Pacific islands adventure activities: Paradise is packed full of heavenly adventures
By Andrew Bain
Crawl off the beach towel and there are opportunities on many Pacific islands for particular, and often unique, adventure activities.
Pacific islands package lethargy like few other places. Encased in sluggish heat and a warm ocean, they're typically places where doing nothing can feel like doing everything. But what happens when doing nothing isn't enough? Crawl off the beach towel and there are opportunities on many Pacific islands for particular, and often unique, adventure activities.
Here's our pick of the adventures in paradise.
CROSS-ISLAND TREK – COOK ISLANDS
For 30 years Pa Teuruaa has been guiding hikers across Rarotonga's imposing mountain interior. Often walking barefoot and in a loincloth, the dreadlocked septuagenarian has traversed the island on foot more than 4000 times, leading visitors into the rugged heart behind Rarotonga's ring of beaches.
Pa's Cross-Island Trek ascends 400 metres from one side of Rarotonga to the serrated ridge that forms the spine of the island. The climb begins among trackside crops – the likes of watercress and taro – but moves quickly into the cloud forest that smothers Rarotonga's interior. It's a steep climb at times, but it's not long.
Atop the ridge, the trail passes beneath the Needle, one of the island's most striking rock formations and an ancient place of worship – look at one side of the towering rock and you'll notice that it's been carved into the face of a god.
Far below you can see out over Rarotonga's airport to lines of waves smashing onto the island's reef.
A natural healer when he's not on the trail, Pa is one of Rarotonga's true characters. He walks silently – he only talks to God when he walks, he tells hikers – but at the regular stops he's effusive with stories. He's led the Dalai Lama across the island, and once guided a woman across on her 96th birthday – they planted a coconut palm on the ridge to celebrate the occasion.
The Cross-Island Trek takes about three hours.
KAYAKING THE YASAWA ISLANDS – FIJI
The Yasawa Islands stretch like a wind-blown ponytail off the north-western edge of Viti Levu, Fiji's main island. Isolated and basic – the islands have no roads or shops – the group consists of about 20 islands. They're a string of ancient volcanoes rearing out of the Pacific Ocean, with sharp-tipped skylines that drape hundreds of metres into gorgeous white-sand beaches and craggy cliffs. For kayakers, they present a perfect line of stepping stones through the ocean.
Week-long kayak trips tend to focus on the group's northern islands, beginning on Tavewa Island, home to the Blue Lagoon of Brooke Shields and movie fame. From here, with the kayaks filled with everything you need for the next week, it's an island hop, circling out past islands to the north before returning to Tavewa.
You'll stay in small traditional villages, where you can expect heartfelt welcomes, and camp on uninhabited islands for a true castaway Robinson Crusoe experience. On the aqua-perfect water, roll overboard to snorkel among reefs, or simply wait for the turtles and possibly dolphins to surface around you.
Distances between islands are never huge – the widest gap is about 10 kilometres – and trips stick as much as possible to the protected western shores for shelter from the prevailing winds.
SWIM WITH HUMPBACK WHALES – TONGA
The warm waters of Tonga's Vava'u island group aren't just loved by tropical sun seekers. Every year from around July to November they're also a nursery for the humpback whales that migrate from Antarctic waters to give birth.
For the town of Neiafu particularly, it's become a tourist boon, creating an industry that's put Tonga on the wildlife-experience map (and inspired the recent creation of a swim-with-humpbacks experience on Queensland's Sunshine Coast). A number of boats run trips out to the whales from Neiafu, where guests plunge into the sea in fins and snorkels to witness an amazing ocean spectacle – one of the world's largest creatures in its natural environment.
It's like traditional whale watching, but as if seen from the wings of the stage. Instead of seeing just flukes and breaches, you'll observe mothers and calves gliding through the ocean, gracefully interacting.
Regulations keep a tight control on the encounters - trips can be done only with licensed whale-watching operators and only four snorkellers are allowed in the water at a time.
LAND DIVING – VANUATU
Your holiday adventure urge may not stretch to bungee jumping, but on the Vanuatu island of Pentecost you can at least trace its origins through a spectacular ritual.
Naghol, or land diving, is a traditional harvest ceremony believed to fertilise the land for the annual yam crop. Male villagers scale a wooden tower up to 40 metres high, where two liana vines are tied around their ankles. They then leap from the tower, with the vines pulling them up millimetres before they smash headfirst into the earth. It's a ceremony that was once witnessed by AJ Hackett, who transformed the concept into bungee jumping.
Naghol diving ceremonies take place on Saturdays from April to June, when the first yam crops begin to sprout. There are dedicated land-diving tours, or you can join day trips from Port Vila to Pentecost - these usually book out quickly. If travelling independently you should also book early, as the number of guesthouses on Pentecost is limited.
SWIM IN THE TO SUA OCEAN TRENCH – SAMOA
One of the most classically beautiful spots in the Pacific, the To Sua Ocean Trench is a sinkhole near Lotofaga village on the south-east coast of Upolu island. Its aqua waters look as though they drilled into the lush garden surrounds, and ferns hang from the rim of the cliffs.
The most challenging moment of a visit to this postcard-perfect swim hole is in descending the steep wooden ladder into the trench. The water below is up to 30 metres deep, so many swimmers take the plunge before reaching the pontoon at the base of the ladder.
The ocean trench is connected to the ocean, about 400 metres away, by a small series of tunnels and chambers. Braver visitors often swim through the tunnel to the sea.
Try to visit at low tide and during times of gentle seas, when currents and wave action aren't so tumultuous.
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Source: extract from http://www.traveller.com.au/pacific-islands-adventure-activities-paradise-is-packed-full-of-heavenly-adventures-11vvjs