Today Norm Goldman, Editor of sketchandtravel.com and Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as a guest, Ian Heydon, author, travel writer, award- winning comedy writer, artist and expert on Vanuatu, Fiji and Cook Islands
Ian is here to talk to us today about his expertise pertaining to these exotic islands.
Good day Ian and it is great to have you accept our invitation to participate in this interview!
Can you tell our readers something about yourself and your expertise pertaining to Vanuatu, Fiji and Cook Islands.
I first went to Fiji in 1993 and simply fell in love with the tropics, the warm, picture-postcard waters and the relaxed rhythm of life in general. I went back the following year and got my PADI Open Water Dive accreditation and, after another couple of trips realised I was working pretty much with a goal to travel more.
As I had a fairly successful career as a writer, I decided to see if I could write about travel and kill two birds with the one pen. In 1999, we took a family holiday to Vanuatu, where my wife Annie and I gave each other a Renewal of Vows’ ceremony as an anniversary gift.
I felt automatically at home in Vanuatu and, as luck would have it, Annie was offered a job teaching at Port Vila International School. We decided that it would be an adventure, especially for the kids (then aged 7 and 3). Our 12-month contract extended to three fantastic years, during which time I got to write a lot, including my travel book on Australia, The Small Guide to A Big Country.
After leaving Vanuatu I bought a travel agent’s licence to specialize in taking people, particularly honeymooners to this fascinating and rewarding part of the world. What I thought would be a hobby quickly became a business and in early 2004 I visited the Cook Islands and fell in love with another Pacific destination.
2004 also saw visits to New Caledonia, Fiji and three trips to Vanuatu. And I’m really excited about my first trip to Samoa this year. While I don’t have any actual publications on the Pacific islands, I have three comprehensive information websites, Vanuatu A to Z, Fiji A to Zand Cook Islands A to Z.
Could you tell our readers where these islands are located and an idea as to what differentiates one island from another from the point of view of topography, climate, and anything else you consider different?
For me, living in Australia, Vanuatu and Fiji are so accessible, being just a few hours away. Visiting the Cook Islands means a stopover in New Zealand, but it is still just two meals and two movies. For Americans, the Cook Islands and Fiji are more accessible than Vanuatu (requires a stop in Fiji to connect or to be taken as a side trip from Australia or New Zealand). The climate in all destinations is similar, tropical with no great range in temperatures but it can get very humid in the summer months. These months are traditionally wet but El Nino seems to have changed that. In the Cook Islands, when it rains, they call it liquid sunshine. The warm water temperatures mean swimming is possible all year round.
· Vanuatu is by far the most primitive, if that’s the right word. While Port Vila is a modern town with good infrastructure, excellent resorts and great restaurants, on many of the outer islands the ni-Vanuatu people live traditional village lives (ni-Vanuatu means of Vanuatu).
Cannibalism is part of the history and the last recorded case was in 1969, the year Armstrong and Aldrin took that one small step for man. Vanuatu also has a number of active volcanoes, including Mt Yasur, which is accessible and rewarding. Because of this, small earth tremors are common. Until 1980, when Vanuatu became an independent nation, the country was called the New Hebrides, a condominium, jointly run by the British and the French. There were both French and English schools, hospitals, police forces and, for a time, they even drove on both sides of the road!
Fiji is similar in topography, without the active volcanoes. For me, this is more a resort destination. While there is certainly a lot to explore, most visitors usually choose one or two resorts for their vacation.
The Fijian people are warm, outgoing (you can’t go anywhere without being greeted with a beaming smile and Bula) and are far more akin to living on island time than the Indian population. It’s a happy mix for tourists however, as the Indians pretty much make the business side of things run smoothly.
The Cook Islands also has rugged mountains, lush vegetation and pristine azure waters but a very different feel. The local people are Polynesian, not Melanesian, and comfortably marry the sensuality of Polynesia with a Christian way of life. It was from here that the Maori people followed migrating birds in their canoes to discover New Zealand. These days in the Cooks, English is spoken with a Kiwi accent and the currency is the New Zealand dollar (which makes it great value for US travelers). By contrast, the Fijian people are around 50% Fijian and 50% Indian. The ni-Vanuatu people are far more shy but just as friendly and welcoming. And, as their tourism slogan says, another time, another pace.
(Interviewer’s Comments: If you wish more information on Cook Islands click HERE)
How safe is it to travel to these islands?
I find these destinations the safest on the planet. Yes, you may find petty crime, as you will anywhere, but on the whole people are far less materially minded and perhaps more family oriented. Our three years in Vanuatu were a reminder of when the world was a simpler and more secure place the children would nip off down the lagoon to play unsupervised and we knew they were safe& or a father would load a dozen children into the back of his truck and head out for a beach picnic no seatbelts but also no worries& it was a place where kids were allowed to be kids.
Why would you consider these islands a good choice for a romantic getaway or wedding and honeymoon destination, and if you had to choose your favorite one, which one would it be and why?
Firstly, for the scenery there’s something really romantic about swaying palm trees, balmy weather and green-blue warm waters (I’m yet to see any artist reproduce these colours). But, more than this, I think it’s that rhythm of island time that I’ve mentioned. You absorb the slower pace and are away from the routine of computers, traffic and deadlines. Choosing one place is hard for me, but I will go with the island of Aitutaki in the Cooks (about a 50 minute flight from the main island of Rarotonga). This huge lagoon (a volcanic crater) is just stunning, the local people are welcoming and there are some excellent accommodation properties and restaurants.
What is the best time to visit these islands from the point of view of weather, costs, and crowds?
I’m going to take an easy out and say anytime you want to travel and to use a local saying, whatever the weather, have a nice day. I was in both Fiji and Vanuatu in December 2004. Traditionally this is the hot, wet and humid season. In Fiji it hadn’t rained for seven weeks and I didn’t use air-conditioning in either country. Some people avoid traveling in February and March because of possible cyclones but these are pretty rare. I’m betting that 2005 will be cyclone free the water temperatures haven’t risen much and there aren’t an abundance of mangoes. For some reason the mango tree seems to be in tune with weather patterns and they have an over-abundance of fruit if a cyclone is imminent. Cost and crowd-wise, I would avoid the Australian and New Zealand school holiday periods but, having said that, all three destinations have adults only accommodation options.
Do people travel to all three islands as a kind of package tour or is this not advisable?
From Australia and New Zealand, packages often work out the most economical and efficient but, from the USA and Canada, it can be better to purchase the airfare and land content separately. I don’t want to be hard on US travel agents but some do not have enough knowledge of Pacific destinations to offer the right advice (although having Vanuatu as the location for Survivor has raised the profile of this small country). I recommend using a specialist in travel to these regions and/or contact the accommodation properties direct. Most of them will still offer the package specials like Stay 7 nights, Pay 5 nights to people who book direct.
If you had to choose an unequalled, exotic and unique areas such as parks, beaches etc in each one of these Islands to celebrate a wedding, which ones would you choose from the point of view of popularity and beauty?
· Again, a hard one because, for example, some brides like to arrive in a canoe, which requires a lagoon location but to choose one in Vanuatu, a little resort called Tamanu on the Beach. It is 25 minutes from Port Vila. The bride and groom are welcomed with a glass of champagne or fruit punch, warriors perform a traditional dance and guard of honour, the ceremony is under a simple canopy on the beach, then champagne to toast and finger food while documentation is signed, a celebration lunch or dinner (on the beach or in the excellent little restaurant) followed by the night in one of the romantic French Colonial cottages.
· In Fiji, I will opt for a Tokoriki Island wedding. They have built a delightful wedding chapel (and there are plenty of beach options). Here there are also traditional Fijian warriors to escort the bride and a Fijian choir (these people know how to sing!) and a wonderful wedding dinner is part of the package. My main reason for choosing Tokoriki, though, is the new honeymoon bures with their private plunge pools.
While I said earlier that Aitutaki is my most romantic choice for a honeymoon, I would actually have the wedding ceremony on Rarotonga by beautiful Muri Lagoon, again with warrior and maiden escort. A beautiful part of some ceremonies is to be taken by canoe across the lagoon to the motu (uninhabited island) called Koromiri where the union is sealed with planting of a small coconut palm (uto). As the tree grows, so will the relationship. Apparently many couples return on their anniversaries to see just how much their tree has grown and to again taste the romance of the tropics.
How far in advance should a couple prepare themselves for a honeymoon or romantic getaway to these islands?
From our experience it depends very much on the situation. If couples plan to invite guests, it is nice to give a lot of warning so they can prepare financially (say, 9 to 12 months). Six months seems to be about average but we have had people deciding pretty much on the spur of the moment. The record goes to one couple visiting Vanuatu who were swept away by the romance of the place, decided to marry and were husband and wife in less than 48 hours (there was a lot of panic and appreciated cooperation from the registry office on that one!)
What advice would you have for destination brides who plan to bring along a wedding party to these islands? It’s a growing trend for destination weddings to now have a fairly sizeable wedding party sometimes about 50, so it would be great to get tips on group airline discounts, hotel blocks.
An island wedding with guests can be really wonderful. In some cases, where guests arrive from different parts of the planet, the occasion can also serve as a family reunion. Group discounts for flights and accommodation can be arranged and sometimes it suits guests to stay in a different resort to the bride and groom because of budget or requirements (e.g. kids club or self-contained facilities). The largest wedding we organized in 2004 was for 67 guests travelling to Vanuatu from Australia, New Zealand, USA and the United Kingdom. We are currently planning one for 150 to 180 guests in Fiji, which will be interesting! Luckily there is a resort with a seaside chapel that can accommodate this many people. When compared to traditional weddings with all the trimmings, tropical weddings are very inexpensive and many guests combine the occasion with their annual vacation.
How does one go about checking on the reliability of a hotel or resort in these islands when it pertains to service, food, etc?
Again, you can’t beat specialist, local advice. To me, resorts and restaurants reflect the personality of the owners/managers and they can change literally overnight. Specialist agencies like ourselves should travel regularly to the destinations and have contacts on the ground for updates.
What should people know about planning a wedding in these islands insofar as legal requirements are concerned?
In broad terms, think three weeks/three days. In Vanuatu and Fiji, documents should be lodged at least three weeks prior to travel and couples should be in the country for three days prior to the ceremony. In some cases this is flexible. In Fiji, couples have to have an interview at the Registry Office and have original documentation with them. In Vanuatu, the faxed copies are sufficient and there is no interview. The Cook Islands require original documents and an interview (here, the 3-day rule can be shortened for a fee). Documents required include passports, birth certificates, Intention to Marry form and divorce papers or death of spouse certificate if applicable. One thing to always check is that passports have six months validity from the date of travel.
Is there anything else you would wish to add as it pertains to romantic and wedding destinations in these islands?
Two things: firstly, for the bride (and groom) to make a wish list. Most wedding tropical wedding packages can be tailored to the couples wishes, whether the ceremony be in a church, gardens or on a beach& and include little things like the color of the bride’s dress (so flowers and table settings can complement) and whether they would like a CD compilation of their favourite music (you don’t need last minute panics looking for a CD player etc!) And finally, no matter where couples marry (traditional or tropical), it really should be the wedding the couple wants. There will be plenty of time for compromise later when they have to decide who goes where for Christmas or thanksgiving!
To learn more about resort weddings in these islands – click HEREand about tropical honeymoons – click HERE. To learn more about Ian Heydon – click here.
Thanks again Ian -tank yu tumas, vinaka, meitaki ma’ata
Immobilienmakler HeidelbergMakler HeidelbergSchnell, zuverlässig und kompetent
Which is better Vanuatu or Cook Islands? ›
If you wish to explore diverse cultures and mingle with several different types of people and communities, Vanuatu is where to go. Especially their old traditions are unique and worth experiencing. If you'd rather like to get to know Polynesians and their traditions, the Cooks are a perfect option.What two types of islands are commonly found in the Pacific Ocean How are they different? ›
Low islands in this region are usually composed of coral and low in elevation. High islands are usually volcanic in origin and mountainous with high elevations. Micronesia consists mainly of low islands, while Polynesia consists of many high islands, such as Hawaii.How do Fiji and Cook Islands compare? ›
The Cook Islands or Fiji – where to travel? The Cook Islands are a Polynesian paradise, with stunning beaches and lagoons and volcanic islands but little shopping and entertainment. The much larger Fiji is part of Melanesia, offers more things to do, is a great mix of beach- and city life, but more touristy.What is better Vanuatu or Fiji? ›
Vanuatu is less commercial and tourist-heavy than neighbouring Fiji. In Vanuatu there is a strong contrast between the resorts and upbeat rhythm of Port Vila and the traditional, untouched village life of the more remote islands. Vanuatu offers families a low-key and less crowded getaway.Who has the best islands in the world? ›
A chain of 26 atolls and more than 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean, the Republic of Maldives is one of the most sought-after tropical destinations in the world.
Stunning landscapes, beautiful untouched waters, WWII shipwrecks, rich history and culture, friendly island people, an active volcano, fresh seafood, award-winning chocolate, the world's only underwater post office, and Kava. There are almost too many reasons to visit Vanuatu.Why is Vanuatu a high risk country? ›
Vanuatu sits along a volatile seismic strip called the 'Ring of Fire' in the Pacific. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are possible.What problems are faced in Vanuatu? ›
Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Vanuatu faces frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.What are the 3 major areas the world of the Pacific islands is divided into? ›
The many islands can be divided into three main groups based on physical geography, local inhabitants, and location: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Indigenous cultural heritage remains strong in the South Pacific, but Western culture has made deep inroads into people's lives.What are the three main island of the Pacific ocean? ›
The Pacific Islands are a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. They are further categorized into three major island groups: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
What are two islands in the Caribbean sea controlled by the United States? ›
There are currently two inhabited U.S. territories in the Caribbean Sea: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.What makes the Cook Islands special? ›
Here in the Cook Islands, we specialise in beach days, sunsets, tropical temperatures and offering travellers an island getaway unlike any other. The Cook Islands are an easy and safe destination, where travelling and getting around is so easy.What is special about Cook island? ›
One of the joys of visiting the Cook Islands is swimming with the islands' abundant tropical fish. There are several beautiful marine reserves along the coast of Rarotonga, all filled with bright coral and fascinating marine life, and Tikioki – aka, the Fruits of Rarotonga – is a definite favorite.Why are the Cook Islands special? ›
World-renowned for its pristine lagoon, lush mountains and relaxed island vibe, the Cook Islands offers something special for travelers seeking an undiscovered yet affordable luxury escape.Is Fiji cheaper than USA? ›
Fiji is affordable. The cost of living in Fiji is 25.53% lower than in Canada and 60% lower than in Australia (All figures Dec. 2016) The USD is worth twice the value of the Fiji dollar making the cost of living in Fiji almost 50% lower than in the USA.What is the safest Pacific island? ›
French Polynesia may be the safest place in Oceania
With tourist havens such as Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, and Rangiroa, French Polynesia is known for its relaxed island life, stunning beaches, exotic marine life, and remarkable degree of safety.
Fiji is popularly known for its attractive pacific islands, such as the larger Vanua Levu and Viti Levu islands. Moreover, the people of Fiji are among the warmest, friendliest, and most welcoming in the world. This is because the Fijian culture emphasises friendship in various aspects.What is the #1 island in the US? ›
|1||Hawaii Island (the Big Island)||Hawaii|
|3||Puerto Rico||Puerto Rico|
|4||Prince of Wales Island||Alaska|
With income from phosphate mining and a population of 4,000 people, Nauru is the richest island in the world per capita. Most Nauruans don't work and can enjoy the comforts of modern society.Why do people go to Vanuatu? ›
Known for its gorgeously pristine coastline and laid-back feel, the Vanuatu Archipelago is one of the premier vacation destinations in the South Pacific Ocean region.
What kind of food do Vanuatu eat? ›
The core ingredients of much of Vanuatu's cuisine are taro, yam, banana, coconut and seafood. Most people in Vanuatu grow their own food, so you will see gardens overflowing with mangoes, papayas, plantains, and sweet potatoes, with a few chickens or pigs strutting around in between.Why do people travel to Vanuatu? ›
Vanuatu is quite unlike anywhere else on Earth. It's like the greatest hits of the world's most spectacular experiences – all in one place. From breathtaking beaches to heart-pumping adventures, every moment in Vanuatu is unforgettable.What is the biggest problem in Vanuatu? ›
Domestic violence is widespread. Social stigma and fear of reprisal inhibits reporting, particularly in more remote rural areas, and police and courts rarely intervene or impose strong penalties. Government and civil society efforts to combat the problem are inadequately funded.Is it safe to live in Vanuatu? ›
Like many developing countries, you need to be aware of your surroundings in Vanuatu and make sensible decisions as to your personal security. Walking in Port Vila or Santo during the day is quite safe but take care when walking alone and avoid doing this at night.What is the leading cause of death in Vanuatu? ›
NCDs, particularly circulatory system diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory disease, are among the leading causes of adult morbidity and mortality. In children, respiratory infections, diarrhoeal disease and neonatal conditions continue to account for most childhood illnesses and under-five deaths.Are people in Vanuatu friendly? ›
The Vanuatu people are very friendly and they will be able to help advise you on things like appropriate attire for village tours, etc.Is Vanuatu rich or poor? ›
Using the World Bank's definitions for data deprivation, Vanuatu is classified as moderately deprived.What is the life style of Vanuatu? ›
Cultural life. The overwhelming majority of ni-Vanuatu are subsistence agriculturalists, living in small rural villages where activities revolve around the land.Are Filipinos Pacific Islander? ›
Southeast Asia: Bruneian, Burmese, Cambodian, Filipino (also regarded as Pacific Islanders), Hmong, Indonesian, Laotian, Malaysian, Mien, Singaporean, Timorese, Thai, Vietnamese. South Asia: Bangladeshi, Bhutanese, Indian, Maldivians, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan.Are Hawaiians Pacific Islanders? ›
Hawaiians remained the only Pacific Islander group listed separately until 1980, when the terms “Guamanian” and “Samoan” were included with “Hawaiian” on all census questionnaires. In 1990, a response category for “Other Asian or Pacific Islander” was also included with a write-in area for specific groups.
What is the only island in the world that is shared by three countries? ›
|Archipelago||Greater Sunda Islands|
|Area||748,168 km2 (288,869 sq mi)|
The deepest part of the ocean is called the Challenger Deep and is located beneath the western Pacific Ocean in the southern end of the Mariana Trench, which runs several hundred kilometers southwest of the U.S. territorial island of Guam.What is the deepest ocean in the world? ›
The Mariana Trench, in the Pacific Ocean, is the deepest location on Earth.What is the largest ocean in the world? ›
The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of the world ocean basins. Covering approximately 63 million square miles and containing more than half of the free water on Earth, the Pacific is by far the largest of the world's ocean basins.What island can I go without a passport? ›
Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are two Caribbean countries that do not require a passport for American citizens when traveling by air or sea. Essentially, these countries are regarded as domestic travel within the United States.What 2 islands are owned by the United States? ›
The U.S. has five permanently inhabited territories: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the North Pacific Ocean, and American Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean.What islands does the US claim? ›
- American Samoa.
- Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
- Federated States of Micronesia.
- Republic of the Marshall Islands.
- Republic of Palau.
To live and work in the Cook Islands you will require an entry permit with permission to work. To satisfy criteria to obtain a work permit you must be sponsored by a person or organisation in the Cook Islands agreeing to your employment. Details for a work permit here.What is the most popular food in the Cook Islands? ›
Ika Mata, arguably the most popular dish in the Cook Islands. Ika Mata is made with freshly caught fish that is “cooked” in lemon juice, before being combined with fresh coconut cream, onion and chilis. Perfect for a starter or light lunch, this island classic is typically served with a side salad.What food is eaten in Cook Islands? ›
Traditional main meals consist of bread or rice with starchy vegetables such as taro, kumara, coconut, fish, and a variety of ocean delicacies such as pasua (giant clam). Breadfruit, banana, cassava, coconut, papaya and taro. Local fruit and vegetables. Beverages Water and coconut milk.
Can you buy property in the Cook Islands? ›
Can I Buy Investment Property and Reside in the Cook Islands? YES! If you are a non-Cook Islander, it is possible to buy investment property and seek permission to reside in the Cook Islands, as the below video explains. We are here to help you through all paperwork and walk you through every step of the process!What culture is Cook Island? ›
As modern Pacific people, high-spirited Cook Islanders are a cosmopolitan blend of western influence and ancient Polynesian heritage. Like any true blooded Maori, we enjoy pomp, splendour and big ceremonies with traditional customs and much feasting. Hospitality, smiles and a warm welcome come naturally.What are some cultural facts about Cook Islands? ›
THE OUTER islands produce traditional weaving of mats, basketware and hats. Particularly fine examples of rito hats are worn by women to church on Sundays. They are made from the uncurled fibre of the coconut palm and are of very high quality. A MAJOR art form in the Cook Islands is tivaevae.What is the issue with the Cook Islands? ›
Pollution, caused by various development sectors, is considered the largest threat to biodiversity in the Cook Islands. Aquatic environments are being degraded by sedimentation, nutrient overload, agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides, detergents, sewage, and other waste.What people live on the Cook Islands? ›
Cook Islanders are residents of the Cook Islands, which is composed of 15 islands and atolls in Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean. Cook Islands Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of the Cook Islands, although more Cook Islands Māori currently reside in New Zealand than the Cook Islands.Is Cook Islands expensive? ›
The Cook Islands is more expensive to visit than Australia, the US, Asia and Europe but cheaper than other Pacific destinations like Hawaii, Fiji and Tahiti (French Polynesia). It has very similar prices to New Zealand.Are the Cook Islands worth it? ›
There's an abundance of marine life. There are plenty of opportunities to explore the underwater world in the Cook Islands – and you should! The marine life is amazing and you can go snorkelling or scuba diving with green turtles, hawksbill turtles, rays, giant trevallies and many different kinds of reef fish.What is the cheapest Pacific island to visit? ›
- COOK ISLANDS. The Cook Islands top the list of affordable South Pacific destinations, with a comfortable but not out-of-reach standard of living, New Zealand-influenced culture, and an inviting array of natural wonders like coral lagoons, caves, and lush forests. ...
- FIJI. ...
- TAHITI. ...
Fiji has better beaches than Hawaii for sunbathing and swimming, and even has a few overwater bungalows that are perfect for honeymoons and romantic holidays. However if you want a more active holiday, and have more than a week to spare, then Hawaii would be perfect.What is the richest Pacific island? ›
With income from phosphate mining and a population of 4,000 people, Nauru is the richest island in the world per capita.
Can a US citizen move to Cook Islands? ›
To live and work in the Cook Islands you will require an entry permit with permission to work. To satisfy criteria to obtain a work permit you must be sponsored by a person or organisation in the Cook Islands agreeing to your employment. Details for a work permit here.Is Cook Islands or Maldives better? ›
Cook Islands or Maldives – where to travel? The Cook Islands form a stunning destination, characterized by mesmerizing islands and beautiful lagoons amidst serenity and seclusion. The more touristy Maldives, on the other hand, offers luxury experiences and plenty of water-based activities.Can Americans buy property in Cook Islands? ›
YES! If you are a non-Cook Islander, it is possible to buy investment property and seek permission to reside in the Cook Islands, as the below video explains. We are here to help you through all paperwork and walk you through every step of the process!What is the best month to travel to islands? ›
While weather conditions vary slightly between destinations, vacationers looking for a respite from the winter months almost universally head to the islands during high season, between December and April, when humidity is low and breezes are cool.Which Hawaiian island is cheapest? ›
Due to the abundance of hotels, activities, tours, and attractions, Oahu is the cheapest Hawaiian island to visit. Between the competitive prices and myriad of things to do, those looking for a budget vacation to Hawaii will find that Oahu is exactly what they've been searching for.What is the cheapest island in the Caribbean to buy? ›
Buying Property and Renting in the Caribbean islands
If you are looking for affordable property in the Caribbean islands, you should consider places like Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Honduras, and Belize, as they offer some of the most economical real estate options for you to buy or rent.