Exotic Islands Of Vanuatu, Fiji and Cook Islands?

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

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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!

NORM:

Can you tell our readers something about yourself and your expertise pertaining to Vanuatu, Fiji and Cook Islands.

IAN:

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.

NORM:

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, residential security companies London and anything else you consider different?

IAN:

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.

ยท 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.

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