside location. The seat of government it may be, but there’s a palpable coolness here that takes you by surprise. Yet that central tenet of the hipster revolution — the stripping away of bland distractions, so as to focus on what’s really of value — has been the Wellington way for the best part of two decades, ever since it first emerged as one of the world’s coffee capitals.

Nowhere is this enlightened approach more evident than in the Laneways, a series of narrow thoroughfares in the CBD (Central Business District), currently being spruced up by the city council. The pick of these is the little alley between Leeds and Eva street, home to a micro chocolate factory, bottled soda shop, cocktail bar, craft brewer, boutique coffeehouse and a tiny basement outlet (Fix and Fogg) selling intriguing varieties of peanut butter out of a small, ankle-level window. As alleyways go, it certainly packs a punch, and it’s a great starting point for any newcomer.

But, in reality, it doesn’t require much planning to catch Wellington at its sparkling best. Within my first 48 hours here, I’d watched an Iranian documentary at an arthouse cinema; dined three tables away from Peter Jackson; drank craft beer in a converted garage; watched chocolate being made from scratch; sipped nitrogen-enriched iced-coffee dispensed from a pump; and eaten oysters by the waterside. Compact, cosmopolitan and full of character, Wellington really is a first-timer’s dream. Just remember to pack a few layers.

SEE & DO

WELLINGTON CABLE CAR: It’s hard not to fell for Wellington’s elderly yet distinguished 114-year-old cable car. Having trundled gracefully up its tracks, it delivers passengers to the city’s hillside Botanic Gardens, where alongside fitting views, they’ll also find Carter Observatory, home to the Space Place planetarium.

Wellington Cable Car

Wellington Cable Car

ROXY CINEMA: A 1920s theatre that was turned into a shopping mall in the 1960s, the Roxy was restored to its former glory and given a new purpose in 2011, having been bought by Weta Digital founder Sir Richard Taylor. Located in Miramar — Wellington’s movie-making district — it hosts film and documentary festivals, and even has its own restaurant and cocktail bar.

WETA CAVE: The starting point for the Weta Studio Tours, where enthusiasts can marvel at fake guns, custom-made vehicles, latex heads and remote-controlled battle helmets — in short, many of the eye-catching props Weta crafted for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, plus other films such as King Kong and District 9. The Cave is also a retail store and an exclusive documentary is shown at regular intervals.

Weta Cave

Weta Cave

CUBA STREET: Wellington’s ‘spunkiest’ thoroughfare is worth more than a cursory glance, filled as it is with many of the city’s best and most bohemian restaurants, bars and cafes, not to mention the obligatory vintage clothes shops, street art and laudable busking. A great spot to meander if you’re feeling lazy or a little weather-beaten.

EAT

FIELD & GREEN: Having relocated from London with her business partner, chef Laura Greenfield drew upon her Jewish roots to produce a menu of ‘European soul food’ — essentially, high-quality comfort dishes. While lunches and dinners are reasonably elaborate and pricey, it’s the small yet filling simpler dishes on the all-day menu — Welsh rarebit, homemade crumpets, sardines on sourdough — that make this restaurant both affordable and special.

SHEDS: Housed in a Victorian woolshed in Lambton Harbour, Shed 5 really plays to Wellington’s strengths: stunning seafood dishes accompanied by fantastic Kiwi wine. The seafood risotto changes daily, ‘depending on what the tide brings in’, while anyone who can resist the oysters must be tired of life.

Hippopotamus Restaurant & Bar

Hippopotamus Restaurant & Bar

HIPPOPOTAMUS RESTAURANT & BAR: If you came to Wellington hoping fora hipster dining experience, then French fine-dining might seem a stuffy option. But stuffy it ain’t, and, besides the food, the impressive third-floor harbour views and fancy decor make this a smart choice. Located within the Museum Art Hotel.

SLEEP

GOURMET STAY: A 13-room boutique hotel wit h a strong European design ethos near Cuba Street, offering varying levels of affordability, from smart-yet-basic hostel-style rooms with shared bathrooms to apartment-style family suites, all the way up to a rooftop studio with a terrace and outdoor hot tub.

COMFORT HOTEL WELLINGTON: A good mid-range option, not least because it puts you right in the heart of Cuba Street. The location means you probably won’t need to frequent its cafe, restaurant and bar, but they’re t here should you wish to do so, as is a lofty, and rat her welcome, swimming pool.

Comfort Hotel Wellington

Comfort Hotel Wellington

MUSEUM ART HOTEL: This aptly named silk purse of a hotel positively bulges with art, be it painted, sculpted, daubed onto its outside walls or grafted onto the upholstery of a well-placed bedroom chair. Similarly ornate views of the harbour accompany breakfast, during which guests can ponder how, in 1993, the entire five-storey hotel was shifted wholesale 120 metres across the road to its current site.

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The place to be seen. Or not seen!

It’s only one flight, but a whole other world away. Fiji’s splendid isolation, white sand beaches and crystal clear waters make it the perfect place to escape and unwind. And with daily direct flights from LAX and new seasonal services from SFO, happiness is closer than you think!

FIND IT IN FIJI

Experience white sand beaches, crystal-clear ocean water, and some of the happiest people on earth at Fiji’s luxury resorts and accommodations.

Vacala Bay Resort

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Rejuvenate your soul at Fiji’s first 5-Star Solar Powered Luxury Eco Resort, situated on Taveuni, the enchanted Garden Island of Fiji. Enjoy the breathtaking natural environment, modern amenities, and stunning ocean views, where you are the only guests. The resort’s catamaran sailing yacht and our friendly staff will ensure a holiday experience like no other.
Vacalabayresort.com

Likuliku Lagoon

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A unique luxury haven for couples featuring Fiji’s only over-water bungalows. It is a special place designed with integrity to Fijian cultural values and is embraced by the renowned warmth of the Fijian people. Dine in style, unwind surrounded by azure lagoon waters, pamper in the spa. snorkel a vibrant reef, explore, or just unwind and soak up the beauty in this magical sanctuary. This is relaxed refinement at its finest.
Likulikulagoon.com

Yasawa Island Resort & Spa

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Indulge in heavenly seclusion in an area renowned for its velvety white sand beaches, vivid colored corals, unique ancient culture, and crystal clear tropical waters. At Yasawa there are no other resorts, no televisions, and no traffic; just the sounds of the palm trees swaying and the ocean lapping mere steps from your private villa. Whatever you choose to do at Yasawa, you’ll do it in complete seclusion.
Yasawa.com

Namale Resort & Spa

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Tucked among the lush rainforest and lava cliffs overlooking the Koro Sea, this luxury all-inclusive boutique resort features 19 private villas and bures, each with their own unique layout and features, a 10.000-sq -ft. spa. and two on-site restaurants serving world-class Indo-Fijian cuisine. Focused on exclusivity and customized experiences, Namale is a top pick among celebrities, having hosted award-winning actors and designers.(800) 727- 3454
Namaleresort.com

Royal Davui Island Resort

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Royal Davui Island Resort, Fiji, is a boutique luxury island resort with 16 exquisitely appointed Vales nestled around 10 acres of lush tropical landscape. Every guest enjoys the best of both worlds—enough genuine care and warmth that the staff will know you by name, as well as the privacy and freedom to be secluded in your own tropical oasis. Adults only, private plunge pools in every villa, and easy access from Nadi airport make Royal Davui Island Resort special and unique.
Royaldavuifiji.com

Qamea Resort and Spa

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Qamea Resort and Spa is an intimate boutique resort catering to a maximum of 34 adults, with only 17 luxuriously appointed and air conditioned bures and exquisite Royal Beach Houses with private pools and Jacuzzi spas, nestled among swaying coconut palms and verdant tropical gardens. An exclusive tropical destination for discerning travelers seeking an authentic Fijian island resort.
Qamea.com

7 Stunning Hidden Places To Visit In New Zealand

A gorgeous country with friendly people and lots of things to do, New Zealand has become a top destination over the past few years. Like Australia, European settlers made homes in New Zealand in the 1800s and learned to live alongside the indigenous people. But don’t be fooled into thinking these two countries are similar. They may be neighbors, but New Zealand and Australia are very different countries with their own unique identities. If the two countries were human, Australia would be the fun, active party type, while New Zealand would be the laid back, smart, and cool.

The Beauty of New Zealand’s South Island – If New Zealand is known for one thing, it’s the incredible natural beauty. The country has everything from lush rolling hills to majestic, snow-covered peaks, from fjords and lakes to gorgeous beaches. It doesn’t get more beautiful than the South Island, though, particularly the West Coast. While you’re there you can see the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier, which can be accessed by helicopter for an unforgettable hike through the ice. Go during ski season and hit the slopes as well. Don’t miss Milford Sound in the South, where you’ll see dramatic waterfalls and fjords. Hiking, kayaking, and jet-boating are popular ways to view the beauty there, or relax and take it all in on a scenic train tour.

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

Middle-earth – Peter Jackson arguably put New Zealand on the map, tourism-wise, after shooting his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies there. The movies took advantage of the amazing landscapes in this country. They were perfect for creating the other-worldly feel the movie required. You can visit many of the film locations and see where it all happened with your own eyes. The green rolling hills around the town of Matamata became the setting for the Shire, where Bilbo Baggins lives. Tour are available for you to see the sets. The “Hobbiton” sets were built but then removed after the first films were made, and then the whole thing was rebuilt for the Hobbit films and is now there to stay. The majority of the famous filming locations for The Lord of the Rings movies are located on the South Island -yet another reason to visit the South Island.

Maori Culture – Kia ora! Learning about the Maori culture is a must while in New Zealand. The Maori people, originally from Eastern Polynesia, predated the European settlers by more than 500 years and developed their own distinct cultural practices. You’ll no doubt encounter the art, language, and people on your travels through the country, but you can also arrange to be part of a tour that focuses on discovering more about the Maori culture. Learn about the way their ancestors greeted visitors, the games they played, and the way they cook food in the ground; find out about the significance of the face tattoos, the common design elements in Maori art and architecture, and of course the haka. Many cities feature these kinds of tours, including Kaikoura, Rotorua, and Waimarama.

Kapa Haka, Maori Culture

Kapa Haka, Maori Culture

Get Your Adventure On – Helicopter tours, hiking, kayaking, jet-boating, and skiing, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to do in New Zealand. The country is also a hot spot for extreme sports and adrenaline-pumping activities like skydiving, white water rafting, zip lining, and Zorbing. It was a New Zealander, A. J. Hackett, who started organizing commercial bungee jumping, in 1986, seven years after it appeared in the U.K., and its not difficult to find bungee operators in New Zealand now.

The Geothermal Features of Rotorua – Rotorua stinks – literally. This town in the North Island smells like sulfur (that not-so-delightful rotten egg smell) because of its intense geothermal activity. Visit and you’ll see bubbling mud pots, steam rising from the hot pools of water everywhere, and bursting geysers. These features aren’t very common in the world; only Japan, Russia, Iceland, and the U.S. have areas of similar geothermal activity. So it’s an incredible opportunity to see one of earth’s rare wonders. To really get up close and personal, consider going to a spa where you can soak in the health benefits of the mineral waters in hot baths and mineral pools. While you’re at it, get a massage, too – after all, you’re on vacation.

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Glow Worm Caves – Glow worms are insects that glow with bioluminescence, like fireflies, and they’re plentiful (relatively speaking) in both Australia and New Zealand. Make the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves part of your itinerary, and you’ll see thousands of these little creatures light up the cave as you travel through by boat – a truly wondrous site. Waitomo is located in the North Island, not too far from Rotorua.

Whales, Dolphins, Seals, and Penguins – New Zealand is a great place to see an abundance of wild animals you might otherwise never see in your lifetime. Head out on a whale-spotting sea tour. Two good places to try are Auckland, a city in the North Island, and Kaikoura, in the South Island. You’ll likely also encounter some dolphins on your boat trip. You may see the common dolphin, the bottle-nosed dolphin, the dusky dolphin, or even the rare Hector’s dolphin, which lives only in the waters off New Zealand. After whales and dolphins, go check out some seals. In Kaikoura, you can walk out to see the seal colony up close and personal – but not too close -watch out that you don’t trip over a seal sunning herself.