South Pacific FAQ
Replies: 42 - Last Post: Nov 16, 2013 2:04 PM Last Post By: Hemis
Dec 16, 2010 1:38 PM
Dec 16, 2010 8:15 PM
32Traveling in the North & South Pacific
originally posted by tilos, now reposted with some corrections by Ozziegiraffe & myself
People often post here asking how they can go visit a ton of different Pacific countries in a ridiculously short amount of time. Here is some info about which airlines travel where so you can get a basic sense of how to plan your trip.
Continental connects Guam to the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Marshall Islands, and the N. Marianas Islands. There is a direct flight from Yap (FSM) to Palau several times a week. The Island Hopper flies from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands then through the states of FSM to Guam. From Guam there are flights through Yap and Palau to Manila. The Continental flights are very expensive, as there are few competitors on these routes.
There is also a Continental flight from Guam to Fiji, providing a valuable link-up between Continental and Air Pacific flights.
Note that there are also direct flights to Palau from Taiwan and Korea on FAT and Korean Airlines.
Air Marshall Islands connects Kiribati to the Marshalls, providing a link between the South Pacific and Micronesia without having to visit the US territories of Guam or Hawaii.
Our Airline runs a flight from Brisbane to the Solomons, then to Nauru, Kiribati (Tarawa) and on to Fiji (codeshare with Air Kiribati).
Air Pacific is Fiji-based, connecting LAX, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand to Fiji. Once you get to Fiji, Air Pacific can get you to many places including Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati (both Tarawa and Christmas Island), the Solomons, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
The Bula Pass can make visiting multiple countries affordable, but you are limited to a 30-day period.
Air New Zealand connects Auckland to Niue, Samoa, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu.
There is currently an LAX-Samoa-Tonga-Auckland flight, but (as of now) it is going to be discontinued.
Qantas code-shares with the other mentioned airlines, but only flies to New Caledonia itself.
Pacific Blue connects Australia to the Cook Islands, Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. It also connects New Zealand to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa & the Cooks
Jetstar flies from Sydney to Fiji.
Hawaiian Airways connects Hawaii to American Samoa and Tahiti.
Inter Island Airways connects American Samoa to Samoa, and promises to eventually provide links to Tonga, Fiji and Niue, too - don' hold your breath!
Air Tahiti Nui connects Tahiti to Rarotonga, Los Angeles, Paris (by way of LAX), Tokyo, and Auckland (with continuing code-share service to Sydney).
LAN Chile flies from Santiago (Chile) through Easter Island to Tahiti.
Air Niugini connects Papua New Guinea to Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, the Solomons and Fiji.
Airlines PNG has cheaper flights from PNG to Australia.
Solomon Airlines connects Honiara to Brisbane 4 times a week. It also codeshares with most other airlines passing through the Solomons.
Air Vanuatu connects Vanuatu with Australia, NZ, Fiji, Solomons, and New Caledonia.
Aircalin connects New Caledonia with Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Wallis & Futuna (also a direct W&F--Fiji flight), Tahiti, France, Korea, Japan, Honolulu, and Los Angeles.
Sea transportation between different countries is very limited.
Pitcairn Island (the hardest one!) and Tokelau (from Samoa, roughly fortnightly) can only be accessed by boat.
Elsewhere, there are connections between Samoa and American Samoa (weekly) , New Caledonia and Vanuatu (monthly), the Solomons and PNG (twice weekly), and Fiji and Tuvalu and Kiribati (a few times a year). Onward ticket requirements of the island countries can make it somewhat hard to take advantage of many of these links as you can usually only buy boat tickets in the country of departure.
Unless you own a yacht, you cannot see the Pacific islands solely by boat.
Jan 15, 2011 7:24 PM
Feb 23, 2011 5:35 PM
35Thanks for the valuable information about eco-oriented adventure activities in American Samoa.
In response to the note of "Grimy Pago Harbor" visitors should be aware that this is out of date. In the past 20 years specific actions taken by the United States Environmental Protection Agency has ended effluent discharges into the harbor. Today turtles and fish thrive in coral beds. Terns, birds of paradise and lesser frigates glide over the harbor. The beaches of Pago Harbor are populated by swimmers snokelers and kayakers enjoyed the beauty of nature.
From Pago, JW
Edited by: katija
Mar 16, 2011 8:58 AM
Mar 16, 2011 6:05 PM
Mar 16, 2011 10:28 PM
Jan 14, 2012 5:46 AM
Nov 2, 2013 8:38 PM
40Update Vanuatu, Octorber 2013 - Hope this is the place you wanted me to repost it ;-)
LP Update Vanuatu Santo, Ambym, Tanna and Efate - October 2013
Vanuatu is not a backpacker country. Visas are free for most nationalities but a proof of a return/onward ticket was asked both in Brisbane, Australia as in Santo, Vanuatu from the immigration officer.
The 2 most expensive things are accommodation and tours. The good news, local food is cheap, good and plentiful.
I visited 4 of the 80 plus Islands - Santo, Ambrym, Tanna and Efate.
Money exchange: If you want to exchange money there are banks and Chinese traders more than willing to do business with you. If you want to exchange Euros, go to BRED Banque Populaire, probably French owned. Their rate is considerably better.
SIM- Cards: Buy a Digicel Tourist SIM Card for VA 1’000, all phone calls within the country are VA 27, SMS are 10. No registration needed and it works within 5 minutes. Same rate as for the local people. To activate your SIM dial 122 – call.
Accommodation: I stayed with an expat, therefore no recommendations here. A restaurant Clubeez (big sized meals go for VA 350, open daily until 9pm) was just next door of the Club De Sama / Sports Bar (same building) in the center of town. The Sports Bar is great place for a cold beer 22/7.
If you want to do tours, there are different tour operators in town which speak both English and French.
Wrecks to Rainforest is my top choice which is owned by Mayumi Green, a knowledgeable and friendly Japanese Lady with very good contacts . She is in business for 4 years now and got me in contact with some great people. Contact: www.wreckstorainforest.com / Email: email@example.com / cell +678 554 70 01 landline: +678 37 365. She is also on Facebook. Visit her and her friendly staff in the town center. For the adventurous she’ll gladly organizes 4-6 days tours, trekking in the rainforest, visiting local villages which will show you their custom-dances. Unfortunately my time was too short to check out this great option.
Leweton Culural Village: Show VA 2’500 per person visits by group only. Phone 567 11 14. The people from the Bank Islands will greet you fiercely with their warrior dance, show you the traditional way of Kava and Fire making, you can smol taste ;-) both – their staple breakfast and half a bowl of Kava. More songs are followed in which you have the chance to take part in and you might be picked and popped into a local dance costume. Next the women show you various melodies beating the water in a small nearby pool and everybody right down to the 3 year old will wish you a smiling fare-well, shaking your hand. Professional Dance Group with a personal touch.
Watching Dugons and Seaturtles plus Snorkling with Fabrice, a sympathetic French-Nivatu man. Cell + 678 77 40 536. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Facebook: Island Fishing Santo
Went snorkeling at a great site with Fabrice on his little and soon on a much bigger boat. Tours last about 3-4 hours and cost VA 4’500 per Person, kids are half price. The were fantastic corals and a visibility of around 25 – 30m plus some coral fish of various colors. Later we went Dugon (sea-cow) and Turte watching and found 3 of the mammals and 3 or 4 sea-turtles racing just blow the water level. This will cost you VA 1’500 extra for adults and half-price for kids til 13 years of age. Time past quickly and the foreign visitors were very happy with big smiles. Both options are run exclusively by Farbrice.
Fabrice also does Fishing Charters with his new, bigger boat. 4h for up to 6 persons will cost you VA 35’000 and for 7h the price is 50’000 – lunch included in the 2nd option. You go and fish the big ones like Marlin, Mahi Mahi, Bonito (Tuna), sailfish etc. The big difference to other tour operators are – you can have the fish and
15% of all revenue (snorkeling, dugon watching and fishing) is going to the village chief (his step-father) and will be reinvested in building both a church and a local school which are nearly finished plus the salary of a teacher to run the school. Highly recommended.
Going up the East Coast and stopping at various points of interest like shimmering Blue Holes and beautiful Beaches. Start in Luganville – end in Port Orly.
Riri Riri River and Blue Hole: VA 1’000 per Person, Entry mainly by tour. Individual entry possible if you can trek down a guide which are not always present at the sign but they are often there, especially on the weekends. The canoe ride is for all nature-lovers and kids a favorite. I was on bord on a local dug-out canoe with a youth from the village and an ever-smiling, sling-shot hunting boy. After about 15-20 minutes’ you reach a hidden place along the river, get out of the canoe and go for a fantastic swim, bring your snorkeling stuff if you have. No food or drinks available.
Matevulu Blue Hole: Access is VA 1’500 per normal car / minivan, taxis are 1’000. Walkers who visit via a roughly 30 minutes’ walk from the main road pay 500 per person. The blue whole is the biggest in the area and the Tarzan swing is an attraction for itself – if you dare to use it. In case you walk, take the Matevulu College road and if you are at the Matevulu Blue Hole sign, take the right road of the two and follow the curvy road (not the old airstrip) into the bush. No food or drinks available, bring your snorkeling equipment if you have.
Nanda (Jacky) Blue Hole: Access is VA 500 per person. The very friendly owner of the Blue Hole is Chief Jacky. Cell number is 771 27 52. This blue hole is lovely – in fact the most beautiful one if you add the well done garden and the nice sitting places. There are smaller Tarzan swings here than the one in Matevulu but still high enough for a scream and quite a few fish call the blue hole their home. In case you are walking, it’s about 300m from the main road – on your right. Before reaching the Nanda Blue hole, you will pass a smaller one on your left hand side in a deep hole. Keep on walking. No food, but possibly soft drinks or a coconut to drink in future.
Champagne Beach: Access is VA 2’000 per small car, 4’000 for a bus or a minivan full with people, 500 per visitors who stay at Lonnoc Beach or walk down from the main road. The chief’s name is Opet Toto. The small beach is beautiful with crystal clear blue water and the finest of white sand you can imagine. There are just a few makeshift souvenir stalls, most of them are empty apart from the time a cruise-ship arrives. You might very well have this little beauty just for yourself – bring your own food and drinks and leave with your litter.
If you stay at nearby Towok Bungalows – the entry to Champagne Beach is free of charge. The boss is Jeanneth and Peter Toto. Cell 56 36 173. 6 Bungalows are finished, they cost en-suite VA 3’000 per person and 2’500 with shared bathroom and shower. The restaurant seems to be clearly overpriced.
Lonnoc Beach (and Lonnoc Beach Bungalows) . The owner is Kalmer Vocor, cell 561 456. Free access to a small but nice-enough beach as long as you order food or drinks at their restaurant or stay overnight. Acc. is VA 2’600 per person in a big dormitory, 5’500 for a single and 7’000 – 12’000 for a couple. All rooms apart of the dorm are en-suite and all include breakfast.
Golden Beach: Visits are not recommended due to ongoing land disputes.
Port Olry – a friendly French speaking fishing village with a Catholic Mission founded in 1887. Stay at “The Little Paradise of Port Olry” – in my opinion clearly the best place up north.
Manager is Tarcisius Alguet, he speaks both French and English. Cell + 678 542 48 93. Website: www.positiveearth.org / email: email@example.com . Email or call him to make bookings but it’s also easy if you just turn up and tell him that you want to spend the night. One person is VA 1’500, 4 pers in 1 bungalow (double bed and two single beds), bathroom and toilette shared are 4’000 and a new bungalow (en-suite) for couples goes for 5’000 (well done) and you get it for a fraction of the price compared to a resort like Lope Lope. Food: Breakfast is included in all prices, lunch and dinner is VA 500 per plate, both good and plentiful. In the local village store you can buy soft drinks and beer, at the local market fruit and vegetables. Activities: Go snorkeling during High-Tide in the house reef just in front of your bungalow. The corals are less beautiful compared with my snorkeling trip with Fabrice but there are plenty of fish, both colorful reef fish and others. Walk over to Malet Island, easiest at low tide and snorkel along it’s shore. Take a sea kayak ride for VA 500 per person and paddle over to Malmas Island to enjoy half a day out at the small beach, snorkeling and walking on the island, e.g. for spotting fruit bats etc. For snorkeling bring your own gear or be lucky and find something useful of his Chinese quality gear. You can also stroll through the friendly fishing village, visit the catholic church and talk to Father Morlini, an Italian Priest who is in the country since 1962. Tharcisius (what a name I know) also can take you to a nearby hill for a 2.5h tour and survival lesson, telling you which fruits and nut are edible and about the local medicine plants plus there is a great view down to the village and the beach.
Further he runs The Little Paradise Tours which can take you to all of the mentioned sights above ( the 3 blue holes and to Lonnoc and Champage Beach for VA 6’500 each, kids are half-price, all entries are included. You can do this as a day tour from Luganville or from Port Olry or in two days, sleeping over at his place. Call or email him for further infos.
If you just want to go to his place without a tour, the cheapest way is by public transport. Pick-Ups VA 500 or shared taxis go for 1’000 per pers. They live from the Petrol Station in the afternoons around 2.00 – 3.30 pm and in early mornings around 06.30 am back from Port Olry. Hitch-Hiking is also fun for part of the way, say from a Blue Hole to Luganville if you dare to. New is also a bus service for VA 1’000 per head, leaving a bit later in the afternoon from Luganville and returning a bit earlier from Port Olry in the mornings.
Millenium Cave and River floating day trip. VA 7’000. Overnight stay in a nearby village - recommended.
Manging Director is Samuel Andikar, cell +678 547 09 57. www.millenniumcavetour.weebly.com / firstname.lastname@example.org. Book directly with him or via Mayumi Green or her staff at Wrecks to Rainforests in the town center (see above), it’s the same price. One thing up-front: The cave is just one aspect of this varid tour, there are jungle hikes involved, climbing over huge boulders and swimming through a narrow gorge. Bring good shoes and expect them to be soaked in water.
Tours start daily with a pick-up before 8 am at your accommodation. You will be back at your hotel in the afternoon. You begin the tour with a 45 Minutes’ drive to the 1st village, followed by a walk of 15-20 min to the 2nd village. Here you leave your dry cloth and continue with your lunch and a water bottle for approx. 1h 20 min to the beginning of the cave with a stop for your face to be painted beforehand. The walk through the 300-400m long cave takes about 30 Min. You will be given a quality life jacket and a torch (flash light). Through the cave runs a small river in which you walk. On the walls you’ll see countless tiny nests of many swallows (fortunately their nests are not yet collected) and above bats are flying. The cave smells strongly after guano. Once outside you cross the main river and eat your lunch which a porter brought to the other end of the cave. Now the roughly 30 minutes long Canyoning section starts where you will go up and down wooden ladders and hold on to ropes or metal chains to climb over house high rocks and boulders and down into the river again. Next is about 45 Minutes of floating and walking in the river with 5 long pools which lead you through a narrow gorge until you reach the point from where you walk steeply back up to the village, 20-30 Min. Jean-Baptiste, the Chief of the village is a friendly elderly man who speaks French. Change in your dry cloth, grab a coffee and some fruit pieces and ride back into town and on to your hotel. All people of reasonable fitness will highly enjoy the trip and adventurous kids will love it. Our guide Henry was well trained and took good care of the three of us. Will you like it? – I bet you will.
Ambrym: Craig Cove – visit of the active Volcanos of Benbow, 1159m and Marum, 1270m
The best thing for you to know – since about 2 weeks there are the names of all the major guides, including cell phone numbers and trek prices written inside the small building at Craig Cove Airport.
If you just need a place to crash for the night because you can’t make it down to Lalinda or Port Vatu, go to Sam, he works at the airport and owns a small guesthouse in the village of Craig Cove. He will be there when you arrive.
Transport to Port Vatu or Lalinda is Va 5’000 per car. You share the amount between the people who are with you in the same group. Some locals will be picked up at the side of the road and ride in “your car” for just a fraction of the price but this is ok as transport is scarce.
Here I would like to recommend my/our Guide Josses Wilfred, cell +678 54 87 405. He is from Lalinda, speaks French well and quite a bit of English too. Josses is 40 years old, married, has 3 children and is a guide on the volcano for 22 years. To put it simple - you will hardly find a more experienced guide. Plus he’s a very friendly person and knows his way up and down the volcanos at night, even in dense fog. Don’t be surprised if he starts singing loud and cheerful while hiking up or down the volcanos steep slopes. He is also the trusted guide of a French volcanologist Thomas who comes regularly over to the island of Ambrym with new groups of French tourists. The prices he has given me to mention here are higher than the ones published at the airport in Craig Cove. Negotiations might be possible. Guide Fee: Va 4’000 per day/group up to 4 pers. Personal porter is around Va 2’500 per way but you don’t pay the porter when you stay in the base camp for some days as the porter return straight away back to their villages. Food is around Va 2’500 per day but honestly I would strongly suggest you to bring as much food as possible from Port Vila or Luganville, especially small treats like nuts, chocolate and biscuits. (When I saw what the French group ate and what was prepared for me – I had tears in my eyes ;-). Also don’t forget to bring at least four 1.5l water bottles, plus water purifier. If it rained a lot during the last days, there will be plenty of water in the base camp, if it didn’t, there might be none. Buy the water in the shops of Craig Cove before you start your one-hour truck-trip down to Lalinda. Rent of material: (tent, sleeping bag and GAS-MASK) is Va 2’500 for the whole trip. The gasmask is a must-have and a helmet is recommended but Josses doesn’t have any at the moment. If you have the possilbility - bring a gas mask (around USD 50) and possibly a helmet from back home. Finally entry fee to the volcano is Va 2’000, the permit is valid for your entire stay.
Personally, due to the possibility of bad weather, I would rather count 2-3 nights on the plateau than just one night. We stayed 3 nights on top in the base camp and it was raining during 2 nights and 1 day. Important is also from where you want to leave. There are options to continue north to Ranon but this involves a Va 12’000 boat ride to get back to Craig Cove and if you continue to Endu, you will have to book your onward flight from Ueli Airport. Guides are available from the other side of the island and Josses has their contact numbers but this will add up in expenses and organization talent. If you are alone or in a small group, the safest option is to fly in and out of Craig Cove, with affordable transport available right from the airport. Sure you will have to walk down the same way but most people come because of the 2 volcanos and the experience stays the same.
A short Trekking description:
From Lalinda you walk about 9km and 730m up in altitude to the base camp. This will take anything between 4 – 6h, depending on your level of fitness. From the base camp to Benbow, ca. 950m.a.s.l. it will take around 2h, from Benbow to Marum, approx. 1’000m.a.s.l. around 2h as well – as long as you can go the direct way and don’t have to outrun the 2 small active volcanos, just before Marum. If your guide decides this out of security concern, count on 5.5h plus each way. Finally from Marum back to the base camp at night will take another 2h. Due to the bad weather in the days before we had to do both volcanos in one day.
To go down the Benbow crater to see one or both of the lava lakes is generally only possible if you bring a 200m static rope with you as the inside of the crater has a decline of about 40°. Josses on the other hand and even a dog from the base camp just walk down there as if on a Sunday morning stroll but this is not recommended for visitors. Once you see it – you’ll know why. As I joined a group of French tourists by chance due to a misunderstanding of my arriving date I had the chance to go down to see the first lava lake. Count on 4h with a small group of about 4-5 people. A helmet is strongly recommended and you definitely have to be fit to do that.
Of the first lava lake of Benbow you will be able to see about half of its actual size, the 2nd lava lake has nearly disappeared, has sunken down at the moment.
Marum’s lava lake is bigger and viewable from 3 different viewpoints. From number 2 and 3 you have a 100% of this awesome sight, a true entry point to hell if you are religious and believe in the painting of the religious artists. The lava lake is constantly boiling, jutting up lava in a fury and when the level of the magma sinks a bit – it takes the shape of a heart. Simply amazing! Wait until the night to see the walls of the volcano glow red and see the red gas-cloud coming out of the volcano. Finally while walking back to the base camp, hope for another amazing sight. The stars with the Southern Cross amongst above you head and when you look back you see the red gas clouds of the lava lakes of Benbow and Marum next to each other. The distance to from the crater down to the lava lake is about 250 - 300m.
Tanna: Visit of Yasur, an super active Strato-Volcano, 361m
From the junction road to the Volcano it takes you around 45 Min to access the crater rim if you are reasonable fit. Personally I find it a sad thing, that most people just drive up to see the great one, walking up allows you to get to know your volcano much better and the overall experience is deeper, especially if you walk down again at night with your head-torch. Entry fees for adults: VA 3’350, first entry, 2nd entry Va 1’675 (half price), 3rd entry Va 1’000.
A volcanologist mentioned his concern to me about tourists just driving up to the volcano and approach the crater within minutes. There have been people killed by this volcano even down at the car park. For your own safety, especially if you came without a guide and walked up by yourself it would be best to observe the volcano’s activities from the car parking, around 150m from the crater rim itself for at least 30 min to 45 min to check on the wind and gas direction and to which side the lava rocks fall after being spitted out of Yasur’s 4 vents, especially after bigger eruptions happened.
Best is to be there around 3-4pm and wait until the night has fallen as the show is most impressive when it’s dark and you see the red lava spraying all around in front of you. I would plan surely 2 afternoons/evenings at the volcano which is hissing, farting, rambling and exploding 24/7. It’s an amazing spectacle.
Guide and Accommodation-Options.
A free-lance guide who knows the area like his pocket is 22 year old Mike Sam. Cell 564 01 97 and 773 03 97. He charges Va 500 – 1’000 per adult for a half / full day trip to the volcano via a different route or to visit a waterfall, custom villages, hot springs, down to Port Resolution and even to Yakel, the most famous of all Custom villages, roughly half way across the island. Mike is soft-spoken and possibly the friendliest person I met in all of Vanuatu. In short he’s your best bet. Mike also has 1 beautiful small bungalow for 1-2 persons (and soon 1 more) to stay at his place, half an hour’s walk from the junction to the volcano. It’s called Tanna Yasur View Bungalow, Prices are Va 2’500 per person, including all meals. Call him up to see if the bungalow is available. If you are into a black magic tour, he can arrange an Enkiry Cannibalism Tour for you. Prices are Va 1’000 per adult, Kids half price.
There are now many more options to stay the night close to the volcano than mentioned in the last edition of LP South Pacific. All are roughly the same, say Va 2’500 including breakfast, plus optional lunches and dinners for Va 500 – 1’000. Here I would like to mention 3 places.
Tanna Treetrop Lodge and Bungalows: Owner Fred, cell 841 77 37 and 779 14 64. Acc. is Va 2’500 per adult including breakfast with overpriced meals for lunch and dinner. He can arrange a pick-up transport for you from the airport, expect to pay Va 2’500 – Va 5’000 max. per person. The view from the tree house terrace directly over to Yasur at night is pretty cool and your accommodation shakes with every major eruption, plus you see the lava flying out of the crater and all of this 10m over the ground. Awesome! Fred can also drive you to the volcano and back, down to Port Resolution and just about anywhere you desire to go. But all this adds up quickly in cost as you can also walk easily to all of the above mentioned places. From his place to the volcano it’s a 1 hour’s walk, down to Port Resolution, count on 2h and about 1.5h to the John Frum Village.
Unfortunately I need to write this here. There have been complaints about him or his driver from other guesthouse owners, that he “steals” their customers away as he owns 2 cars and receive quite a lot of people. If you do find him at the airport, it’s nothing wrong with fixing a price for your drive to the other side of the island but insist that he drops you at the place you want to go and don’t listen if someone mentions – the place is no longer working and the like. Check your bill carefully too, when leaving as guests have had complaints.
Near Lenakel, there is White Beach Bungalows, ca. 7km south from the airport and a Va 200 ride on a local minibus. Prices are from Va 1’500 – Va 4’000 per adult, breakfast included. Cell 594 92 20 Apen Nako – owner) and Cell 535 88 21, Kalial Sam, his manager. There are 8 bungalows to choose from, some have toilette and shower en-suite. The place is clean and nice, bungalows range from simple to comfortable, food is good and you are right at the beach, a 5 minutes’ walk from the main road.
Kalial would also be your best bet to visit the custom village of Yakel, where time hardly changed during the last 100 years as he is originally from this tribe and speaks there local language fluently. There is a informative DVD film about the village of Yakel, available in the shops in Port Vila for around Va 3’200. Entry to Yakel is Va 1’500 per person and this will get you the opportunity to see some unique dances with men and boys wearing just a big namba (penis shed) and women and girls in grass skirts followed by a walk through the village. You can hire a car to the village, 13km away from White Beach Bungalows / 10km from Lenakel or walk. Car hire is around Va 1’500 – 2’000 per way. Plan around an hour for your visit and come in the morning as in the afternoon women and girls are no longer allowed to stay in front of the Nakamal (Men’s club house) where the dances are held. Yakel has an elderly men designated for tourists. His name is Charlie but he speaks hardly any English. Cell 566 39 89. Generally it’s best to call ahead and come with a guide for some explanations but you could also just turn up in the morning and ask them to dance for you. The entry fees are being used only for traditional festivals such as circumcision ceremonies and Toka dances or if a villager gets sick and has to go to the hospital as the people from Yakel hardly use any cash in their daily life.
I was very lucky and got invited by chief Albi Nangia to stay the whole day. After some traditional lunch, the rain set in and we fled to a high tree house and talked the hours away until the sun came back. At around 4pm each day, the men and boys start to gather in front of the Nakamal, Kava roots arrive, get cleaned, chewed and later the Kava drink is being served in coconut shells. As there was a recent dispute in one of the villages, a tied up pig was brought, slaughtered on the place and cut into small pieces for different family members. Then the men drank kava an started roasting the pieces of the pig on 2 small open fires while in the Nakamal a giant pot with Taro, sweet potatoes, leaves and meat was cooking. More food arrived like roasted mais and we all sat, drank and ate the pig in harmony. As night fell, we wished our friends good-bye and walked back to Lenakel.
Tanna Coffee Factory: In 2011 they produced 26 tons of Arabica coffee, in 2012, 50 tons and in 2013 already 83 tons! This is easy to understand as the factory pays a fair price of Va 270 per kilo of coffee beans to the farmers and therefore more and more farmers decide to grow coffee in their fertile sands. The coffee get’s collected in huge bags and sent by ship to Port Vila where it is roasted. Tanna’s Arabica Coffee can be bought in Port Vila’s supermarkets and shops, as well as in the airports of Tanna and Efate. Prices are from Va 800 per 250g (beans or grounded). Manager Daniel is happy to show you around the small factory on Tanna, outside of Lenakel, just before you reach the White Beach Bungalows – look out for the sign.
Efate: Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital and around
The Vanuatu Cultural Centre (read museum) has risen the prices to Va 1’000 – 1’500.—per adult, depending whether or not you take a tour with the resident guide, dressed in traditional garb, who plays the flute and other instruments for you and shows you his skills as a sand-drawer. The items range from interesting artifacts, masks and tam-tams to a dusty collection of shells and stuffed birds.
Lelepa Island and the Feles Cave (where King Roimata actually died). This is easiest undertaken with Lelepa Island & Fishing Charters, the owner is Albert Solomon and his cell number is 774 27 14. www.lelepaislandtours.com. Prices per adult are Va 8’900.--. Tours start just after 8am with a pick-up at your hotel. Next is a short boat ride to the island, a lesson in medicine plants while walking to a little beach, time for a 1st snorkeling with plenty of colorful fish, a nice lunch on the beach, another boat trip to see an old cave with red hands printed on the naked walls, a snorkeling session from the boat in a beautiful reef with some big fat fish and a visit in the main village. From here you have the chance to see the Feles Cave where the old king Roimata actually died, just a 10 min. walk from the village. The one room cave chamber is impressive – a nice place to die indeed. Return to the mainland and on to your accommodation in Port Vila at around 5pm.
Paonangisu, near Takara: Go snorkeling to see the only intact WWll American fighter-airplane! Call Erik: 542 70 57 or 777 72 05. Email: email@example.com. The plane lies in about 2m of depth and you can sit in the cockpit and have your photo your photo taken (bring your own under-water camera). Prices are Va 2’500 adults and Va 500 for kids, a visit to the small museum from where you get in the small boat that brings you through the mangrove forest to the site of the plane is included in the price. Cool stuff. To get to Erik, hire a taxi or take a local bus, Va 500, ca. 45
Minutes from Port Vila.
Nov 2, 2013 8:42 PM
41Update to Solomon Islands, October 2013
Solomon Islands: News from the friendly Pacific Islands
I have been asked to send a copy of my Solomon Report to here. Hope this is the right place after all.
To begin with. Solomon Islands are not a backpacker country but it is possible to live cheap if you know your way around, for an example with Couchsurfing and local hosts.
Visas for up to 3 months are free for most nationalities, especially from Western Europe, North America etc. The end of the valid date of your visa, is given according to your return/onward ticket out of the country. The immigration officer simply asked me when do you fly back and I told him the date but didn’t need to show him a ticket.
The 2 most expensive things are accommodation and traveling.
Rooms tend to start at S$ 250 / ca. USD 30 and go way up, possible cheaper in a homestay and certainly in a dormitory (but these are very rare), where you will be most likely to share your room with locals.
Flights are expensive and ferry travelling times between Honiara and Munda / Gizo doubled nearly (+20h) as the fast ferry doesn’t run anymore. If you get easy seasick, take a shorter trip.
Basic food like fish and chips, package noodles, cooked eggs and plenty of fruits are inexpensive, Water bottles are available at most places.
Money exchange and getting to/ from the airport. Generally only the 3 banks exchange foreign currency and all at very poor rates. But when coming out of the customs (and still inside the building I exchanged some money with a guy who had a small stall there, it’s the one on the RIGHT side (can’t remember the name), the left side is one of the banks with a poorer rate. I never got this rate again, once in town. A taxi costs around S$ 100 but you can walk to the main road and catch a minibus to Pt. Cruz (town center) for only S$ 3 and maybe another 3 for your luggage.
Within my time spent on the islands I stayed most of the time in Guadalcanal, in and around Honiara, where there is plenty to see and to do. See a small selection below.
In between I took a ferry (360 Discovery but there would be cheaper options) to Auki on Malaita Island and continued by public boat down to the Langa Langa Lagoon and back.
In Auki I stayed at SSEC Transit, a church-run dormitory where you get a bed for S$ 60. It is mainly used by locals, many of them who are teachers, getting to town to get their salary from far flung villages and towns. The place is very clean and friendly. It’s just behind the Anglican Church, a max. 5 Minutes’ walk from the jetty. Amy and Stephen, landline 401 81.
The freelance guide Silas is still in town, his new cell 745 82 01. He could bring you to a cave, a waterfall or somewhere else but to the waterfall you can easily go yourself. Make sure the entry fees are included in the price and count on say US 25 and up for a half or full day visit with him.
Later I spend time in the Langa Langa Lagoon and visited Alite Island, which is one of the typically man-made coral islands where the Busu Cultural Village is located. Thomas is the boss there, cell 846 00 10. His son Bernard’s cell is 750 79 06 for negotiations (boat transfer, homestay, programs). He mentioned a bed-price of S$ 200, S$ 50 more for food ( expect basic food), per person. Different tribes / clans live on the island and they seem to get along well with each other, as long as no tourist shows up. Basically that means if you want to see the other part of the island and walk through the stonewall entrance to their settlement, you are expected to pay them money, around US 12, even for a short visit. If you are not willing to pay that, just stay on Thomas’s side or the open area. There are an array of programs and shows to see at the Cultural Village but most need preparations and cost considerably money. Programs I have seen by chance (with an eccentric group of US guys who flew in to Auki by helicopter) included pan-flute and dancing groups, fire making and cooking, where the heated stones from the fire are directly put into the pot to cook the vegetables. There was a warrior dance and a group went out with slim traditional canoes. Shell money making and the demonstration of a bride price on a pretty girl are possibly the easiest things to organize plus fire making and cooking. Plenty of souvenirs and shell money will be offered to you for sale but there is no pressure at all to buy these things. Important to know is also that there are 2 more accommodation possibilities on the island but if you contact Thomas, you will likely end up in his rooms. Whatever you do, bring your own mineral water or purifier and a couple of ready-made noodles, just in case.
There is a public boat that runs in the afternoon around 2.30 – 4pm from the jetty in Auki to many destinations at the Langa Langa Lagoon for example to Alite and Serah’s Hideaway for just S$ 20 but the ride might take up to 2h instead of a 30 minutes direct run. The return boat goes in the morning around 7.30am. The boat ride is not guaranteed, check at the jetty or call Sam, cell. 844 95 48. No public boat on Sundays. If you arrive by public boat you might want to plan at least 2 nights, otherwise you hardly have any time as it gets early dark. On nearby but tiny Laulasi Island, they worshipped sharks and a group of ancestor- and enemy skulls can be seen in a small forest. Inquire about prices before leaving. The paddling time takes about 15 minutes from Alite Island.
If you want to spent time in luxury peace with excellent food (think barracuda, crayfish, squid or steak and are prepared to spend money - let yourself paddle over (about S$ 20 – 50) to Serah’s Hideaway, ca. S$ 500 – 600 per person per night, including food, cell +677 747 23 44. The accommodation in bungalows and a house are about S$ 250 – 300, meals go for around S$ 100 each. A new island, hand-made of course, just recently joined in and new bungalows are being produced. There is a small village nearby which you can reach by a chain of palm trunk bridges where on Saturdays and Sundays you might want to visit the church and nearby there is also a small village shop. Serah a charming local woman with a part-time present German husband is a very friendly host with plenty of knowledge about the islands and who built her islands by herself (with the help of workers). Her little paradise has plenty of orchids and in the water are plenty of fish (parrot, angler fish etc. and a couple of riff sharks which you can see while swimming, snorkeling or even from the land. If you have your own snorkeling equipment bring it along as the ones currently present are mainly broken.
There is a way from Serah to the mainland via a several kilometer long walk through the bush from where you can get to a road and ride back to Auki by bus apart from Sundays.
If you want to hire a boat to pick you up in Auki it will cost about S$ 300 from Thomas and S$ 500 from Serah, enquire when you call which is essential before you come and visit them. Sam might also be willing to help you out.
On my return trip I spent 2 nights in Tulagi. The walk around the island is nice and the town has a couple of rather expensive places to sleep, the cheapest being the Government Rest House for S$ 260 (ca. 30 Minutes walk from the jetty, others are much closer but cost S$ 350 and upwards .
In Honiara and around there are plenty of places to visit and I generally hitch-hiked to all destinations which was really easy. But there are also public busses along the main road. That way I went up to Visale which has a catholic church and a bit further, say 3km there is a basic new homestay “Welcome to Kalupa Beach” from a catholic father in Honiara. S$ 100 per night, bring / buy your own food. Currently there is only one room available with 2 beds and mosquito nets. A nearby shop sells very basic stuff like package noodles. Around lunch time the fishermen come back from the sea and would like to sell you their day’s catch. To be sure, bring your own water or purifier. The place is a couple of hundred meters on your right hand side, after the black / tar road ends, look for the small sign. Just before Visale which is about 42 km out of Honiara, there are 2 more homestays at the beach with small shops attached.
The Vilu Open Air Museum now charges S$ 100 per adult, which I think is way too much. No negotiations with the grumpy owner. I just said good-bye.
The White River settlement on the outskirts of Honiara has quite a big population of Gilbertese / Kiribati / Polynesian settlers, which are much lighter in skin color and have straight hair.
Towards the other side I went to see the 30 plus rosty amtracks (amphibian vehicles) from the WW ll near Tetere beach, entry is S$ 50. At KG6 at the outskirts of Honiara there is the Betikama Mission and school complex which also has some WW ll relicts and a big souvenir shop. Over the bridge you are in Lunga (end station of the KG6 bus. Watch the kids washing the cars in the river below, go and talk to Jay, the friendly owner of the tiny red painted shop who sells basic food, soft drinks, beer and coconuts (left side of the road as you exit town at the little roadside market) and walk about 2-3 km along a road with plenty of friendly locals to the Lunga beach where you can spot a rosty shipwreck, not even 20m from the shore and have a swim. Be Aware that the area around Hell's Point, where the japanese War Memorial sits is an area where theft is frequent evenafter you have paid the S$ 20 kastom fee. Do never leave your car unattended.
Enjoy the Solomons,
Nov 16, 2013 2:04 PM
42Fiji- LP Update and more stuff from its South Pacific 2012 Edition, Nov. 2013
Visas are free for most nationalities but you need to show your return/onward ticket out of the country.
Within my 15 days on Fiji I spent my time mainly on the main island “Viti Levu”, made a short trip to the small island of Mana in the Mamanuca Group and a multi day trip to Ovalu, off the east coast.
Namaka / Nadi: I have stayed with a local Indian-Fijan Family and celebrated the Indian Diwali Festival with them. Got stuffed with fine foods and plenty of Indian sweets and can’t therefore give you any accommodation option
Garden of the Sleeping Giant: Go for a visit of the beautiful Sleeping Giant Garden, full of a huge variety of orchids and some walking trails. Entry for adults is F$ 16, kids up to 15 years of age pay F$8. If the weather looks rainy you will be provided with an umbrella and upon come back you’ll get some fruit juice. They also rent the gardens for functions like birthday and wedding parties. The price per head is F$ 20 per head. Call 921 21 25 or 905 06 87. Opening hours are Mo – Sat 09.00 – 17.00, Sun 09.00 – 12.00.
To get there you can either go on a tour, hire a taxi in Nadi or take any local bus / minibus to the junction of the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, F$1, around ½ h. Cross the road and follow the natural road for about 2km until you see a sign, where you turn left. The garden is 5 minutes up on the side road.
Back on the natural road, turn left (to the right you walk back to the main road) and walk another 30 minutes to reach 2 hot springs. Both have a mud pool and a hot water pool and both charge now F$ 15 for adults! I walked up to have a look at the place but couldn’t see a clue to sit in a hot spring at an already really hot and humid country. But in rainy weather it might be worth the effort. Instead of soaking I got invited into a local house, drank cava with the family clan and played an outdoor game with the local kids.
Navilawa: The village chief is Philimoni, cell 993 94 74. The modern looking small village has a beautiful setting and has about 150 people including some + 20 kids in school-age who are going to a boarding school. There is a lodge right at the beginning of the village, which costs F$ 35 per night and person. In total there are 6 beds, 1x4 and 1x 2 (with one double-bed). The place is very good value as you are most likely to have the whole house for yourself. There is a shower, a flushing toilette and a kitchen inside fi you are self-catering. If you wish the villagers to cook for you add F$ 15 for 3 basic meals. If you just want to come for visit during the day, the day-fee to visit the village is F$ 21.50 including a village tour and refreshments. In the village there is a small shop where you could buy basic items such as biscuits, cans and noodle-packs but it would be best to come up to the village with these items already in your backpack. The villagers can offer hikes or horse-riding (F$ 15 per person) into the beautiful surrounding mountains for a couple of hours. There is also an old cave nearby where people have taken refuge during cyclone season.
How to get there: Call driver Api Nambo from the hot springs. Cell 996 26 15. He will drive you one way for F$ 40 (in a 4x4 vehicle, 20km inland from tank junction on the main road, where the sign for the stoney creek resort is) to Nawilava. To get to tank junction, just sit in any bus or minibus going from Nadi towards Lautoka, F$1 and tell the driver where you want to get off. If you want to go even cheaper and like to hike, be at the junction at 8am and wait for the public bus going to Korobembe. From Korobembe, 13km inland from the main road, walk for 7km until you reach the village. After 3km there is a gold plant on your left as you follow the beautiful river bed through lush vegetation. For the return bus, be at 5.15pm back in Korobembe and get off at the main road from where you can flag down a bus or a minibus to either Nadi or Lautoka. Recommended.
No visit to Fiji is complete without an overnight stay in the last traditional village in the Fiji Islands which has a spectacular setting in the foothills of the mountains. Highly recommended. Entry fee to the village has risen to F$ 25. This should include a village tour and refreshments but not necessarily. In total there are over 100 “bure”, traditional buildings, in the village. On the upper side there is a soccer/rugby ground and behind the local school, grade 1-8 and next to it a catholic church.
How to get there: From the town of Ba (the next town from Lautoka on the Kings Highway) there are busses at 11.00am, 4.15pm and 5.15pm. Fare is F$3 and the bus takes about 1h 15 min to rustle up to the village (on some section you think you could walk faster...). From Navala there is a bus at 06.00am, 08.00am and at 1.45pm which brings you back to Ba, from where you have connections to Lautoka and Nadi. Riding the bus trough the beautiful country side , often with plenty of cheerful school kids on the way home, is extremely enjoyable.
You can stay either at Bulou’s Eco Lodge, phone 628 12 24, ca. 1km away from the village. Dormitories including meals are F$ 75, bungalows are F$ 180 or you can opt (like me) to sleep in the village itself. This is more rustic but you will sleep in an actual family-bure. Upon arriving in the village ask for Alevina, she lives in the “Sauelau Bure” which basically next door to the bure of the village chief and the headman’s bure (at the start and on the lower side of the village towards the river). Cost is just F$ 30 including basic meals. Bring some snacks from town. Water is available via a pipe from a nearby source. Alevina doesn’t have a phone and there is no cell connection in the village at present but she has a functioning flushing toilette, some 35m down a track! You will likely end up in the family bed, with kids, parents and grandparents sleeping on the floor but don’t worry – everybody will be much more used to do that than you
What to do: Swim with the kids in the muddy river in the afternoon, watch the youth playing rugby in the evenings and visit the local school in the morning. Plus take plenty pictures of the beautiful bures and the friendly inhabitants. You can also opt to hike in the surrounding mountains. If you would like to donate school material to the school (grades 1-8), they currently look for picture/reading books, library books, stationaries, coloring books, board games, atlases and dictionaries. Give them to director Luke or even better give them to a suitable class. The school has at present 157 kids (with 23 of them staying in dormitories as they come from 4 even remoter villages over the hills)
Mana Island – Mamanuca Group near Nadi:
Be aware that many Fijan islands where badly hit by a cyclone in December 2012 and some resorts have just as recently opened as Nov. 1st, others are already open for months while Funky Fish Beach Resort on Malolo Island is still closed. The cyclone damaged both, the infrastructure on the islands as well as the coral reef which is being revitalized. Call before you go.
On the island there are 4 places to stay. 2 Backpackers and 2 upmarket resorts.
Ratu Kini Backpackers and Dive Resort: Tui Tabu is the director. Cell 999 13 48. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The place is run by a sympathetic manager Trevor from NZ. There is a 5star Padi Dive shop on site. Dorms are hot and sticky as they are in a building behind the main restaurant-dive-shop building and cost F$ 32 including breakfast or F$ 66 with an excellent food-plan (including lunch and dinner). There is also a restaurant and a bar from where you can choose à la carte. Singles and doubles are also available. A number of paying attractions are arranged, such as snorkeling, hand reel and trawling (fishing), half day or full day island hopping with 2 stops at different islands where you can sit in different resorts and enjoy a drink before going for a snorkeling on the nearby sand bar, there are sunset cruises and a trip to Monuriki Island, the location of the film “Cast Away” with Tom Hanks. The Backpacker place has its own boat which brings you from Nadi to Mana in around 45 Minutes. Prices are F$ 75 one way or F$ 140 return with a free pick-up in / around Nadi.
Mana Bay Lagoon: Cell 92 92 337 and 92 19 951, the manager is Jitan. Dorms including all meals are F$ 65. Single rooms are F$ 100, doubles are F$ 140 and one double is en-suite for F$ 340. There is a small restaurant plus a bar on site where you can choose your dishes and drinks. They have their own transfer boat from Nadi which is called the Mana Flyer. 1 way F$ 75, ca. 45 min. including a free pick-up from Nadi area. They also have a dive site. They have similar day tours like the ones mentioned above.
Tadrai Island Resort: www.tadrai.com / Email: email@example.com / cell: +679 999 35 68. This exclusive and truly beautiful place is run by sympathetic manager Jack Stark. Tadrai is kids-free and has just 5 villas on the beach, each with a stylish outdoor bathroom, bathtube and its own little fresh water swimming pool. Prices are for doubles or singles F$ 3’000 per night, inclusive all food and drinks. Steak or Lobster – you choose. The beautiful common freshwater swimming pool is nicer to look at if the water is calm and seemingly continues with the sea, just in front. Helicopter Transfers from Nadi are F$ 1’500 (per helicopter) but you can also come on a public boat, on the boat with one of the backpacker hostels or on a chartered boat. If you arrive by boat there is a free pick-up from the main jetty on the other side of the island.
Mana Island Resort: They cover a huge portion on the island and the mini-Berlin wall (which one LP writer wrote) is still in place. I didn’t appreciate this, if you want to stay check www.manafiji.com . Prices range from F$ 320 upwards.
Nandi / Port Denarau: Captain Cook Cruises – www.captaincook.com.fj / firstname.lastname@example.org /land line + 679 6701 823. They offer a variety of cruises from day cruises to dinner cruises and right up to a 4 day stay on a small luxury cruise-ship. I had a look at their day cruise to Tivua Island. Normally they go on a roughly 50 year old schooner (a double mast sailing ship) who belonged last to the governor-general of Fiji in the old colonial days. There were around 60 people on board and the ship was pretty full. Coffee and water on the ship has to be paid for but on the island the lunch BBQ, including alcoholic beverages are included in the price of F$ 185 per person. Start is at 10am and you’ll be back by 5pm, unfortunately. 1-2 hours more on the island would be greatly appreciated. Once there - you will go for a snorkeling just off the island ( a ten minutes’ walk around) where you will see dead and some live coral, blue sea stars and plenty of colorful fish. BBQ was good and after that you can go for a relaxing hour, another snorkeling session, grab a sea-kayak and paddle to the schooner or take a trip on a glass-bottom boat to the small reef in front of the island. Dives and massages are available at an additional cost (dives F$ 150 – 1 tank). Be aware that some of the snorkeling equipment is below average, if you have your own, bring it along. Security on board as well as while snorkeling is good (snorkeling is in 2 groups – one for beginners and the other one for advanced snorkelers, both with a guide). Recommended.
Near Sigatoka at Korotogo on the Sunset strip:
The Kula Eco Park is a fantastic place to while away 1-2h. In Fiji they are most famous for the breeding program of a highly endangered iguana type and you get to handle 2 different kinds of iguanas (crested and banded) plus some boa constrictors. Apart from that there is a long shaded boardwalk which leeds you through open cages with birds flying around, sea turtles (including feeding), flying foxes and so on plus tanks with live coral. The place is very suitable for a pick-nick and kids will love it. Prices for foreigners are F$ 30 for adults and F$ 15 for kids, there is a family price as well. If you want to help the park, don’t drive with the taxi up to the entry as they have to pay the driver a 15% commission in addition to the price you pay. Get off at the main road from where it is a 300m walk up to the gate, straight away. Open daily. Recommended.
Tubakula Beach Bungalows, just across the road is one of the best value places in all of Fiji. Dorms go for just F$ 26 and if you are the first person who checks in, ask the lady for the single room inside the dorm with a double bed (it goes for the same price). In the dorm there are hot water showers, a kitchen with fridge and freezer plus a stuff and cutlery etc. Out there is a small swimming pool in a beautiful lawn with plenty of coconut trees, right at the beach. To one side is a friendly small village with a small shop whose inhabitants will be happy to chat to you or you can play volley ball with them but be aware that some of the players play in Fiji’s National team.
Some travelers and expats say Fiji’s capital can be dangerous, especially at night but I found smiles and friendly people where ever I went. I stayed at the South Seas Private Hotel just above Albert Park, a twenty minute walk from the bus station. The old hotel has singles for F$ 35 and Dorms for F$ 20. There is no breakfast or restaurant but a kitchen for guests to use. Among the things to see is the Fiji Museum, the walk along the sea-shore, the Suva Municipal Market and the University of the South Pacific but I also went to see the Youth Prison or rather the Rehabilitation Center for under 18 year olds. The small facility for boys and girls is out in the green not far from the Fiji Museum and is parted. Girls were outsourced to a church-program and are therefore better off. But the rehab center for boys instead of having them in a prison cell is pretty advanced for a developing country.
Cloth donation and more: If you would like to donate some clothes (T-shirts, shorts, flip flops, underwear, long trousers, shirts – according to priority) of you or 2nd hand clothes and flip flops (look for sizes M and L) at the markets around town. Please bring them directly to the rehab. It’s a 8 minutes’ walk from the South Seas Private Hotel. Go up Ratu Cakobau Rd which leads up from Albert Park to the South Sea … Hotel and turn right into Domain Rd, just a bit higher than the South Sea … Hotel. Walk down until you see a small road going to the left (Imthurn Rd or similar). Take this and just before it ends at a house, there is the Obrien Rd to the right. Walk it up to the last house and donate the cloths to Mr. Clement the man in charge or Mr. JR, a social worker. This way the cloth get directly to the right place but you won’t see the kids most probably. For being sure to see them and talk to the cheerful pack (7 at the time I was there but 22 just a few months earlier) you need to call the welfare department in Suva Thoorak, (approx. F$ 4 by taxi from the Fiji Museum). Landline is 331 55 74. Ask for Ela, the woman in charge or the head of the department. I have all names and cell numbers of the people in charge but as they are confidential – I can’t disclose them. The small rehab center’s land line number is 331 28 36. I talked to the kids for some time (a smiley bunch of 15 – 17 year olds, all in for burglary (some innocent – others guilty) and they wished to play volley ball and had already a net – so I donated them a ball. Be aware that this is the only youth prison / rehab center in the whole country and I believe Fiiji is surprisingly forward in the way they treat their young offenders. The problem is that the kids often arrive here directly from the police station on the main island or from other islands in the clothes they wear at that moment and have no spare cloth. That’s why your donation is very much appreciated.
In case you have time and a program or skills to offer to the youth (who might attend a school or a vocational training while here) or you would like to donate some money for a bail out (the average cost is F$ 1’000 – 2’000 / USD 500 – 1’000 but as most families are poor - they can’t afford this much of money) you definitely have to make an appointment with the director of the department.
Ovalu Island Levuka:
How to get there: Go to the Patterson Brothers Shipping Company, land line 331 56 44. They are just below the Centenary Church, in a shopping complex in the city-center, about a 5 minutes’ walk from the bus station. Open Mo – Fr 08.30 – 16.30, Sat 08.30 – 12.00. The price is F$ 35 per way and includes the bus-ferry-bus ride (5-6h) from Suva to Levuka. No trip on Wed and Sun. The bus leaves at 13.30 from the bus station. Going back from Levuka to Suva, busses pick you up at your hotel at 04.30am and you will reach Suva around 08.30. Inquire about return trips on most days of the week. Buy your ticket in person up to 1 hour ahead of the departure. Both bus rides are about 1.5h and the ferry take about 45 min across to Ovalu Island.
Levuka is a small town with an wild west atmosphere (buildings, no cowboys or guns) and was declared Unesco world heritage in 2013. It’s a small and pleasant little town (if you overlook /oversmell the stench from the nearby fish-fabric) with plenty of friendly people. Stay at the Royal Hotel (the countries’ oldest hotel, singles F$ 35 up) or at the New Mavida Lodge, singles F$ 60 – 80, dorms F$ 25. The Patterson’s Brothers office is in between from where it is a 2 minutes’ walk to either of the 2 places. Roam around Levuka and take in the old architecture but the Ovalu Club is closed for renovation at the moment. 5 km to the north of Levuka is the Bishop’s Mausoleum/Tomb/Grave. Taxis, F$8 or catch the morning bus around 7.10am or a pick-up any time they pass to reach the place. The Tomb is to the right side of the road, a 2 minutes’ walk. Immediately to the left on the road a small footpath leads up a little hill in the bush. After a 5 minutes’ walk you will find an old church in ruins which is atmospheric. The handy man who lives just before the church and works in the nearby secondary school has the key to the tomb but there isn’t really a great deal to see apart from a stone, mentioning the bishop’s name etc. 300m up the road you’ll reach a catholic church and behind is a vast secondary school campus including a boarding school. Kids come from all over Fiji but most come from the area of Suva. Other parents work as expats overseas and the recommended school has a good number from other Pacific Islands such as PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa and Tonga. I heard a good singing lessons and played table tennis with them on the worst table I have ever seen ;-)
Yassava Island Group:
I would do anything to avoid the Awsome Adventures Fiji overpriced Katamarans . They apparently went up 50% of the published LP fares from 2012 and you can’t leave the boat if you don’t have a booked place to sleep. Well for mass tourism that might be the way but not for intrepid travelers. On my last day in Fiji I heard from a local in Lautoka, that there should be a public ferry from Lautoka to most of the islands villages on Friday and Saturday for just F$ 30 – 50. It goes back to Lautoka on Wednesday and Thursday. Departure times are in early morning around 05.00 – 06.00 am. That means you would have to sleep over in Lautoka, about an hours drive north of Nadi. The boat’s name is Sulua. Please double-check this information and post more information if you take it.
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