Clients can play with stingrays while vacationing in Bora Bora. // © 2015 Joelle Arriola
Feature image (above): Classic Vacations product director Joelle Arriola recommends jumping in the water with local operator Lagoon Service Bora Bora. // © 2015 Joelle Arriola
There’s a vast ocean of water-related activities for travelers heading south of the equator, and I turned recently to a trio of South Pacific experts for some insight on which options make the most sense for clients from the U.S. market.
California-based luxury tour wholesalers Journese and Classic Vacations offer a range of packages across the South Pacific and Oceania, featuring a diverse collection of excursions and activities that are commissionable to travel agents.
The following are four standout water-related tours that our experts enjoyed most during recent visits.
Doubtful Sound Outing in New Zealand
Ask Amy Comparato, the brand director for Journese, about choosing between a visit to either the stunning fjords of Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound, both located on the western coast of New Zealand’s South Island — and you will get a clear endorsement for the latter.
“While both landscapes are different and worth viewing, Doubtful Sound is much less crowded,” she said, describing a recent outing with New Zealand tour operator Real Journeys. “At one point, they turn off the motor, and all you hear are the birds and the waterfalls amid the most beautiful scenery. In addition to the majestic backdrops, we also saw seals and dolphins — and at certain times in the year, clients can even see penguins.”
Leeward Islands Sailing in French Polynesia
Ocean lovers looking to maximize their time on the Pacific may want to consider booking a Dream Yacht Charter sailing around the Tahitian Leeward Islands.
The cruises are hosted onboard 50-foot ocean catamarans and explore a collection of barrier reefs, home for sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, rich coral formations and countless fish. Plus, Dream Yacht offers a range of high-end products for travelers eager to spend a few days and nights sailing between the volcanic islands of French Polynesia.
“This is truly an experience to remember,” said Nadine Lu, director of South Pacific product development for Journese. “Travelers will explore areas only small ships can access and be immersed in nature as they relax. Along the way, they will see spectacular vistas, explore secluded lagoons and discover untouched coral reefs.
Shark and Stingray Excursion in Bora Bora
Adventurers looking to get up close not only to Bora Bora’s vibrant coral formations but also to the ocean paradise’s stingrays and reef sharks will want to book a half-day excursion with Lagoon Service Bora Bora, a tour operator that comes highly recommended by Joelle Arriola, product director for Hawaii and South Pacific at Classic Vacations.
“I’ve never seen so many different shades of blue,” Arriola said of the lagoon tour. “It was gorgeous, and swimming with the sharks and stingrays was amazing. At first, it was a bit scary since my instinct was that sharks bite — but they didn’t. They were friendly, and the folks running the tour made me feel safe.”
Sigatoka River Tour in Fiji
Visitors can travel along Fijian island Viti Levu’s Sigatoka River with Rosie Holidays. They will explore the destination’s fertile interior onboard a safari jet boat, while learning about the importance of Sigatoka River to the many Fijian villages located along its banks. Travelers not only get a chance to take in the scenic beauty of the waterway, which is the longest on the island, but will also visit one of the small villages and its people.
“The Fijians are humble people and very welcoming,” Arriola said, describing her recent Sigatoka River experience with Rosie Holidays.
Arriola added that the Fijians treated everyone as if they were family.
“We ate, danced and sang with the villagers,” she said. “We learned how they lived and how they earn a living. The village itself was not more than 50 people, and every one of them opened up their homes and their hearts to us. It was extremely touching and an experience I will always remember.”