29 Mar

If you’re going to pack your bags and head off into the wilderness for a vacation that not only lets you explore an exotic island, but also really and truly takes you away from the outside world in a way that’s almost impossible in modern society, then you’d better be ready to dive into the local culture.

Tourism is a relatively small-time business on the Chatham Islands, and for good reason. Lacking the year-round warm weather and lazy palm trees that many other islands sport, the Chathams nonetheless boasts opportunities for a unique kind of vacation, one you aren’t likely to find anywhere else on earth.

And so, for the tourists that are attracted here, it’s for a very specific reason.

Hunting

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Not everyone who comes to the Chathams arrives here with the purpose of hunting. Indeed, if you’re environmentally-conscious and you’re here to see how the locals do it, then hunting may not be your cup of tea. But it’s long been a part of the island culture, so for those looking instead for an authentic islander experience, a hunting charter may be the best way to go.

One of the most popular hunting trips on the island centers around hunting wild pigs. These aren’t the boars that you’ve heard of, that will hurt you just as easily as you’ll hurt them–they’re relatively more docile, but nonetheless, care should be taken. Check out one of the island’s chartered tours, rather than just strapping on a gun and going off by yourself to try and bag a pig.

Other hunting trips will take you into the island’s interior to look for wild sheep. If you’ve always wanted to try mutton, but never had the chance, now’s the chance to do it. You won’t get a better introduction to this classic meat than by slaying the creature yourself and then watching it roast on an open fire to juicy perfection.

Finally, if you’re up for the biggest challenge of them all, charter a bull-hunting tour. Bulls are big, dangerous, but notoriously skittish. They’ll bolt at the first sign of danger, and only stand and fight if there’s no other way out. Nonetheless, make sure you have a guide with you–it’s dangerous and illegal to just head off into the jungle with your rifle over your shoulder alone.

Fishing

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This is where the true islander experience comes alive. The Chatham Islands’ economy is based almost entirely on fishing. The other part of their economy is tourism, so you know you’re getting the full experience when you book a fishing charter tour. The waters off the coast of Chatham are at the intersection of hot and cold ocean currents, creating a natural hotbed of ocean activity. There are rich schools of fish, lobster colonies–all sorts of things live beneath the waves off the coasts of the Chatham Islands.

Some of the most popular charter tours involve not just regular pole-and-line fishing, but have a rather more adventurous component to them, as well. Try Chatham Charters’ spear-fishing tours. They’ll give you a spear and show you how to use it, and you can spend your time trying to nab a fish with a flick of your wrist, just like the ancient islanders would have done.

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If that’s still not adventurous enough for you, then you can try a scuba diving adventure. Head beneath the waves to see the vast array of life forms that gather here. Beware, though, because in addition to lobsters and schools of fish, there are also sharks in these waters.

And that brings us to by far the most extreme of the ocean options on the islands. Shark-cage diving. There’s no fishing involved, here–the sharks are more likely to try and eat you than you are to try and eat them–but you’ll get a chance to come face to face with one of nature’s oldest and most successful predatory species, safe behind your metal cage where they can’t get at you. Overcome your fear of the ocean by swimming–literally–with the sharks.

You know when you feel so passionate about something that you just can’t stop talking about it? You visit somewhere once and fall in love with it forever; I know countless people do it with New York or Paris… but what about somewhere a bit more off the beaten track?

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