Monday, 27 September 2010

Cruise Weekly: Mix Me a Tui Tai, Darling?



Location: 16.9' S, 179.7' E, Taveuni Island, Fiji)

Vessel:
Tui Tai (42m, 550 GRT)

Australians have reaffirmed their deep affection for Fiji with record numbers travelling to the islands despite outcry from some quarters about the controversial political situation. This tourism surge from Down Under has filled any vacuum left by diminishing arrivals from the US or UK even though those numbers are on the turn too.

The Australian experience in Fiji has often been one of fully-contained, somewhat insulated resort packages that do little to expose us to the wider cultural panorama. Sure, Fiji does hedonistic 'escape' packages up there with the best, but what about something that wraps all facets of these fascinating islands into one irresistible bundle?

It's hard to imagine a more complete Fijian experience than that aboard a Tui Tai cruise. Yes, there is a premium pricetag attached (from A$550pp/day twinshare) but the inclusions are generous and the scope of the expedition astonishing. Diving is a big drawcard for TuiTai and packages can also include full PADI certification courses in some of the best diving locations in the Pacific. Add snorkelling, light trekking, mountain biking, village visits and cultural displays all aboard a vessel not much bigger than Cook's Endeavour.

The motor-schooner Tui Tai began life in 1980 as a modest steel-hulled passenger ferry between the islands often carrying up to 300 souls. But her delightful three-masted design and generous interior space made her an ideal conversion for more boutique itineraries. She was acquired by current owners Tige and Morika Young in 2002 and refitted to carry just 24 in comfortable cabins. In 2006, Tui Tai she was remodelled again with more luxurious refinements like a massage/spa, private cabanas and deluxe staterooms. Dining is under the stars on the rear deck or inside in the large common room. There's plenty of space to flop and relax with a book or just snooze. Any itinerary can be made as active or lazy as you like.

Tui Tai's playground is the rich waters to the east of its homeport of Savsavu on Vanua Levu. Tick off the lush garden island of Taveuni and its Bouma Falls Reserve, the anomalous cultural enclaves of Rabi and Kioa, the uninhabited Ringgold Atolls and the eco-reserve of Qamea and you have some idea of what's in store for the adventure traveller. National Geographic Adventure listed Tui Tai among their 25 best trips for 2009.

Beyond simply carrying well-heeled eco-travellers into delirious destinations, Tui Tai also operates a charitable fund that supports the many tiny and remote communities visited with medical, educational, logistic and infrastructure support. Driven by guests' desire to give back to the communities visited, the project played a crucial role in delivery of relief supplies to cyclone-ravaged villages after March's devastating Cyclone Tomas. Two Fijian crewmembers from TuiTai last week received civilian bravery awards for the rescue of two crew members from the sinking yacht, Siga Na Vanua, during that severe Category 4 storm.

For more information on Tui Tai Adventure Cruises, see www.tuitai.com