Tonga Shipwreck Discovered, Believed To Be Pirate Treasure Ship

scuba diving A recent discovery made by divers in Tonga could hold a missing puzzle piece to an age-old mystery. A local diver in the Ha’apai group of islands last month found wreckage believed to be a pirate vessel containing treasure that sank in 1806.

The Port-au-Prince, a British privateer, was attacked by local warriors after arriving in Tonga, with King Finau ‘Ulukalala II ordering the crew to be massacred. However, the Tongans saved most of the iron and cannon on board before the king ordered the ship to be scuttled.

“It is believed that a considerable amount of copper, silver and gold is resting with the wreck, along with a number of silver candlesticks, incense pans, crucifixes and chalices,” tourism ministry spokeswoman Sandra Fifita told news.com.au.

As of now, divers are thoroughly mapping out the underwater location. According to diver Darren Rice, who has visited the site, if it is the Port-au-Prince then it’s the most important shipwreck in Tonga’s history. Moreover, while the treasure will be buried now and difficult to get to, divers are positive it is there.

[image via Jessica Festa]

Win a Seacology Expedition with Trazzler!

Did the latest episode of Travel Talk inspire you to dive with whales? Love to travel and learn about the environment at the same time? Then break out your typewriter, because Trazzler has great opportunity for you!

Trazzler is partnering up with Seacology, an award-winning eco-friendly charity, to offer two contestants a 10-day trip on the South Pacific island of Tonga. The winners will voyage aboard one of the world’s top dive and snorkel boats, the NAI’A – in one of the few locations in the world where humans can swim with humpback whales.

So what do you need to do in order to win this trip of a lifetime? In less than 160 words, share an experience that highlights ‘smart travel’. As travelers, we have the opportunity to do good and go deeper; to volunteer, get embedded in local culture, pursue environmentally friendly modes of travel or lodging, or promote economic growth in developing regions. This is smart travel, and Trazzler wants to hear your smart travel stories.

There’s no official deadline; the contest will be over when the community reaches milestones that are measured by sharing, number of participants, and new facebook / twitter followers. Check out the official contest rules for complete information!

Photo courtesy of Seacology

Beyoncé’s Pimpin’ Private Tour Jet

What? You think Beyoncé has her own special private airplane with black velvet seat cushions and a bedazzled fuselage all covered in blingetty-bling (with a ring on it) and with bottles of Vitamin Water lined up like a rainbow in her mirrored mini-fridge? Well, she doesn’t. No doubt, girlfriend could afford it, but being the smart, sensible artist that she is, Beyoncé just chartered a plane from OpenSkies, the transatlantic all-business-class airline that flies nonstop between Washington, DC, New York City, and Paris.

Beyoncé and her entourage chartered the plane in February 2010 for the two-week South American leg of her recent “I AM… SASHA FIERCE” tour, beginning with a week of show dates in Brazil, followed by appearances in Argentina, Chile, Peru and finishing off with a last-stop carnival hurrah in Trinidad capital Port-of-Spain on February 18th. The Boeing 757-200 charter jet that carried her from gig to gig is compact but with long-range capacity and lots of luggage space for all those crazy stage sets and costume changes. The all-business-class layout offers two cabins, one with 24 BIZ BEDS (seats that convert into a 180° fully flat bed) and another 40 BIZ SEATS (which recline only to 140°). Of course, Beyoncé slept up front in one of the BIZ BEDS, while her hairdresser and makeup team were most likely hanging out in the back of the plane. Flight attendants reported that “Beyoncé’s really nice” but “not as tall as you think she is.” (Yeah, you already knew that.)

OpenSkies is known for its spectacular French gourmet meals (in spite of its affiliation with British Airways) but most suspect that 28-year old Beyoncé chose the airline for its signature color, which is vivid lavender (expressed inside the airplane’s lush interiors.)

So there it is. For all you Beyoncé fans who wonder how the Queen Bee travels from one sweaty stage to the next, that’s it.

25 great adventures for 2010

The latest issue of National Geographic Adventure has just hit the newsstand with a special treat inside for adventure travelers looking for their next big trip. The magazine has listed its selection for the 25 best new trips for 2010, offering up suggestions of places to visit in nearly every corner of the globe.

The list is organized in alphabetical order by destination, starting with Bhutan and running through several U.S. locations as well. Each of the locations also has a tour operator associated with it, and clicking on the text will give you a more detailed description of what you can expect on your adventure.

No matter what draws you to adventure travel, you’re sure to find something on the list that appeals to you. For instance, if you’re up for a challenging kayaking adventure, head to Bhutan with Bio Bio Expeditions, where you get the opportunity to make the first descent on a previously unpaddled section of the Drangme Chhu River. Does an island adventure sound more enticing? Then plan a trip to Sri Lanka with Access Trips, where you can go surfing and mountain biking through that amazing setting. And for those who would prefer a little more rest and relaxation with their adventure, there is always the Muang La Resort in Laos which offers jungle escapes that includes luxury rooms and a deluxe spa. That trip is available through Asia Transpacific Journeys.

No one knows adventure like National Geographic, and you can bet that each of these trips will deliver in that category. With 2009 quickly coming to an end, it is never too early to start planning your own adventures for 2010, and this list is a great place to start.

Tired of traveling overweight? Try Tonga!

I just read a great article in the San Francisco Chronicle about overweight travelers and a way for them to get away from the judgmental eyes of the “skinny finicky foreigners.”

The answer? TONGA.

Apparently, in Tonga being overweight is not quite the disaster that we as Westerners say it is — to the contrary, being larger in the island nation is a sign of “wealth and social standing,” kind of like 17th century France. Perhaps they have yet to get the memo on heart disease and diabetes.

I don’t mean to sound critical, but the whole idea of traveling to a place where you can be accepted for being overweight seems kind of like circumventing the real issue. The problem is still there; you’ve just gone to a place where people won’t bother you about it. Is that helping you resolve the matter?

But my favorite part of the article is a quote from NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance:

“When you get to your seat during pre-boarding, raise the armrest between seats. This may give you the inch or two of extra space you need. The chances are that the passenger who will be seated next to you won’t say anything; if he does, smile pleasantly and say that you’ll both be more comfortable if the armrest is up.”

Will you be more comfortable?

Read Catherine’s article on why Disneyland had to shut down It’s a Small World After All this year here.

###

Space most definitely isn’t an issue in the new Singapore Airlines A380! Check it out:

%Gallery-9672%

%Poll-9161%