Honeymoon Ideas & Answers
South Pacific 101
Continued (page 4 of 5)
Which local South Pacific customs should we be sure not to miss?
Jad: Spend time in Fiji and you'll be invited to experience yaqona, an ancient ritual centered around the consumption of kava, a drink made from pounded pepper root diluted with water. Scooped in a coconut shell from a four-legged bowl called a tanoa (a great souvenir), it tastes like dirt but packs a novocaine-like punch. It's legal, pleasant, and nothing will earn you local friends faster than joining in. For a tastier treat, arrange to attend a Tahitian umu (earth oven) picnic. Pork, fish, chicken, breadfruit, and vegetables are all wrapped in green banana leaves and baked in a pit with red-hot stones. The result will melt in your mouth. Another must when in French Polynesia is a traditional dance show, with beautiful young women and muscled young men in grass skirts and feathered headdresses dancing the erotic tamure. The shake in the Cook Islands, especially on the island of Aitutaki, is even more sensual—a drum-thumping celebration of the human body in perfectly choreographed motion. Less amorous, but equally rousing, is a New Zealand Maori haka. This synchronized knee-slapping, foot-stomping, war-crying dance will leave you as breathless as the tattooed warriors performing it. And although Australia lacks the carnal flair of her South Pacific neighbors, she makes up for it with her ancient Aboriginal history—the oldest living culture on the planet. Whether you listen to a didgeridoo (a simple wind instrument carved from the branch of a eucalyptus tree) played during a solo moonrise concert at Uluru or blown in a Sydney craft co-op, there's something primeval in its wavering hum.
Why are there overwater bungalows in Tahiti but not in Fiji?
Joe: In the early 1960s, the folks who created the legendary Hotel Bora Bora did something that everyone thought was totally nuts at the time: They built a traditional Tahitian thatched-roof hut (with luxury amenities) and set it on stilts above the gorgeous Bora Bora lagoon. The concept caught on quickly throughout French Polynesia, and today you can also spend your honeymoon relaxing on the private deck of an overwater bungalow in the Cook Islands (Pearl Resort Aitutaki), New Caledonia (Coral Island), and even Vanuatu (Meridien Port Vila). But true to their heritage, the Fijian (and Samoan) people remain faithful to their own version of the thatched-roof hut: the traditional beachfront bure. These can range from very basic (sand floor, mosquito netting, outdoor shower) to utterly luxe (polished teakwood floors, air-conditioning, marble bath with Jacuzzi). You'll find the most awesomely appointed bures at posh private-island resorts such as Namale, Vatulele, and Turtle Island. Believe me, you won't miss the stilts.
We want someplace where we can truly lose ourselves. What do you suggest?
Jad: Flip to that last, thin chapter in your guidebook (or catch a few Survivor reruns). One of the most remote destinations you can visit comfortably is the Marquesas, a tiny archipelago of volcanic islands northwest of Tahiti. Catch a direct flight from Papeete to the main island of Nuka Hiva, or travel aboard the Aranui 3 passenger freighter (see the cruise question), which calls on all six inhabited Marquesas islands over the course of two weeks. Either way, you're in for a startlingly lush landscape little changed since the days when Herman Melville wrote about dodging cannibals and wooing maidens in his swashbuckling tale Typee. On Fiji, head for the northern island of Vanua Levu and its wild top coast to experience the last true stronghold of Fijian culture. The few tourist resorts up there are exclusive and difficult to reach (it's best to arrive via seaplane), but are most definitely worth the effort.