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Trying to choose between Australia and Tahiti/Fiji

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We are going to New Zealand for two weeks, Oct. 3-17. We will have another two weeks to visit either Australia or the South Pacific. If we went to Australia, we would probably do the Great Barrier Reef and rainforest. If we do the South Pacific, we would like to see several of the islands. We just can't decide in which direction to go. Anyone have any thoughts?

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    In two weeks you could see more than the GBR and the rain forest in Australia and have a great variety of experiences. (E.g., if you haven't been to Australia before, you shouldn't miss Sydney.) The Tahitian islands are beautiful but not as heterogeneous; two weeks may be a bit much.

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    Lots of thoughts on what you could do in Oz in two weeks on this thread: http://www.fodors.com/community/australia-the-pacific/great-barrier-reef-is-it-worth-it-if-you-are-only-snorkeling.cfm

    Weather in late October should be quite reasonable for those same locations that bt has mentioned.
    Actually, if anything the weather in NZ in earlier October could be less than charming and so if you decide on Oz and can swap your visits, do Oz first, there could be an advantage both ways.

    Heterogeneous has me somewhat challenged but I take it judilie may mean less in variation but I'd be able to take two weeks longing about attempting to converse in or learn some French.
    You would find Tahiti quite expensive, more so than Fiji which again is not so cheap.

    You could fly into Oz and then nick up to Bali if you wanted an island experience.

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    If you've never been to N.Z. before and are trying to see both islands, you might want to consider spending three weeks there and one in the So. Pacific. I've heard that the Cook Islands are considerably less expensive than Tahiti. (We were there for only one day, on a stop on a cruise, which is a good, relatively inexpensive, way to see the various islands of the So. Pacific.)

    (Yes. I did mean more varied when I said heterogeneous.)

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    Wow, sure hope I am not too late! Bora Bora, James Michner wrote "The most beautiful place on earth"
    The guy was not joking!
    My husband has been to Austrailia, says if you want to relook at California then by all means.
    We hear New Zealand is very pretty, this came from the New Zealanders we spent time with on a very small Moto in the Fijian Islands.
    :) Fiji is a third world country, do not stay on the mainland, it shows how poor these people are, so go to the motoo's! We did not dive at the time, the snorkeling was great! We spent 7 nights their on this tiny island and had a great time.
    :)Tahiti...Well you can only imagine the impact these islands have had on me with my call sign.:)
    These islands are a must for anyone who travels the world, they are quite spectacular and the pictures you see of her islands do not do them justice. Imagine something more spectacular!
    Many years on these islands, our first visit was back in 1989. We went to Huahini, and Bora Bora, and thought it was a once in a lifetime experience and have great memories of that trip and planned to come back. We were certified for diving in 1992,and spent the next 10 years traveling all over the carribean and heard that Tahiti was not too good for scuba diving. Well come to find out that this was an unexplored area and has great diving!
    :)We came back to the islands in 1999, 10 years from our first visit and have come back every year since!
    Our two favorite islands are
    :) Moorea, there is ample to do on this small island, restaurants,hiking,sailboats, snorkeling and scuba diving. Just not lots of nightlife, if you want bars and that sort of entertainment.
    If you go, please stay at either the now Hilton (used to be the Sheraton) or the Sofitel. The others are just too well commercialized and the properties are more like the US, hotel feel etc., and these two resorts represent Tahiti with huts and spectcular overwater bungalows, plus the snorkeling from these two spots is awesome!
    Restuarants: Mayflower, Mohaganey, Le Cocitier, main dining room at the Sofitel, the bar restaurant at the Hilton for lunch and a few others. You could really consider yourselves on an adventure and fo to Le'Truck, take in some excitement, eat where all the locals go, people watching from there if fun. The locals bring their serving bowls, and then drive home. You just have to have a great imagination, we asked some 5 star travelers, friends of ours that only stay at the finest resorts if they wanted to take the adventure and they said sure, why not try it, they wanted to go back two more times while they stayed there. The food is native, they serve wonderful poison cru and is fabulous. The le'truck is next to Mohaganey resturant.
    :):)We have spent the last 6 years on my birthday on this island and look forward to our next trip each year :)
    :) Bora Bora, yes the most spectacular place on earth. We have stayed at the famous HOTEL BORA BORA and were treated like royalty. They pick you up at the airport in a private yacht and are at your beck and call anytime of the day, and then take you back on the same yacht to the airport with a chanpagne send off. The waters are clear, the snorkeling was fantastic and the reef/sand were just like all the pictures you see, AWESOME.
    There are not many places to eat, other than Bloody Mary's which can be a bit touristy and a few other nice places,so when we go we eat at the hotel about 50% of the time.
    Our last trip we spent 10 days at the Bora Bora Nui Resort, and talk about special. The rooms are like old tahiti theme and are really a suite, living room and bedroom, overwater, amazing. One night for dinner they had a movie night.You had dinner at a dressed table in the sand under a tahitian hut and when you were done with your meal you moved over to lounge chairs, pulled up some drinks, popcorn and watched a movie, it was awesome. Funny, the movie was 6 days 7 nights with Harrison Ford and Anne Hench.
    Bora Bora is the most expensive island, so we find ourselves going every 5 to 10 years here.
    The island is small, you can drive around it at 35 in about 40 minutes:)
    Tahiti..main island you go there and spend the night before you take the ferry or plane to your destination.

    We travel twice a year and have enjoyed our destinations, some are:
    US Destinations -Napa, CA-Harvest Inn,Zinfandel Inn and most recent at the luxurious 5 star Oak Knoll Inn.
    Lowes & Hotel Del,in Coronado stayed in the presidential suite, Baltimore, Colorado,to Washington DC-stayed at the St.Regis,to Boca Raton Florida and Hawaii,all of her islands.
    Carribean: Caneel Bay, St. John, St.Lucia, Grand Cayman, Cancun, to Cozumel.
    Other destinations include: Santorini, Greece 3 times, we celebrated New Years 2000 in a tiny vilage just outside of Athens, London, Fiji, to French Polynesia.

    I can only say this, if you want a lifetime experience, one that you will remember forever then please visit the islands of French Polynesia.

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    "My husband has been to Austrailia, says if you want to relook at California then by all means."

    That's a facile and misleading comment if ever I heard one. Did your husband visit Tasmania, or tropical Far North Queensland, or the Red Centre, or Kakadu National Park, or any other of the many areas in this vast country that are nothing like California?

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    That's quite a sweeping statement, comparing an entire continent with over 7.5 million square kilometers to the state of CA with it's ~400,000 square kilometers.

    Your husband obviously didn't look very well.

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    "We hear New Zealand is very pretty", well it is, and a lot more than just "pretty", but wouldn't that statement be a bit more effective if you'd been there and seen for yourself?

    Sorry the sight of the "third world" and "poor" population of Fiji on its main island of Viti Levu offends you; would have thought one of the major reasons for travel is to experience other cultures and observe how others live.

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    >>Sorry the sight of the "third world" and "poor" population of Fiji on its main island of Viti Levu offends you;<<

    Ditto. On NO account visit Southeast Asia or rural China.

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    sburson: Your idea about staying 2 weeks in NZ then 2 weeks in one area of Australia isn't a bad plan. With 2 weeks in NZ, I'd stick mainly or entirely to the South Island.

    North Queensland (where you visit the GBR and rainforests) has a lot to offer - no problem spending the better part of two weeks up there, provided you are willing to rent a car and like to explore. Besides the fantastic places to visit on the coast, there are also great areas to see not far inland, like the Undara Lava Tubes (an excellent place to see wildlife in the open and experience the Outback) and the Atherton Tablelands.

    Three weeks NZ, one week on an island elsewhere (Tahiti, Fiji, or Cook) seemed like a good alternative suggestion to me. I have been to Bora Bora, and agree with TahitiGirl about how beautiful it is. Unlike North Queensland or NZ, I'd say it's less of an adventure destination and more of a relax-on-the-beach kind of place.

    Though I agree with TahitGirl's about Bora Bora, her superficial remark about Australia is not helpful, revealing more about her than than about the country.

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    I apologize to anyone that I offended with my comments about Austrailia it surely is not what I had intended. My comment should have said that part of Australia does resemble CA and from what I hear there are many beautiful places to visit during your stay, or made no comment about this country. Again to those who were offended my apologies.

    Fiji-To those of you who had a comment about my statement "third world and poor people", if my comment offended you I am sorry.
    It was not to be malicious, it is true statement.
    Fiji is a third world country and they have a large population of poor people.
    It is very apparant when traveling from the airport to the hotels as well as traveling off the main roads. There is political unreset and the Fijian people have had many issues with the non-fijian government, plus we have had a few travel warnings about traveling to Fiji in the past 5 years. Why would you be offended by something that was accurate?

    My comment does not mean that there is something bad about this country, nor does it mean that there is something wrong with the people living there. It is meant to prepare the traveler instead of being surprised when they get there.

    I have traveled to many third world countries, seen more than my share of poor people who live in these poor countries and I am not offended when I stay there and I keep traveling to these countries.
    I will say this, I am happier knowing what I will be traveling into so I am more prepared. I take heed to the information available; for my safety and not to offend the people of these countries. When traveling into a third world I wear very simple jewelry and dress appropriately.

    My sister-in-law who has had the luxury to travel the world and recently went to South Africa she was told by the tour guide who is SouthAfrican "you are entering a third world country, to leave all vaulables at home, including your wedding ring, in some areas we will be traveling it is not safe, travel in pairs and do not venture off the main street, you will be robbed and no guarantee you will return to the main group and finish your trip with the rest of us. She was very happy he told her this, no one else said a word!

    We have sent many friends and clients to Fiji and told them these things; it is a very beautiful place, we really enjoyed our visit, it was apparent that these people were proud people and were great to us. You just need to remember this is not home, this is a third world country (which means they do not have some of the basics nor the luxuries we have at our fingertips) and there are some populated areas of very poor people.

    There is nothing malicious about this comment.

    Over the years of traveling we have found when clients, friends and customers ask about a destination they prefer to be given this kind of information, especially when going into a foreign country so they are prepared when they get there.

    Funny story, our good friends just got back last night from Fiji, stayed on the mainland and on a private island and these comments come at a perfect time.
    The first words out of their mouths was "We are so glad you told us this was a third world country, you were so accurate with mentioning that the people there are mostly poor people and live in shacks with dirt floors" They were clean and tidy people but you could see they lived in tough times. Your information really helped us and prepared us, it made trip more meaningful, and we had a fantastic time, it would have been a shock otherwise".
    By the way they have never been outside the US so they have never experienced this.

    We also planned a wedding 3 years ago, and sent 35 family members to a tiny village in Greece, called Theva. We all spent 15 days in a foreign country. Only a few of us had been there before.
    Most never traveled outside the US, most were not prepared for a country that has outlying areas that are really third world or live in adobe buildings, some with grass style roofs, no windows just sheets.
    I had the bride telling us that she talked with friends and her travel agent who had been to Greece, did research on her own for the areas we would be visiting and had this information for the group;
    downtown Athens - very upscale - 90% of the hotels are 5 star accomodations at great prices; Halkida - 5 star resort area - Theva - small village with great accomodations - Olympia - 5 star accomodations - Crete - 5 star accomodations in a remote area.
    WE had the planning party at my home, those of who had been to Greece brought pictures and shared as much information as we could since most of us had all been to these exact spots. Had we not shared the information of it being a third world in some areas and there are areas with poor people we would be disowned.
    Downtown Athens is fabulous, it is a spectacular spot, history galore. It is also conjested, lots of hotels and lots of cars, plus it is an old country and it shows.
    When we talked hotel ratings some were accustomed to 5 star hotels being like the Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, St. Regis. The hotels she thought were 5 stars were actually now considered a 2 to 3 star, after reviewing them with the group and we had to rethink of where we would all stay. So we came back with the familiar Marriott downtown Athens so everyone would get their feet wet with a common name or the Britanya which is truly a 5 star and fabulous and bit more than they wanted to spend. They chose the Marriott as a base.
    We looked at Halkida they decided the hotel looked like a 3-4 star and I said it is more like a Best Western and when we arrived they truly decided it was more to a motel 4 and trust me these people do not travel high end, they all stay at mid-level hotels in the US. When we got to Theva, well all I can say is that they group decided to travel from Halkida into Theva and others went back to the Marriott in downtown Athens 45 minutes away. Theva has no 5 stars, no 4 stars, no 3 stars and well maybe not even a 2 star. The nicest hotel has no stairs, no elevator, 4 floors, the air conditioning is usually out. The bride stayed there since she had to be close to the church and immediate wedding party. She was a trooper and said she wished she had stayed downtown or in Halkida with us but this was a special moment for her and wanted to be with the immediate family. The next hotel 4 stories, that they chose for guests had no elevator, the twin beds were 6 inches off the floor, no air conditioning, your keys for the rooms were left at the front desk and you sat on the toilet and turned on the shower head to take a shower, that bathroom was no bigger than a 3 x 3 box.
    The family members were taken back and said how do they say this is a 4 star or a 5 star for these hotels?
    Our response was ratings in the US are different than what the rest of the world rates a hotel, you just need more information, or get the information from someone that has traveled in those areas and have to stay flexible. The group stayed in Halkida and Athens and arranged a bus to take all of the guests to the wedding.
    It was a memorable trip, one to share with generations to come. The wedding took place in the tiny village where the grooms father was born, the service was in the greek orthodox church, the same one the father attended and his father and his father before him. The restaurant was in the center of town in this tiny village, they seated over 100 people, it was a sit down dinner, dancing and the entire works of an upscale wedding. The restroom had a hole in the floor and two indentations for your feet.
    We prepared each person for what to expect, from leaving the US to arriving in Greece, their accomodations, cars, etc. What did we get in return? From every person we were rewarded with thank yous, special notes, speaches at dinners, parties, etc. expressing their gratitude in sharing the "third world and poor people" information ahead of time.
    The wedding was 3 years ago, we all still talk about how much fun we had, to actually find and visit their grand/great grandparents villages and find the houses where they lived, to the meeting some of their aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and other relatives who still live there is a treasure.

    You see it is not a bad thing for travelers to know these things! You never know what comes out of that rainbow.

    Shallow is something I am not and proud of who I am.

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    TahitiGirl...nice of you to apologize considering the intensity of the the responses you had. As you may now realize, there's a regular contingent of proud Australians and Australiophiles (like me) who hang out on this forum.

    To be more correct, parts of California resemble parts of SE Australia, and not the other way round. A main feature of the countryside, the ubiquitous Australian eucalyptus tree, which is now common in CA, originated in Australia, having been introduced by Australians during the California Gold Rush. Importantly, the resemblance is not deep - you realize that when you see (or hear) your first flock of brilliantly colored parrots, kangaroo, wombat, or other animal found nowhere else. And you'll find Australia, even the more populated SE part, much less crowded - 2/3 the population of CA in a land area nearly the size of the USA, mostly concentrated in a handful of cities spread far apart.

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    In 1994, I flew from Melbourne into Nadi where we spent the night and were to board a Blue Lagoon cruise to the Yasawas the next day. I had been nursing a bad cold for several days and the last day of flying just did me in - I awoke with a massive ear infection. The good folks at the hotel called a cab, despatched me to the local clinic where I was seen by an East Indian doctor, and prescribed drugs to reduce the swelling in my eardrum and eliminate the pain. In the chemist across the road I was offered water to take the drugs on the spot. By the time I returned to the hotel I was not pain free but greatly improved, clearly by a drug that would never have been approved by the FDA. We continued on to our cruise and while I wasn't perfect for several more weeks, disaster of several kinds was averted. OK, it's third world, and I'm certain this poster would never in her life allow medical treatment in the same clinic as very poor people, but it never occurred to me to be concerned about that. I needed help and people helped me. Trust me, being ill in a foreign country (regardless of "world") is a great equalizer. I acknowledge that I have spent my working career around and with very poor people in the United States and maybe that gives me an edge - I know a lot of people who enjoy going to the local housing projects here and gawking at the 'poor people' so that their philanthropic dollars can make them feel superior. Because I live in the real world here at home I do not require lessons from anyone in how to travel abroad.

    I think the objections that were raised to this post were to the arrogant tone which advised how to deal with foreign people of an ilk you would not associate with at home, the descriptions of five star accommodations in five star locations relevant to nothing except boasting where you've been, and opinions expressed about a country where the poster had no experience whatever.

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    TahitiGirl, I wasn't offended by having Australia compared with California per se. I like California.

    I admit however to being somewhat put out by the dismissive tone used, and I don't like seeing potential visitors misled by uninformed and inaccurate comments - about Australia or anywhere else I've been (on occasions I've taken issue with disparaging and misleading comments about countries like Vietnam, China and, yes, the United States).

    I second RalphR's comments, and add that despite the many similarities between Australia and the United States, the fact is that we are different countries with different, albeit related, cultures and attitudes - Australians are not simply Americans with funny accents. For many people the pleasure of travelling has as much to do with absorbing the feel of a different culture as admiring natural phenomena and man-made artefacts.

    Now I'm only puzzled by your comment that "the Fijian people have had many issues with the non-fijian government". As Fiji has been independent for many years I'm wondering which "non-Fijian" government you mean?

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    Quite, Oliver & Harry.

    As I see it, there are those who travel as simply as possible, with an interest in and respect for the people whose countries they visit. Typically, they eat the local foods, stay in accommodation that is representative of their host country as far as practicable, and understand that different is neither superior nor inferior. They research a little about the culture have at least a rough idea of where the country they visit is located and some rudimentary facts about its size. These are not the intrusive ones who ape local dress, mimic what they perceive is local idioms and accents, insinuate their way into homes and ask endless stupid questions; although they exist too, of course. This group is what I think of as "treading lightly" and travelling with a sense of adventure.

    Then there are those who limit themselves to 5 star enclaves which could be anywhere in the world, mirroring the generic international chain hotel accommodation and isolated from anything remotely resembling their host country's culture or customs. Occasionally venturing forth from these enclaves, they usually roam in packs, braying loudly about the quaint locals' or 'eeewww'ing about odd insect or lizard they may encounter. They want an "off the beaten track" experience - provided it has the same accommodation, roads, foods which they have at home.

    Worlds apart, these two. Fortunately, their paths don't cross too often.

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    Well said RalphR!

    Neil, I think she might mean the huge Indian population in Fiji - most of them have the power in government with few Fijians in the same position.

    Regards,

    Melodie
    Certified Aussie Specialist

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    Melodie, I thought that might have been what TahitiGirl meant.

    I'm no expert on Fijian affairs, but I think that while the Indian-Fijians have long dominated commerce and the professions, the Melanesian-Fijians have pretty effectively squeezed them out of political power - especially since the military coup that's now seen Fiji suspended from the British Commonwealth.

    The Indian people were first brought in by the British to work the sugar cane fields, but have always been effectively debarred from land ownership. They seem to be in a similar position to overseas-Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia, i.e. entrepreneurial and energetic people competing with a native populace with a more relaxed disposition.

    A bit of a stretch, maybe, but there's also an echo of the way Jews were treated in much of medieval Europe - barred from owning property, forced to make their way in a limited number of trades and professions and exhibiting an unusually strong work and education ethic.

    Since the 1970s I've known many Fijian Indians who've moved to Australia to escape the situation in Fiji. Interestingly, their children at least will be regarded as Australians and treated accordingly, whereas back in Fiji I have the impression that they'd always be seen as "Indians", not as "Fijians".

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    Thank you Ralph, Melodie and Neil. Every once in awhile we all get stuck with having to apologize for something and I needed to do just that.
    When we travel we become the non-tourist andspend as much time as we can with the local people, and really love the experiences. We have learned so much about their cultures, way of life and history it has made our travel more memorable.

    Traveling to Moorea(French Polynesia) and eat at "LeTruck" owned by Jeanne`. We like to entertwine with the local folk and this eatery was referred by many Tahitians and Albert at the car rental told us that this is the locals favorite restaurant and not where you will see many tourists which is what we wanted. The restaurant consists of a van with cooking facilities, which sits in a grocery store parking lot and you order from the window, the food is fabulous and the atmosphere wonderful. We sit in the parking lot with plastic tables and have a great time. Albert was right, there are few or no tourists which makes it more memorable, the locals either dine there or come pick up their food and take it home.
    So if you are ever in Moorea this is the place to eat.

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    Interesting conversation.
    Fiji is a third world country, yes, but most of the Pacific Island countries are third world countries. And yes, they have their fair share of poverty, however have any of you ever asked smiling Fijians in their thatched huts if they feel poor?? Sure most of the population do not own flat screen tvs, or cars, or dining suites, but they are rich in culture and rich in community. One thing that never ceases to amaze me about Fijians is the fact that they may not have much on the table for dinner but they will always welcome you into their homes to share what little they have. And they have great respect for visitors. It is not like the Western philosophy of earning respect, you are respected and welcomed first in Fiji - which has led to people taking advantage of their hospitality, but Fijians will always give you the greatest respect and hospitality when you enter their country and homes. They're always wanting to take care of you.
    As for the comparison between South Africa and Fiji, I dont think it is a fair one. Fiji has a population of 800,000 in the whole country. The crime we are exposed to does not even begin to compare with what South Africa has been through and is going through, before and after political upheavals. Walking in the streets with a lot of jewellery and cameras etc is probably a lot safer here than in South Africa, or even America. Even though its been through 4 coups in the last 2 decades you will never find a Fijian who will not give you the biggest grin as if everything were just perfect. Like Pope John Paul II Said when he visited Fiji many years ago "Fiji is the way the world should be!"
    Bad things still happen in Fiji, of course, but it is like any country in the world where you must exercise precaution. Its up to you to protect yourself, whether you're in a third world country or a first world country.

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    >>SIL recently went to South Africa she was told by the tour guide who is SouthAfrican "you are entering a third world country, to leave all vaulables at home, including your wedding ring, in some areas we will be traveling it is not safe, travel in pairs and do not venture off the main street, you will be robbed and no guarantee you will return to the main group and finish your trip with the rest of us. She was very happy he told her this, no one else said a word!<<

    That tour guide should find another line of work. Not to say there isn't crime, but what country is without whether first- or third-world? But certainly not to the extent that the tourist would be robbed with no guarantee of finishing their trip!

    Not once during our visit in South Africa did we ever fear for our lives, felt our jewelry would be pulled off our bodies or harm would befall us... and it didn't. Maybe because we didn't have an idiot (whether South African or not) as a tour guide! And, if you check the Fodor's Africa/Middle East Forum, you won't find such incidents perpetrated on visitors!

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    My advice is to by-pass Tahiti which is exorbitantly expensive and rather disappointing. I have been to Tahiti on a number of occasions and, quite frankly, much prefer the Marquesas Islands (northern archipelago of Tahiti). However, this part of the world is also prohibitively expensive. It would be a better travelling experience to go to Australia but you would need a lot more time than 2 weeks. I have travelled extensively throughout the USA and, trust me, the beaches of south coastal NSW in Australia make California look like a third world country! Australia is a massive country (the same size as the lower 48's of the USA) with a very diverse landscape, world class cities, the best seafood in the world, a friendly multicultural society and a land of great distances. Unfortunately, the tyranny of distance in our fine country will not allow you to explore it to full advantage in only two weeks (you could spend 2 weeks in Sydney alone). BUT! if you cannot extend your holiday to more than 2 weeks, my best advice is to spend it in the southern island of New Zealand. Both NZ islands are spectacularly beautiful (and, unlike Tahiti, reasonably priced) but the southern island is sensationally beautiful (at any time of year) and compact enough to drive around it in ease in 2 weeks.

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    I must also comment on TahitiGirl's notation about South Africa. We have been to South Africa three times. Like sandi (above), the last time we went, we hired a car and drove througout South Africa (along the Garden Route from Cape Town to Kruger) for 3 weeks. We never felt threatened (although one must be reasonably cautious in Johanesburg). I found the black South Africans unbelievably friendly, hospitable and beautiful people. Everywhere we drove we had gorgeous little children, men and women smiling and waving! Not only is South Africa one of the most beautiful places on earth (especially the Drakensburg Mountains and the south coastal areas near Durban) but the people are so warm and welcoming. At this point, I must make mention that there IS crime in South Africa (but probably not to the scale of the most violent nation on earth, ie the USA). The unfortunate reality of South Africa at the moment is that there is absolutely no welfare benefits. There is no safety net (that we enjoy in Australia such as child endowment, unemployment benefits etc etc). Therefore, in order to LIVE, if someone cannot attain a job (for whatever means) they have absolutely NO choice (regrettably) but to turn to petty theft or crime to feed their families. Let's not judge others as I know if I was in the same position, I would probably do likewise.

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