It’s been a long time since we’ve spent a Christmas in Canada. Even before moving on our boat, we spent a few holidays skiing the Alps and another with wild animals in Kruger Park. After multiple seasons in the Caribbean, this year, we’re enjoying Christmas in New Zealand. Here are some of the fun traditions and activities we’ve experienced this holiday season.
New Zealand’s Christmas Trees
Being a commonwealth country, New Zealand celebrates Christmas like us, with Santas, Christmas carols, and Boxing Day. They follow many of the same traditions as North Americans, including Black Friday.
One of my favorite things about Christmas in New Zealand is the Pohutukawa. These evergreen trees bloom bright red flowers every December, giving them the status as the New Zealand Christmas tree. We’ve seen them all over the North Island, near our marina, and in Auckland city. They red flowers paired with green leaves are beautiful, and this year, they are at their brightest red due to last year’s record rain.
Fiji is an amazing South Pacific island country, full of friendly people, beautiful beaches, and more. We spent a few months there, dodging the rain, arguing with biosecurity, and buying a new boat. We also explored major islands and minor, witnessed music and dancing, and partied with the Fijians. Read on to learn about our Fiji favorites.
Visiting Fiji Villages
Our delayed cruising permit kept us from leaving Savusavu, and buying a new boat meant we didn’t get to explore Fiji much. Still, one of our highlights was visiting a village and experiencing their ceremonies.
The custom when you visit a village in Fiji is called sevusevu. The protocol when arriving is to introduce yourself to the chief of the village and present a gift of kava. All the markets sell both kava powder and root, packaged nicely in ribbon for presenting to the chief. The giving of sevusevu is a longstanding tradition and shows respect for the people whose land we visit. Once we perform this gesture, the chief will welcome us into his village.
Savusavu is a convenient entry port for sailors coming west to Fiji, and it’s where we made landfall after Tonga. While our check-in experience wasn’t the best, we had a great time in this part of Fiji. If you ever get to Fiji by air or boat, don’t miss my top things to do in Savusavu.
About Savusavu, Fiji
Located on the southeast coast of Vabua Levu, Fiji’s second biggest island, Savusavu is best known for its volcanic hot springs and coastal waters. The population is small, only a few thousand people, but the town is bustling! With good restaurants and shops for provisioning, it’s a great stop for sailors, especially after the lack of choice in Tonga.
We were lucky to spend a year in French Polynesia, a beautiful and widespread collection of islands and atolls. While we didn’t improve our French language skills, we loved the excellent diving, hiking, and culture. From the Marquesas to the Tuamotus and the Society Islands, these are our best of French Polynesia.
About French Polynesia
French Polynesia has several island groups, but many visitors only go to the Society Islands. You’ve probably heard of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. If you can, I recommend exploring the ones you haven’t heard about. The more remote archipelagos of the Marquesas and the Tuamotus are unforgettable. These island chains couldn’t be more different: the Marquesas are lush, mountainous, and full of vegetation. Conversely, the Tuamotus are arid atolls with limited land life and clear waters. We didn’t even make it to other parts of French Polynesia like The Gambiers and Australs. Read on for which locales we think offer the best of French Polynesia.
Two islands in French Polynesia are our favorites for hiking. If you want to go hiking, visit Ua Pou or Moorea. Nuku Hiva also offers a good variety of hikes.
Some islands are just bad for hiking, full of private land and no paths for independent hikers, or they’re flat and featureless. In good news, most of The Marquesas islands have at least one or two hikes that are worth doing.
Ua Pou is good for hiking independantly, but for the big hike, hire a guide. All the hikes involve altitude, and everyone we know who did the cross-island hike alone got lost. The hills are high and the views are stunning, but there’s not much civilization so packing lots of water is a must for any of these treks.
Without a doubt, our favorite part of Tonga was Haapai. We only had a week to spend in this beautiful island group but we enjoyed every minute. Once we found our anchorage, we loved it so much we didn’t move. If you ever visit the Kingdom of Tonga, don’t miss Haapai.
About Haapai Tonga
Ha’apai is pronounced “Ha a pie.” Located south of Vavau, the Haapai island group includes 51 islands plus atolls and coral reefs. We spent our week there in one perfect anchorage, and also walked to the main island a couple of times.
After weeks waiting in Vavau for a starting engine, Haapai was just what we needed! Less populated and quieter, we found it beautiful and relaxing.
We anchored by Foa island, home to two resorts and several beautiful beaches. Just south of Foa and across a bridge is Haapai’s main island of Lifuka and the port town of Pangai.