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WINTER 2012I sea&iI73sites including the old capital at Mu'a, complete with moats andancient tombs, and the Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon (theStonehenge of the Pacific built by the Lapita people around1200AD). You can also visit the landing place of mariners AbelTasman and Captain Cook, picnic on secluded beaches and havea traditional Tongan dinner served up with the islanders' ancientcultural performance. The morning markets are a fun way tomingle with the local community, and you might pick up a fewlocal mementoes along the lines of woven baskets and handi-crafts. You could also take a kart safari trip to explore the heartof the islands. This is a region that invites you to make the most of the ocean,with whale-watching, snorkelling, diving, swimming and kayak-ing vying for your time - the latter two being great ways toexplore the off-lying islands. 'Eua Island has its own NationalPark, making it a serene retreat and the best place in Tonga totrek, with forests, cliffs, caves and shorelines to explore. Forgame fishing, swimming with humpbacks and fantastic caveand shipwreck dives, head to the Vava'u group.BESTFOR. beach life, romance, friendly locals DON'TMISS. whale watching; snorkelling off Vava'u; the King'sPalace on Nukualofa; the coral islands off Tongatapu; the wildhorses on 'Eua IslandCOOK ISLANDSThere are 15 islands in the Cook group, which is locatedbetween Tahiti and Tonga. The main island is Rarotonga, wherethere is an international airport, and this is a great place foractivity and adventure. This is the youngest island in the groupand it is a tropical haven of banana, coconut and pineappletrees. It's also a very musical island, so your visit is likely tobe accompanied by a backing chorus of church hymns, coconut-shell ukuleles and island drums. Surrounded by a lagoon, wateris a way of life here so you can snorkel, swim, fish, scuba diveand sail to your heart's content. Nearby Aitutaki is worth a daytrip as this small island has a gorgeous lagoon and greatbeaches on which to spend a lazy afternoon. It is known as theHoneymoon Island as it is so beautiful and has an intrigu-?Above left: the pristinewhite sands of FijifurtherafieldODYSSEY41.1m (134'8'), 11 guests from US$125,000 per week (winter and summer)CALLIOPE42.28m (138'8), 10 guests from US$160,000 per week (summer)

74Isea&iIAUTUMN 2011inghistory generously spliced with legend. Mangaia isanother volcanic isle of particular interest to archaeologistsand anthropologists. Visit on Friday and you will catch the mar-ket where you can feast on fresh fruit, then deep-sea fish orwhale watch in the afternoon before a night at Babe's Bar. BESTFOR. beach life, family fun, friendly localsDON'TMISS. the Aitutaki Lagoon; traditional island dances; theeight-million-year-old limestone caves of AtiuSAMOAThe islands of Samoa are divided between American Samoa andindependent Samoa. Landscapes range from rainforest-carpeted volcanic mountain peaks to white-sand beaches,cascading waterfalls, sheer cliffs, blue lagoons and coral reefs.A perfect way to see the sights is to hire a bicycle and take tothe peaceful roads. Amid the natural scenery, you'll encounterpretty villages with churches and open homes facing ontovillage greens. The main islands are Upolu, where highlightsinclude Lalomanu Beach and Fagaloa Bay on the east coast,which is surrounded by some of the oldest rainforests in theSouth Pacific, and Tutuila, where there is a National Park.BESTFOR. culture, sceneryDON'TMISS. the Togitogiga Falls on Upolu; the Taga Blowholeson Savai'I; sleepy Manono IslandVANUATUThere are 83 islands in the group, 14 of which are relativelylarge, the rest much smaller. You can really soak up native islandculture here as the locals live in traditional villages where life stillrevolves around fishing and drinking kava. Visit Mount Yasurvolcano on Tanna, where you can also wander around traditionalvillages and witness ancient island ceremonies, see wild horsesand swim in underground caves. Active guests can keep busyhiking on Espiritu Santo, the largest of Vanuatu's islands, orscuba and wreck dive in its surrounding waters - such asMillion Dollar Point, where thousands of tons of equipmentwere disposed of by the US during the Second World War. Itmakes for a unique and fascinating dive, although striking coralAbove right: take yourpick from more than 1,000 islands in theSolomon groupMARGAUX35.7m (117'), 6 guests from US$59,000 per week MEA CULPA39.6m (129'), 8 guests from US$120,000 per week