How to get there:

Go Travel The Pacific - - Whitsundays -

Fly from Australia’s ma­jor cap­i­tal cities to ei­ther Hamil­ton Is­land Air­port, or the Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port. Stay in Air­lie Beach or at one of the is­land re­sorts. Cruise Whit­sun­days op­er­ates daily trips to the Great Bar­rier Reef as well as the other iconic parts of the re­gion in­clud­ing White­haven Beach and sev­eral of the is­land re­sorts. Year round. Au­gust is the re­gion’s sail­ing sea­son. You might spot whales on any trips around the Whit­sun­days from July – Septem­ber. Fe­bru­ary/ March is the trop­i­cal wet sea­son so you might score your­self a deal.

At the time, I was a Scuba Div­ing In­struc­tor with a deep- seated love for the ocean. I had never thought about step­ping into the is­land’s thick jun­gle and held lit­tle in­ter­est in who or what lived within its tan­gled maze.

That was un­til Glen’s story left me trans­fixed; ob­sessed with tales of lit­tle peo­ple that made my heart pound.

Glen re­layed a story about a Ly­sepsep girl he met in the jun­gles of Santo. He was a young boy at the time and was walk­ing alone through the rain­for­est.

He re­calls the girl be­ing very short in stature, long- haired, very scary look­ing, and un­will­ing to speak. She main­tained her dis­tance from him yet fol­lowed him home; leav­ing an of­fer­ing of fresh fruits on his doorstep.

It is proven Santo still har­bours a small com­mu­nity of Pigmy peo­ple; their vil­lage lo­cated at high altitude on Mount Tab­we­masana, Van­u­atu’s high­est peak. Fully grown adults at­tain a height no greater than a child, but their bod­ies are strong, mus­cu­lar and well- formed.

The first time I trekked through the jun­gles of Es­pir­itu Santo, it was 2006, and I con­vinced a friend to ac­com­pany me.

It took us two days to reach our des­ti­na­tion; a vil­lage called Marakai with hous­ing thatched in tra­di­tional style. The only ev­i­dence of any con­tact with Western­ers was a scat­ter­ing of well- worn pots and a few dented plates and spoons.

The vil­lage was com­pletely off the grid; no power, no gas, no tap wa­ter, and the women tasked with tend­ing the crops all day.

There is no road ac­cess, and the only path is the one made by wild boar and the bare feet of High­landers. Although the jour­ney is not for the faint- hearted the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence a cul­ture that re­mains in­tact due to its re­mote­ness serves as re­ward enough for the in­trepid trav­eller.

In 2013, I de­cided to re­turn to Maraki, ac­com­pa­nied by a group of tourists. I had not vis­ited since 2010, and I knew that the jour­ney would be chal­leng­ing for all.

Six French guests ( fel­low trav­ellers) ar­rived early on our day of de­par­ture. We drove through the vil­lages of Fanafo, But­mas, and Sele, to meet with Riki ( our Chief guide) and nine porters.

At noon we set off on foot; mud squelched up about my an­kles, suck­ing at my hik­ing boots mak­ing each step a battle for the Earth to let go. But the rains had at least stopped – re­placed by a wall of trop­i­cal hu­mid­ity – trig­ger­ing a stream of sweat to pour from my brow.

Travers­ing a river and nu­mer­ous creeks was eas­ier than push­ing through the im­pen­e­tra­ble jun­gle. Un­for­tu­nately, for ev­ery down­hill, there was a larger one up; leav­ing my legs wob­bling like jelly.

Ah, Moorea, you were de­scribed as the ul­ti­mate en­chantress, mys­te­ri­ous sis­ter to the larger is­land of Tahiti in the French Poly­ne­sian is­lands. And you turned out to be. Sur­rounded by a col­or­ful coral reef, with sheer, im­pos­ing moun­tains that are mir­rored in the dark wa­ters of its bays, Moorea is also called the “Is­land of Love.”

Nes­tled be­tween the is­land’s Cook’s and Oponohu Bays, the 104room Hil­ton Moorea La­goon Re­sort & Spa em­braces the white sandy beach along its bril­liant, ten- acre, turquoise la­goon dot­ted with bright pur­ple coral. A 30- minute ferry ride from the har­bor of the cap­i­tal city of Papeete, across the Sea of Moon brings you to Moorea and the only five- star re­sort on the is­land.

When we were book­ing our stay, we had a choice of gar­den, la­goon and over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows with in­te­ri­ors de­signed in a mod­ern is­land mo­tif. The bath­rooms fea­ture sleek Ital­ian gran­ite coun­ter­tops; mar­ble tubs and a rain cas­cade style shower. In fact, each bun­ga­low fea­tures a pri­vate out­door shower, which gives sun- dried a whole new mean­ing.

Hil­ton Moorea of­fers 54 over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows – where we had the op­tion of order­ing room ser­vice and hav­ing it de­liv­ered via out­rig­ger ca­noe and even snorkel right off our lanai! Es­pe­cially popular with hon­ey­moon­ers, the “is­land on an is­land” over­wa­ter rooms are con­nected by wind­ing, wooden walk­ways built on stilts over the la­goon, with the ul­ti­mate lo­ca­tion be­ing at the end of the over­wa­ter walk­way in a “Hori­zon Bun­ga­low,” with 180 de­gree- views of land and sea.

On land each fare ( Tahi­tian for house) stands amidst lux­u­ri­ous gar­dens and has its own pri­vate plunge pool. There are two Gar­den Pool Suites; 20 ad­join­ing Gar­den Pool Bun­ga­lows – ideal for fam­i­lies – and 27 Deluxe Gar­den Pool Bun­ga­lows.

While at the re­sort, we had three dif­fer­ent dining ex­pe­ri­ences: the open air, ocean view “Arii Vahine” that serves a lav­ish break­fast buf­fet and ro­man­tic din­ners and hosts live Poly­ne­sian shows twice a week. The “Ro­tui Bar & Grill” is lo­cated be­tween the swim­ming pool and the white sand beach and is a ca­sual, wa­ter­front op­tion for lunch and was a de­light­ful set­ting for try­ing the fa­mous Tahiti raw tuna and co­conut milk dish called “pois­son cru” or sip­ping ex­otic trop­i­cal drinks cre­ated by the re­sort’s award- win­ning li­ba­tion­ists. At night the thatched roofed “Toatea Bar & Creperie” was my fa­vorite place for French Crepes à la Brit­tany and for watch­ing sea life swim by in the “nat­u­ral aquar­ium” just be­low.

The sea beck­ons from all points of the Hil­ton Moorea. In fact, the coral reef sur­round­ing the is­land goes so far out that the crys­tal clear wa­ter is only chest deep in many ar­eas, mak­ing it ideal for my part­ner to feel com­fort­able snorkeling out to see a wide va­ri­ety of marine life. We were able to use an ar­ray of beach toys in­clud­ing snorkels and fins, pad­dle boards, a pedal- boat or a kayak for a peace­ful ride on the crys­tal blue wa­ters of the la­goon. There were also daily boat tours of the is­land. The boat we took in­cluded stops to watch spin­ner dol­phins at play and we even got out on the beach of a mo­tus ( tiny is­lands) and a st­ingray swam right up to us, cu­ri­ous and play­ful!

The beach­front spa at the re­sort turned out to be a serene oa­sis of re­lax­ation filled with the scent of is­land flow­ers. The is­land’s lus­cious monoï ( co­conut & tiare flower)

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