Archive for June, 2014

First Class, Business Class, Economy Class
and now Amoeba Class.

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Amoeba

We usually fly economy, especially on shorter journeys. The service, food and legroom has alway been of a high standard, especially with Emirates, our preferred carrier for flights to Asia or Europe.

On our recent trip to Tonga we flew with Air New Zealand.

Little did we know that we had purchased a basic flight option, which was called ‘Seat+Bag’ This was, as it suggests, a seat in the plane and 1 checked bag.

Nothing else.

No food, no drinks, no movies, just tea, coffee and water.

We made the trip to Tonga in two legs. Melbourne to Auckland (3h 30m) then Auckland to Nuku’alofa (2h 50m)

We arrived in Tonga at 10pm, so by the time we had been processed through customs and immigration, and made the slow drive to our hotel, it was midnight.

As expected, the kitchen at the Little Italy Hotel was closed.

Another by-product of Amoeba Class is that, because it costs extra to have stowed luggage, a lot of passengers only travel with cabin bags.

Some of these are huge and way larger than the official size.

We seemed to always be the last to be called on board, so by the time we got to our seats all the overhead lockers were full. You are then forced to stuff leftover luggage under the seat in front of you.

Now the Amoeba is one of the lowest forms of life, and that’s how we were made to feel on Air New Zealand.

But I guess that’s a consequence of budget travel.

Peace and not so quiet on Fafa Island.

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

The sounds of domestic animals was now replaced with the more melodic chirping of birds, and waves gently lapping on the beach outside our fale on Fafa Island.

Fale is the Samoan word for house, however it is widely used in other parts of Polynesia.

The fales all have names and ours was called Niu, which means coconut in Tongan.

It was set in a secluded tropical garden surrounded by palms. We had our own private beach with two sun lounges. There were also more sun lounges in the garden and on the veranda, and a large hammock, hanging in the shade.

There was certainly no shortage of places to do absolutely nothing – which is what we did for most of the time.

The quiet was broken briefly on Saturday morning when a boat load of Chinese tourists arrived from the mainland for a day trip.

The Kingdom of Tonga has 176 Islands scattered over an area of 700,000 square kilometers of the South Pacific.

Only 52 islands are inhabited and Fafa is one.

This idyllic Robinson Crusoe style island is only 17 acres in size and dotted with coconut palms and surrounded by sandy beaches and coral reefs.

Fafa was developed in 1982 by Rainer Urtel, a German hippy, who fell in love with the Island.

Now in his 70s he still comes every year, for two months, to manage the property. For the rest of the year two other couples take over. Heidi and Martin, from Austria, were currently in charge. Heidi has been working on Fafa for the last ten years and other members of staff had been there that long as well.

She told us that she had tried to escape the island a few years ago but its magnetic charms drew her back.

At low tide you can circumnavigate Fafa. It only takes about 30 minutes and that’s with plenty of time to take some snaps.

When the tide is high there is a bush trail that runs through the eastern part. This section of Fafa is uninhabited and again only takes a short time to explore.

Bird life is everywhere and come dawn the squeak, squawk and screeching of the locals is deafening.

There are even some rather rare Fijian parrots, that were originally brought to Tonga for their feathers but now roam freely around the island.

One afternoon we spent a pleasant couple of hours snorkelling on a reef that was closer to the main island. The coral wasn’t great but there was a good variety of fish.

Our boatman, Moses, had great fun getting the some members of the group back into the boat, after the snorkelling.

He claimed that the boat’s ladder had been stolen, but I think he enjoyed the entertainment too much.

On our last day, the usual morning chorus was interrupted by a sudden downpour. It didn’t last long, however the weather had changed and it was a lot cooler.

This didn’t stop us having another snorkel, this time off the beach, in front of our fale. There were fewer fish but the coral was much better.

Fafa was made a Marine Preserve in 2013. This has already helped to protect the coral reef from over fishing and return it to a more natural state.

DSC06205