South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand tour (February - April 2017)

Year 2017 meant the beginning of something new for me as I resigned after more 18 years in the same company and started my sabbatical leave. I wanted to find time for some projects outside the working life and this of course includes a number of trips. I did not feel like traveling for a year though - based on the experiences from my previous long trip (Asia 2009 tour) I rather felt like making a couple of shorter tours instead. 

Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific had been on my to-do list for a long time. As time was not a really constraint right now I wanted to explore as much of this huge area in a period of 2,5 months (without hurrying too much). Again I did not want to plan too much in advance when it comes to the exact itinerary and schedule. My rough plan was to fly to Singapore, then visit a couple of South Pacific islands and Australia + NZ. Apart from the HEL-SIN flights the only fixed date was March 26th when I had to be in Melbourne to experience the Formula 1 season opening race.

I ended up visiting six countries after Singapore and was pretty satisified with the actual itinerary. I am sure I would have saved money and time by planning this kind of route in advance - anyway this time flexibility when it comes weather, activities and the overall mood was more important. My tour was pretty much full of activities and some people probably feel that I was including way too many destinations, flights and sights. As said I had really good time and in hindsight would not have done anything differently except avoided the extensive flying during the last two weeks of my trip. 

Below is a summary of the countries I visited, see diaries and photo gallery pages for more details! The diary entries are in Finnish (except for the summaries) at it is easier to express my feelings with my native language.

  1. From Singapore
  2. Fiji: Viti Levu island
  3. Tonga: Tongatapu and Eua islands
  4. New Zealand: several destinations on both North and South Islands
  5. Australia: Sydney and Melbourne
  6. Vanuatu: Port Vila and island of Tanna
  7. Solomon Islands: Honiara and the surrounding area
  8. Australia: Uluru and Alice Springs (including overnight stays in Sydney and Gold Coast)
  9. To Singapore (just a quick visit to downtown during the transfer)

Singapore
Fourth visit to one of my favourite cities in the world. Spent just two nights here but managed to see quite of lot things that did not exist during my previous visits. This little country is just amazing, so much to see and experience and it keeps evolving and changing all the time. Flying all the way to Fiji would have been way too much - would recommend Singapore as a pitstop for everyone on their way to South Pacific!

Photo gallery
Diary

Fiji
This country was the biggest and most developed South Pacific state that I visited. Did not have time to visit any other place except the main island which is actually quite large and not quite the kind of deserted paradise island that someone might imagine. Anyway had good time here but did not quite find the perfect beach. Would have been nice to visit some of the (expensive) smaller resort islands - maybe next time!  

Photo gallery
Diary

Tonga
This country is unique - the slow pace of living makes you really feel like being on the other side of the globe far from home! I tried to adapt to the local lifestyle as much as possible and took it easy by enjoying the beaches, doing some bicycling and justchilling out. Found a couple of really good (and mostly deserted) beaches and enjoyed watching the famous "Blowholes" a couple of times.  I managed to visit two islands: main island of Tongatapu and the more remote island of Eua.

Photo gallery
Diary

New Zealand
After relaxing on the beaches of Fiji and Tonga it was time to get busy again. New Zealand offers so many world class sights that you would need couple of months to explore both islands properly. I did tour both islands quite extensively and this meant a lot of bus rides, organized tours and one inter-island flight. This country is just amazing and the sheer beauty of its nature never ceased to amaze me. It is very difficult to name the top sight or experience as pretty much every destination had some unique attraction. 

Photo gallery
Diary

Australia - part 1
This country is big - far bigger than I realized. But I knew very well that during some 2-3 weeks I can see just a fraction of this continent so I tried to be very selective. I wanted to see two famous big cities and experience the outback - this plan worked out pretty well. And there still many famous places see in the future, for example Great Barrier Reef.

Photo gallery
Diary

Vanuatu
This interesting country was not originally on top of my list of potential destinations. But after seeing some pictures of the famous Tanna volcano I decided to make a little "detour" from Australia to Vanuatu. I was not disappointed: the volcano is one of the most spectacular sights I have seen so far! Port Vila was also interesting and quite different from the two other South Pacific island capitals I had already visited. I'm sure there would have been nice beaches in Vanuatu but during this visit I did not feel like sunbathing.  

Photo gallery
Diary

Solomon Islands
I did not quite know what to expect from this country. I primarily wanted to see the interesting second world war relics that the islands are famous for. Otherwise this country does not offer so much and it was the least developed country out of these seven that I visited. I did my first dive after a break of several years: my first ever wreck dive was just amazing! Anyway Solomon Islands are definitely worth visiting and very much different from the other South Pacific states. 

Photo gallery
Diary

Australia - part 2
Back to Australia to experience the outback! I joined a group tour to experience Uluru and other sights in the central outback. Even though this trip required quite a lot of time and money it was definitely worth it. Should have done this leg of the journey straight after Melbourne though - had take several flights to the "wrong direction" as my return flight from Australia would depart from Gold Coast. From Gold Coast I took a boring daytime flight to Singapore, had a long stopover there before catching the midnight Finnair flight back to Helsinki.  

Photo gallery
Diary

My locations by date (based on where I stayed overnight)

7.2.2017 Flight from Helsinki to Singapore
8.2.2017 Singapore
9.2.2017 Singapore
10.2.2017 Singapore
11.2.2017 Nadi, Fiji
12.2.2017 Nadi, Fiji
13.2.2017 Korolevu, Fiji
14.2.2017 Korolevu, Fiji
15.2.2017 Korolevu, Fiji
16.2.2017 Korolevu, Fiji
17.2.2017 Korolevu, Fiji
18.2.2017 NukuŽalofa, Tonga
19.2.2017 NukuŽalofa, Tonga
20.2.2017 NukuŽalofa, Tonga
21.2.2017 NukuŽalofa, Tonga
22.2.2017 Hihifo, Tonga
23.2.2017 Hihifo, Tonga
24.2.2017 Eua, Tonga
25.2.2017 Eua, Tonga
26.2.2017 Eua, Tonga
27.2.2017 Keleti Beach, Tonga
28.2.2017 Auckland, New Zealand
1.3.2017 Auckland, New Zealand
2.3.2017 Auckland, New Zealand
3.3.2017 Rotorua, New Zealand
4.3.2017 Rotorua, New Zealand
5.3.2017 Rotorua, New Zealand
6.3.2017 Napier, New Zealand
7.3.2017 Wellington, New Zealand
8.3.2017 Dunedin, New Zealand
9.3.2017 Dunedin, New Zealand
10.3.2017 Queenstown, New Zealand
11.3.2017 Te Anau, New Zealand
12.3.2017 Te Anau, New Zealand
13.3.2017 Queenstown, New Zealand
14.3.2017 Christchurch, New Zealand
15.3.2017 Christchurch, New Zealand
16.3.2017 Sydney, Australia
17.3.2017 Sydney, Australia
18.3.2017 Sydney, Australia
19.3.2017 Sydney, Australia
20.3.2017 Melbourne, Australia
21.3.2017 Grampians National Park, Australia
22.3.2017 Melbourne, Australia
23.3.2017 Melbourne, Australia
24.3.2017 Melbourne, Australia
25.3.2017 Melbourne, Australia
26.3.2017 Melbourne, Australia
27.3.2017 Port Vila, Vanuatu
28.3.2017Tanna, Vanuatu
29.3.2017Tanna, Vanuatu
30.3.2017Port Vila, Vanuatu
31.3.2017Port Vila, Vanuatu
1.4.2017 Port Vila, Vanuatu
2.4.2017 Honiara, Solomon Islands
3.4.2017 Honiara, Solomon Islands
4.4.2017 Honiara, Solomon Islands
5.4.2017 Honiara, Solomon Islands
6.4.2017 Sydney, Australia
7.4.2017 Uluru, Australia
8.4.2017 Uluru, Australia
9.4.2017 Kings Creek, Australia
10.4.2017 Alice Springs, Australia
11.4.2017 Gold Coast, Australia
12.4.2017 Flight from Singapore to Helsinki
13.4.2017 Helsinki
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