To this day, I will never forget the feeling of arriving at this perfect palm tree- lined white sandy beach with pristine lagoons, blue sky, beautiful native flowers and gentle offshore breeze. There was an insane four to six right and left- hand surf peak only 50 metres out in the lagoon and, best of all, no one was out!. At that moment I rushed to get my board ready before any other surfers could arrive, and I was gently told to chill out and relax; there are no surfers for over a thousand miles and there will not be for at least a few more years. I had arrived in Surfers’ Heaven.
Unlike the early days of hit and miss 25 years ago and limited access to surf breaks, today Samoa embraces surfing with surf camps and resorts like Maninoa Surf Fales set up to specially cater for surfers and their families. It is now all so easy!
Maninoa Surf Fales ( Samoa’s first Surf camp) was founded in the early 1990s. The owners saw how hard
it was to come to Samoa and find waves, even today without guides, boats to get to the waves and local knowledge, and understanding Samoan culture it would be hard and or very time consuming and expensive. Maninoa Surf Fales were determined to take the hassle out of surfing Samoa. Maninoa’s Tara Gorter explains: “We set up Maninoa to help surfers have a safe, fun, friendly, cost effective surfing holiday, with real Samoan culture, and share our world class waves and Paradise found “.
Located in the jungle on the south coast of Upolu, Maninoa is all about location, location, location. Built next to two other resorts, Maninoa is 50 minutes drive from Faleolo Airport and only a 30- minute scenic mountain drive from the capital Apia.
Maninoa is blessed with perhaps the best waves in Samoa and for that matter some of the best in the Pacific, if not the world. Tara’s passion for Maninoa is apparent as she describes the facilities, “straight out the front of our Fales is the world famous Coconuts ( a perfect right), and there are over 15 other breaks within a 15 minute boat ride from Maninoa including Boulders left- hand point, Stevie Wonders, Pebbles, Sala’s Funky Town, AJs and more!”. Tara goes on to point out that Boulders and Coconuts were rated in the “top 100 waves in the world” in a recent surfing magazine.
Maninoa’s friendly staff will make your trip to Samoa easy; once you arrive at Faleolo Airport, you will be picked up and transferred to Maninoa where your traditional beach front fale ( hut) or your apartment awaits you. Your boat is parked out the front from you fale, and both western and
• Samoa is an endless summer with the air temperature averaging 28 degrees and the water 29 degrees. • Samoa has good surf all year
round. • Bring your own board and
equipment. • Samoa is not recommended for beginner surfers, but good intermediate to pros will love it. • Most surf breaks in Samoa are reef with only a few beach breaks. • Samoa only has about 40 local
surfers and they love to share
their waves. • Samoan’s are very laid- back, and Christianity is a large part of their culture. All surf spots and beaches are part of the village and or owned by someone; it is part of Samoan customs to ask for a fee for the use of their land - please honour any such requests. • Most surfers that travel to Samoa
stay in a surf camp or resort. • Samoa is only just over a 5- hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane, 3- hour flight from Auckland or 6- hours from Hawaii.
learning, I explain. We haven’t even attempted to stand up yet, but my client’s smile says it all. She is a natural! She has done this before, I think to myself. I urge her to try standing up; it is called Stand Up Paddle Boarding after all. The key is keeping your stance shoulder width, feet parallel to the rail ( side) of the board, and knees relaxed. And just like in life, you have to look where you want to go. Lastly, tighten your stomach muscles like someone is going to punch you in the gut. We have a chuckle about my imagery, but I can see it worked because she appears relaxed and gliding along effortlessly.
After a five- minute paddle, we are at the “motu” or islet in Muri lagoon. Being on the motu allows us to look at the main land of Rarotonga and capture its beauty from a different perspective. The mossy green peaks are majestic and yet seem approachable. Our spirits are lifted higher helping to fuel our workout. She has requested full body circuit
end up here anyway?” I smile as I begin the story I’ve just told.
Living on a small island away from everything you’ve ever known is not for everyone, and it has its challenges just like any other place, but Rarotonga has a way of bringing people together. In my five years here I’ve learned more about myself and my eyes are open to a whole new paradigm of viewing the world. Kitesurfing and paddle boarding are filled with life lessons, and meeting people from all over the world gives me balance and understanding. For me, it is important to live without regrets and to challenge myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. I look forward to what tomorrow brings! KiteSUP Cook Islands www. kitesup. co kitesupcookislands@ hotmail. com Kite Season May- November
Then I signed up for an excursion to Malinoa Island, a 20- minute boat ride from Fafa. Moses knew his way around the coral, zigzagging the small boat across the turquoise bay.
He dropped me at the island’s edge and putted out to sort the anchor, leaving me momentarily alone on this idyllic beauty spot.
The area is a marine reserve and so provided brilliant and easy reward diving with just a snorkel and mask, with multi- coloured coral of many different shapes and sizes and a multitude of bright darting fish.
It was an incredible visual feast in water so clear, calm and silky that I could have stayed in it for hours.
I walked around the small island on super soft sand, then sat drinking a fresh coconut delivered by Moses and, noting how utterly content I felt, wished for some more magic involving time standing still.
Later in the day, the solid little yacht carried me back to Tongatapu to a night in a hotel over the road from the port.
The balmy evening, loaded with perfume, carried musical noises from the neighbourhood.
Market stalls selling coconuts, cassava, bananas and stacks of firewood lined the footpath until the sun went down.
There’s a rustic quality to Tonga. Children run around in bare feet, people hang washing from fences outside very basic houses.
Chickens and pigs and their incredibly cute spotty piglets run free- range, and skinny dogs chase cars that have seen better days – quite a long time ago.
Driving out to see blowholes along the southern coast, where the sea explodes upward with terrifying, furious rigour, I passed through tiny messy villages with impressive churches. Cemeteries boasted beautifully tended plots, bright with flags and white painted crosses loud against the blue sky. Families tended gardens, old folk sat in the shade,
sand beach with palm trees and clear water. This island has a bar – Big Mama’s – a favourite with visiting yacht crews and expats, especially on Sundays when Tonga closes for church. Big Mama’s hangs over the water.
Once patrons finish swimming, lying on the beach and diving off the nearby rusting wreck, they buy beer and burgers and sit in the shade. It’s a dishevelled scene, with messages scrawled on walls and rafters, sand underfoot and photographs revealing good times, soaked in laid- back, amicable fun.
Music from another era trickles from low- fi speakers. Taking up the refrain of some sweet, old fashioned song, I pulled my kayak back to the water’s edge summoning the last burst of energy required to get back to Tongatapu.
Dipping my paddle, left right left right, a warm wind ruffling the surface of the twinkling sea, I had a sense of belonging in this watery world. It felt right to be pulling my weight across the sea. I imagined, over thousands of years, others transporting themselves from island to island, one eye on the land ahead, one eye on the reef below.
I realized, as the beach drew near, that even after paddling 10 kms, I was still relaxed.
So what if the next part of the day involved packing and getting to the airport. Right now, right here? Magic.
Make sure to visit Tonga’s Visitor Information Centre on Vuna Rd, Nuku’alofa for great travel tips and information, as well as local flight, accommodation and activity bookings.
Yet – the tall order was still staring at me in the face. If I’m settling with sun, sand and sea, where to now? A quick Google search with the words ‘ beach resort fiji’ took me to a string of results, but catching my attention was ‘ Uprising Beach Resort’. A click on it opened a Pandora of all things paradisiacal. And making a booking was as quick as my journey to the tropical oasis of Pacific Harbor.
A somewhat short driveway led to a nestled beauty. Possibly the friendliest guards in the world greeted me with wide smiles, while their hearty ‘ Bula’s!’ were a giveaway of the Fijian hospitality I was in for.
Fast- forward from check- in, and to all you couch potatoes out there, who even a vacation would not so much as stray you away from your gadgets and cushions, you must come. You have a 42 inch Flat Screen TV, DVD player and wifi at your ‘ tech- disposal’. The accommodation is simply amazing. I was booked for a 72 square meter villa that boasted a large balcony and king- size bed. How’s that for space? For the daring, an open- air shower. The cautious – a luxurious indoor bathtub. And don’t get me started with the furnished interior designs. They complement the pristine parameters of the villa, of which – mind you – Beqa Lagoon is in sight.
Speaking of which, the lagoon is renowned for its thriving coral and marine- life activities.
Note to those who feed off adrenaline, add the World Famous
Shark Dive and zip- lining to your itinerary. And of course, thanks to Sea Venture’s state- of- theart glass bottom viewing hydrofoil boat, you’re rendered with a breath- taking view of Fiji’s coral bed. And it just doesn’t stop there for all you water babes; paddle board at the Frigates Passage or hop on a kayak tour.
While for me, I could only go as far as the coral sighting, I suggest you exhaust the options, which will leave you craving for the Uprising Restaurant and Bar’s best palatal delights, I would say. But I must warn you, once your eyes are set on the menu, there is too much good to savor. I had to go with an Indian curry after hearing from one of the locals that Fijians make the best curry in the world. Plate cleaned – and it was as true as the word on the beach. But apart from the best curry in the world, feast yourself on beef burgers, chicken parmigiana, pasta and pizzas, and yes large salads for those keen on a healthy meal.
“To the room I go,” or at least that’s what I thought the plan was on a heavy stomach after dinner, but the tumultuous beats from the entertainment platform beckoned me to stay. It was Island Night, one of the many events and themed nights Uprising Resort Fiji holds host to, while on Sundays, jamming and disco sessions are the day’s highlight. A great sneak- peak into Fiji’s contemporary culture.
And if the night spectacles pique your curiosity of what lies outside the resort, a small urban centre is within a short walking distance. Get a souvenir or two from the local handicraft stalls or even local supermarkets. And what’s as spontaneous as sending a postcard while on vacation – do it at the centre’s post office, among which a bank, ATM facilities, and even a medical clinic is what the Pacific Coast brags.
Yet while my short stay and this blog entry are nearing an end, I feel as if I haven’t quite hit the nail on the head. And that’s because, while I stayed at the villas, I was attracted to the other
accommodation types of Uprising insofar as I had to pen this down for your vantage and interest ( re: the latter, if I hadn’t lost you at “sipping pineapple margaritas”).
For those with a classic taste, try out the Beachfront Bures. I swear, the 42 square meter units will not disappoint. Each unit houses either a Queen bed or two singles. Everything you find in the villas, you find here. Unlike the villas, the bures are more spacious and reclusively relaxing, having being surrounded by lush gardens and situated away from the resort main. Indeed a bungalow hideaway!
Catering for every traveler, Uprising also comprises the Tree House dormitory, with 20 bunk- styled beds and a spacious sharing environment. You’re also treated to scenic views with your balconies. For the family – try out the Mini- Dorm, housing only 8 beds. Nonetheless, be they the villas, the bures or even the dormitories, you’re still entitled to a hot and cold tropical breakfast buffet. How’s that for a package?
Like everything, there’s only so much you can tell. Rid those frostbites and experience the sun. Put down that paperwork and feel the fun. And if Fiji’s an airline ticket away, then make the Uprising Beach Resort your special vacation’s getaway, where “it’s not perfect, it’s paradise”.
For more information, go to www. uprisingbeachresort. com