PAR­ADISE FOUND

Go Travel The Pacific - - Samoa -

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

the sand.

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

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