When you imagine the South Pacific everyone conjures images of beautiful white sandy beaches and something along the lines of becoming just like Tom Hanks in Castaway. In all too many cases, when you arrive in a popularized place in the South Pacific region you usually find the opposite. We have spent a number of years travelling to the South Pacific from Australia and in all of our searching, these are the best 3 spots you could visit to achieve that ‘castaway’ feeling.
1. Mangaia, The Cook Islands
Probably the least heard of in my list of 3, Mangaia is actually the largest island in the Cook Islands group. Welcoming an average of 50 visitors a year (yes 50, this is not a typo!) the locals will know of your arrival before it even happens. News gets around fast here! Mangaia is reputed to be the oldest island in the Pacific Ocean with experts believing that the island was created from a volcanic eruption approximately 16 million years ago. The island itself is ringed by ancient coral which has weathered over its many years of existence to create intricate cave systems, some of which have not been explored for hundreds of years. The coral extends right down to the water’s edge meaning there are no white sandy beaches here. The centre of the island is ringed by fossilized coral cliffs which drop dramatically into a volcanic plateau filled with wetland areas, fertile plantations and a small lake you can visit! So instead of sunning yourself on that picturesque white beach, here you will spend your time pondering just how blue and green colours can be so vivid and how the contrast with all the black ancient coral (called Makatea) can look so beautiful. The total population of Mangaia only ever reaches the high 500’s at any one point in time which equals plenty of time to feel just like Tom Hanks did. It may be worthwhile bringing your own ball along though…
2. Savai’i, Samoa
Savai’i is a treasure that very few ever have the opportunity to discover. While it boasts a healthy population of just over 43,000 people, many of them move to Samoa’s main island called Upolu for work and schooling. This means that the people remaining here represent the true depiction of Samoan village life. If you are a culture junkie, as so many of us are, then this is your utopia!!! From sarong-clad men (called lava lava’s here) to pigs roaming around freely and complete (and very serious) village council meetings on the first of the month, Savai’i has managed to uphold all that the Samoan culture holds dear. Many places in other parts of Samoa will try to replicate the international hotel experience, but in my opinion if you want to do Samoa right, then the international hotel experience is just not the way! Here you will find the tropical white sandy beaches with very few people frequenting them, crystal clear waters and turtles to greet you from your beachfront balcony every morning. The accommodation is boutique and quirky in some places but overall the feel of the place is a relaxed as it gets. To circumnavigate the island takes roughly 5 hours by car during which you will find waterfalls, blowholes and lavafields – magic and wonder at every stop. If you really want to get into it, learn to climb a coconut tree or have the locals show you how to husk a coconut. Castaway eat your heart out!
Now this is truly a place that no one has ever heard of… Niue is a country – amazing I know! It is a tiny little spec on the world map and it is completely an island nation in every sense of the word. Self governed since 1974 it is just one little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a total land area of 260 sq km. Up until very recently it welcomed only one flight in and one flight out every week from New Zealand which is slowly increasing as people find out about this little treasure. Niue is almost the perfect combination of my first two finds. Also a coral based island, Niue has many hiking trails and spectacular sights to offer its visitors. This is a place where you wave at everyone as they drive by because everyone knows everyone and you can rest assured that it will take no time at all for everyone to know you too. Niue is not exactly famed as the place for the perfect beach holiday but if has two beaches to offer the visitor who is willing to locate them, one of which is completely inland. The trek to Togo Chasm is certainly an eye opener with clear views across the coral to the ocean and a mighty vertical ladder climb to reach it, but if you ever wanted to feel like you were the only person left on earth then this is how you do it. There is also something about all of the abandoned houses dotted around the island that makes it feel kind of eerie. When Niuean citizens were granted New Zealand passports through their association with the larger neighbor, many of them just left. So today you will find abandoned family houses, some of which have since become cyclone damaged just standing there, looking lonely and beautiful all at the same time. This may not necessarily be a BYO Wilson location, but I wouldn’t be waiting for him to wash ashore, best to hit the one and only supermarket for your round companion on this trip!
For more information on how to get yourself to these secret locations and for even more insider hints and tips contact us at The Austin Experience – firstname.lastname@example.org. We will have you bearded and drinking from a coconut in no time!