Swimming with whales, dinner with fire dancers and crystal-clear water everywhere you look. These Qantas travellers visited Tonga, Samoa and New Caledonia in the Pacific Islands and found out-of-this-world adventures, epic nature – and lots of fun.
“You’d put on your snorkel, kick out and the whales were below”
Melissa Key, Bronze Frequent Flyer
“My partner and I are ocean obsessed so we booked a week-long trip to Vava’u in Tonga to swim with whales – it was a bucket list holiday. We flew out of Sydney with Qantas to Nuku'alofa before taking a little plane to Vava’u. The flight was very emotional because many people were returning home for the first time since the pandemic.
“Our trip was organised by Blue Safaris and there were just 10 of us in the group. The team organised everything: accommodation (we stayed in a local holiday home), food, boats, taxis. We’d travel with a local Tonga guide and an underwater photographer each day.
“Tonga is one of the best places to swim with the whales because the water has 30-metre visibility – it’s incredibly clear. We spent five days in the water, heading off on our boat at 7am and returning around 4pm. You’d just put on your snorkel, kick out, look down and they were right there. It was just whales, whales, whales!
“It’s one of the most humbling experiences being in the water with animals of that size. It wasn’t uncommon for people in our group to return to the boat in tears because of how powerful the experience was. For me, the most incredible moment was seeing the humpback whales resting with their newborn. It was beautiful.
“Vava’u isn’t very touristy; it’s filled with locals and people who love nature and whales so it’s a different type of holiday experience. When we weren’t in the water, we visited local farmers’ markets and went hiking. It’s trips like this that continue to motivate me to keep seeking wild, majestic places and experiences.”
“I’ve never seen water so clear. Samoa is paradise”
Kate Tanner, Bronze Frequent Flyer
“To celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday, three of us went to Samoa for a week. We flew Qantas return and the entertainment, food and crew were great. We stayed in a villa overlooking the water at the only fully family-owned Samoan resort, Return to Paradise Resort and Spa on Upolu, the main island of Samoa. There was music and special dinners at night; we even saw a fiafia show [a get together with music and dance] with fire dancers.
“The plan was to drink cocktails on the beach and little else but we couldn’t resist exploring. One day we went to the east side of the island to the incredible Sopoaga Falls and had a beach lunch. The beaches are all so beautiful – I’ve never seen water so clear! I loved To Sua Trench; it’s equal parts pretty and terrifying as you have to climb down a steep ladder to reach the water. But it’s so worth it when you’re surrounded by lush greenery and look up to see the circle of blue sky above. It’s really stunning.
“On the island of Savai’i, we swam beneath the spectacular Afu Aau Waterfall in the rainforest, saw the blowholes and the lava fields. When people tell me they want to go on holiday, I say, ‘Go to Samoa! It’s paradise.’”
“You arrive at an island with nothing on it – the perfect spot for snorkelling”
Katrina Yan, Bronze Frequent flyer
“My best friend and I booked a Qantas Holidays Package to New Caledonia for my birthday. The flights and hotel were included, so it made organising the trip a breeze. Plus, it worked out cheaper than if we booked it ourselves. We stayed at the Chȃteau Royal Beach Resort & Spa at the edge of the island, which was beautiful. You must visit the on-site spa Aquatonic where you sit in massage seats under the water looking out at the palm trees. I was so relaxed that I actually fell asleep at one point!
“Book a table at Marmite et Tire-Bouchon in advance; it’s one of the island's best restaurants and the locals told us it’s always booked out. They serve French cuisine – the mangrove crab, fish gratin and yellowfin tuna were my favourites.
“The highlight of the trip was snorkelling at Signal Island. We travelled by water taxi and had to take our own food, drinks and snorkelling gear as there’s nothing on the island. But we were met with crystal-clear water (I saw turtles and a baby shark) and stunning trees and flowers.”
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Image credit: (From top to bottom) Getty Images (To Sua Ocean Trench), Jakob de Zwart, Sebastien Jermer (New Caledonia).