Snorkelling In Vanuatu
Head to the Vanuatu Island of Espiritu Santo, known as just ‘Santo’, for a unique family snorkelling trip!
Santo inspired the likes of James A. Michener, who based his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, ‘Tales of the South Pacific’ on his observations whilst based here in WWII. The U.S. army left something else behind when they set up a base here, a unique snorkelling and dive site. Over seven decades ago, at what is now known as ‘Million Dollar Point’, millions of dollars’ worth of army equipment was sent to its watery grave less than 30 metres from the shoreline.
Today, visitors can snorkel over jeeps, machinery, tractors, crates of old-fashioned coke bottles and more. Watching the bright coloured fish swimming in, out and around a completely submerged tractor only a few meters below the surface is a truly unique snorkelling experience.
Why was it dumped? When the war was over, there was not enough room to ship both men and equipment back to the USA and concerns were held for the economy if a flood of ex-army equipment were to suddenly appear on the second-hand market.
The equipment was offered to the then joint English-French government, which they rejected. They thought if they held out the U.S. Army would leave it behind anyway. However, the U.S. army decided they would rather send it to a watery grave than to give it away for free. It is said they placed bricks on the accelerators, released the handbrakes and watched them roll down a ramp into the ocean.
There is more machinery than bright coral, but that’s part of the novelty! Besides, a 60-minute drive down an extremely picturesque coconut tree-lined highway brings you to Port Olry, where you will find the white sand and aqua waters of paradise. There is great snorkelling to be had at Port Olry, although this snorkelling is over large clumps of coral.
Treasure Hunting In The USA
Head to the USA for a fun family treasure hunt finding geocaches!
What is geocaching? Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt game in which participants use either a mobile device (phone or tablet) or a GPS to find containers known as caches all over the world. Some caches are small and only contain a rolled-up note, and others are large enough to hold a collectable which you can swap for something of your own if you wish.
There are over three million geocaches hidden in cities, parks, public spaces and nature all over the world. Some destinations in the USA have made it even more fun by creating geo-tours, allowing visitors to combine geocaching and travel to level up their vacation. Following a geo-tour highlights the best of the best from the destination.
- Florida has created a geo-tour that highlights their 71 award-winning state parks and trails, designed to inspire visitors with scenic beauty, recreation opportunity and to help strengthen families and educate children. A geo-tour tracking sheet is available for download for both adults and kids.
- Butler County has created a Donut Trail geo-tour! Could it get any better? This geo-tour adventure totals 15 stops across Butler County in Ohio. A trackable coin is available as a reward for completing the ‘passport’, which can be downloaded before you leave.
- The Baytown area in Texas has created a geo-tour among the scenic waterways, which is designed to take you on a journey as you discover interesting facts and surprises.
There are well over 30 geo-tours to choose from in the USA and over 1.3 million geocaches in North America. The hardest part will be choosing which geo-tour to follow! To get started, download the official geocache app for your phone and explore the geocaching website to find a geo-tour and plan your trip.
Finding Sapphires In Queensland
Head to outback Queensland in Australia to find your own Sapphires!
As a parent, your child has probably handed you an ugly grey rock at some stage with instructions on keeping it safe because it’s ‘special’. Well, here’s an opportunity to find ‘rocks’ that adults will see value in as well. Learning how to find Sapphires in outback Queensland is a lot of fun for all ages!
Sapphires can be readily found in the gem fields around the Central Queensland towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire. The process of finding the Sapphires is called ‘fossicking’ for gems. An easy way for families to learn how to fossick for gems, is to join in a tag-a-long tour that allows you to learn the basics using the providers’ equipment and finish up whenever you’ve had enough for the day.
Families will start by selecting a pick or shovel and will use it to fill up a bucket of ‘wash’, a layer below the topsoil of stony gravel that will vary in depth from place to place. Once the large rocks are removed that are unlikely to be gems, the potential treasure is tipped into a sieve and shaken gently underwater to remove the dust and grime. The contents are then tipped out again onto a piece of hessian or cloth. Hopefully you will see a glint as you scan your eyes over the small rocks, indicating you are now the proud owner of a Sapphire.
Kids just love the opportunity to dig around in the dirt for treasure, and adults can go at their own relaxed pace. We found no less than 11 small Sapphires in three hours, eight of which were able to be cut into gemstones suitable for jewellery.
Most families place great sentimental value on jewellery that has been made with gems found themselves.
Experience A Polynesian Dream
Head to French Polynesia to experience infinite shades of blue in luxury!
Although traditionally associated with honeymooners, French Polynesia welcomes many families with a gentle culture that genuinely loves children.
The French Polynesian islands are basically a giant water playground for all ages. It’s not all about the turquoise lagoons though, there are caves, waterfalls, beautiful views, vanilla plantations and the sweet fragrance of the Tiare flowers mingled with Frangipanis.
These islands are a perfect opportunity to unplug and reconnect with each other among the beautiful scenery, the pampering that goes hand in hand with a luxury resort and the delicious blend of French and Polynesian food. Evenings can be spent enjoying a traditional Polynesian dance show with dinner and after the kids are asleep, adults can relax on the bungalow deck with a drink in hand. Life doesn’t get much better than this!
There are 118 islands that make up French Polynesia, 67 of which are inhabited. International flights land in Tahiti and due to the ease of access, most people visit the society group of islands. The following islands are great for families!
- Bora Bora’s beauty is unrivalled and the lagoon is a giant swimming pool. Luxury is done well here and resorts can cater to your every need, including babysitting.
- Huahine has been described as the island equivalent to the Garden of Eden. There is not as many luxury options on offer as Bora Bora, but you will certainly not be uncomfortable or disappointed.
- Moorea is particularly scenic and does luxury just as well as Bora Bora. Kids are well catered for here and the island has some beautiful sandy beaches.
- Tahiti is the largest chain in the islands that make up French Polynesia and is where all international flights land. Although not as beautiful lagoon wise, it has a lot to offer with land-based activities, a surf scene, lively beaches and dive centres with kid’s programs.
Discover Ancient Temples In Cambodia
Head to Cambodia to discover the ancient Angkor Wat and explore the “Tomb Raider” temple!
Starting in the capital of Phnom Penh, said to be the cultural heart of Cambodia, families can spend a couple of days exploring the city. Wat Kean Kleang, a temple with an exterior completely gilded in gold is particularly interesting with an interior filled with brightly coloured hand-painted scenes.
Built in the 1860s, the Royal Palace is a fascinating place to visit with multiple temples and quarters, each one seemingly more opulent than the next. The National Museum is less than three minutes away from the Royal Palace and families can catch a tuk-tuk to the Central Market to hunt for artwork and souvenirs.
Head to the province of Siem Reap for a few days by private driver. It is here in Siem Reap that families can tick off a bucket list item by visiting the ancient Angkor Temples. Built in the 12th century, the temples of Angkor represent a sacred religious site to the Khmer people, and as such, the dress should be appropriate with shirts that cover shoulders and long pants or skirts that cover the knees.
Ta Prohm, made famous by the original Tomb Raider movie in 2001, is possibly the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor and has the appearance of being swallowed by the jungle with a vast root system growing in and around the ruins.
Angkor Wat is the best-preserved temple at Angkor and is Cambodia’s national symbol. Surrounded by a 190m wide moat, it has been in use since it was built and was never abandoned to the elements.
There are numerous other temples to discover and explore with some of the more popular being Bayon, Angkor Thom, Sra Srang, Preah NeakPoan and Preah Khan.
Stand-Up-Paddle-Board In Hawaii
Head to Hawaii to learn how to Stand-Up-Paddle-Board where it originated!
Although Hawaii is known for its big waves, there are plenty of calmer beaches where beginners can learn to Stand-Up-Paddle-Board (SUP). SUP began in Hawaii as a variation of surfing and can be done not only on the ocean, but in lakes and rivers as well.
It’s an easily managed activity for most family members and it really doesn’t take long before you can hire a board and head out on your own. Little ones can sit on the front of an adult board with a life jacket if they are too small to manage their own.
Lessons are readily available in Oahu, particularly in the accommodation hub of Waikiki. Your hotel or resort will most likely have someone they can recommend for family SUP lessons, or they may even have something in house.
Oahu is blessed with many beautiful beaches and here are some of the more popular one for SUP:
- Ala Moana Beach – Located across the street from the Ala Moana Shopping Centre between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, Ala Moana Beach is protected by an outer reef that ensures the water is nearly always calm. It’s the calm, clear waters that make it ideal for beginners.
- Waikiki Bay – Waikiki Bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hawaii and there is a concentration of accommodation options around this area. Although conveniently located in the central hub of things, it’s most likely to be the most crowded also.
- Lanikai Beach – Lanikai beach has calm water all year round and it’s one of the most beautiful with clear water and white sand. It’s located in Lanikai in the town of Kailua, around 30 minutes from Honolulu airport. This beach is a top pick!
- Sunset Beach – Located on the North Shore of Oahu, Sunset Beach is famous for big wave surfing in the winter. However, in the Summer months the waters are generally calm and teeming with marine life. ◼
© This article was first published in June-July 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.