The 12 hour overnight leg from Moorea to Huahine was a test of our sailing capabilities. To be honest, it was easier than I expected, considering that none of us had sailed at night nor done anything different from ‘line of sight sailing’ (where you can see where you’re heading), before preparing for this trip. We weighed anchor from Moorea’s Opunohu Bay right before sunset, to be sure to cross the reef with enough visibility. Once in open ocean, the night fell quickly, and the pitch darkness was only broken by the position lights of our catamaran and the handful of other sailboats doing the same passage. Our skippers, Erica, Brett and Trey seemed to have everything under control, and we organized double shifts to keep them awake and in good company. We took it slow, and arrived in Huahine when the sun was up, again to find the reef opening safely.
Sailing and diving in pristine Moorea
After spending our first night on the boat at the marina in Tahiti, it was time to set sail. Moorea was a mere 3 hours away on low winds, and its shape as we approached was glorious. The steep green peaks rising over the calmed deep blue waters of Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay were a sight I won’t forget. We anchored at Opunohu and jumped on our dinghy to get to the motus (small islets formed on the reef) off Hauru Point.
A break in Nha Trang beach
Sometimes, it’s nice to take a break. After two months backpacking through Nepal, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, we needed some days of relax to recharge batteries. Luckily, the beach town of Nha Trang was on our way, and we had enough SPG points to get a free room at the Sheraton there. For those who don’t know, SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) is probably the best hotel loyalty program in the world. I travel for work a lot, and try to stay at their Westins, Sheratons, Ws and St. Regis as much as possible to horde points, which accumulate fast once you have platinum status. And it’s to use them in moments like these, to get a free suite at a nice hotel by the ocean, and stuff yourself at the included buffet 🙂
How to plan a trip to the South Pacific
The South Pacific islands are one of the most desired and challenging travel destinations. Most people believe they can’t afford to enjoy places like Bora Bora or Fiji, and it’s true… unless you plan smartly.
Picking a destination in the South Pacific
First, let’s take a look at all countries and territories (a total of over 20,000 islands) that compose the three key regions of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.
Some frustration and some fun in El Nido
Our stay in El Nido was quite frustrating. We had very high hopes for this place, and if you google images of it you’ll understand why. For 4 days, we tried to explore the lagoons, coves, coral reefs and caves of the Bacuit Bay islands, and we couldn’t. The coast guard wouldn’t allow any boats to sail due to a small typhoon that was crossing the area generating strong waves.
A perfect day in Palawan
Getting from Coron, where we came for wreck diving, to El Nido, the travelers’ hub of Palawan, is not as easy as one would expect. There are no flight connections, so most people are forced to pick one of the two, or try their luck in rather unreliable bangkas (7-10 hours and several mishaps). Because we didn’t want to waste a precious day and wanted to do something special for Elena’s birthday, we contracted a private 3d/2n trip with Abandon Paradise Expedition. I cannot recommend them enough; Don and Fred are very professional and fun, and they offer a memorable experience.
Kendwa beach for the final days
After an exhausting safari and a day walking the streets of Stone Town, we were completely ready to relax in our final destination: Kendwa. We chose Kendwa because it has the best swimming beach in the island, even if not as cheap as Nungwi or as scenic as Paje.
Beach and more nature in Manuel Antonio
A few more hours of driving, this time on a nice road, and a quick stop at a crocodile-infested river, and we made it to our final stop: Manuel Antonio. The first nights we decided to stay close to the National Park entrance, in Manuel Antonio proper. That way we would be there before most tourists (it gets crowded in peak season), and we could enjoy the local beach. This area was much more touristy than all the other places, more expensive and “Americanized”, though we still found really good food and juices 🙂
Chilling in Gili
For the last days of our trip, we wanted a relaxed beach place to swim, tan and eat. We chose the largest and most developed of the 3 Gili islands, Gili Trawangan, which can be reached easily from Bali (~4hrs shuttle + boat from Bali) or Lombok. We stayed at some nice bungalows on the north end of the main beach, close enough to walk to all the restaurants and bars, but very quiet. My favorite part was eating breakfast on wooden palafitos over the water.
Tulum, a perfect swim under Mayan ruins
Full trip report coming up soon