November 2007, Pacific: Sander in the South Seas

We have spent a few weeks travelling with Sander in the South Pacific:

A few comments that may be useful for others contemplating a trip here with a baby:

It was surprisingly easy to travel with our 5 month old baby. He enjoyed the flights – he had a baby basinet, and slept much of the trip. The airports were great fun (for him). It took him 3-4 days to get over the jet lag, but after that he slept well through the nights. We spent the hottest part of every day indoors, playing on the bed or in the kitchen basin. He loved the beaches, with walks and baths in the shade, and he even enjoyed our trips out to the lagoons.

The two main dangers are the risk of dehydration and sunburn. For sunburn, we simply didn't take him out of the shade between 9am and 4:30pm. He was too young for sunscreen, and we only used it on few occasions, when the sea was too gorgeous to resist a quick splash. As for dehydration, we made sure he was offered plain water almost every hour – he didn’t like it at first, but accepted it after a while. He also ate mainly milk, and we made sure he was able to get some mother’s milk to help his immune system. He didn’t encounter any health problems at all, although perhaps other babies could react differently.

As for minor annoyances, there were ants and mosquitoes. The tiny ants were everywhere. In Sander’s powder milk, in his diapers, in anything we left outside the fridge. In the end we just had to accept that they are there, pick them out of his bottle, check the diapers before we put them on, and be grateful that they were not the biting kind. As for mosquitoes, we were most worried about Dengue Fever, but this year they had only one case in Rarotonga, and none in any of the other places we went to. Except for Aitutaki, as long as one stayed close to the coast, there weren’t much bother. At Oarsman Bay there were hardly any. However, I still would not recommend sleeping in places that do not have meshed on windows or around beds.

As for people and service, they are extremely nice to children although they do not always seem service minded with grown-ups. Their culture is proud, and in some places they seem to lack a bit of training in western-style tourism. This was not a gourmet tour. Still, every time we asked for something, we were taken good care of. They had baby cots and baths everywhere, then helped us to refrigerate his food, they found fresh fruit for us – they were truly kind. In summary, although the did not always smile, they always helped us more than we expected, and left us smiling in the end.

In retrospect, we think that this kind of a trip with a 5-6 month old baby was a relatively safe adventure – as long as the little one is generally healthy. If we were to do it again with such a small child, we would probably choose fewer stops, rent a house instead of going to resorts, and travel with far less luggage (also for the baby).

A few quick notes on food and drink for the baby. Breastfeeding is best for the baby and easiest for the mother, but requires some sensitivity compared to Scandinavian standards. If the baby is eating other food, you may need to bring it with you. You also need to consider whether you will be comfortable mixing this food (as required) with uncooked bottled water, and whether you are OK to wash the feeding equipment in water that may not be potable. If not, bring a small tea kettle. Finally, our baby loved garden-fresh mangoes, bananas, pawpaws and avocados, and they were extremely easy food – just peel and scrape.

Also, bring a few toys, and get prepared for a slow holiday. It was so very tempting to take turns for babysitting (or arrange for someone else to babysit) and go rafting in that gorgeous canyon, go hiking on that great jungle trail, visit local markets, go diving… But we decided that we’re on this vacation because of the baby, and we stayed with him most of the time. This was partly because we noticed that on the few occasions where one of us did go on an activity, the other didn’t get much rest while being alone with the baby. As long as we all stayed together, it was far more relaxing. We spent far more time indoors (at least under a solid shade) than we would otherwise, but that was fine by us.

A few useful things to bring: babybjørn or some kind of sling, baby call, baby car seat (the lightest kind you can find, the old ones are usually lighter), a night light, a clock you can see in the dark, baby bottles and utensils, your favourite washing equipment for these, thermos, thermometer (one for food one for baby). Bring Paracetamol, in case of fever, and something for teething and stomach aches. Also baby sunscreen and baby mosquito repellent, alternatively a wall plug-in thingy or some citronella oil. We also carried some malt extract for his tummy, but fresh pawpaw worked just as well. Because of Oarsman Bay, we had to carry enough diapers and baby food for at least 2 weeks. Bring light clothing (our baby was often just in its diapers) but don’t forget sun hats, and something warm for the airplane. We had special baby sunscreen and mosquito repellent, but we rarely used them. If your baby uses pacifiers (and has a favourite kind) bring plenty of spare ones as they get inexplicably lost. Also our little one has a few favourite blankets, so we took two of these, and a few gauze cloths. We didn’t bring a pram, and babycots were always provided for us.

Other lessons learned - if one is not too fond of humid heat, it may be a good idea to choose a cooler place, or at a cooler time. We were OK with the weather, but any hotter and we may not have been. Finally, one should also consider one's own “risk aversion factor” - in some cases we were far away from “civilization”, with 4-5 hours by boat to the closest hospital, and 24 hours to the nearest “full hospital” – perhaps with a tiny baby one may not feel comfortable venturing so far away, just in case.

Otherwise, this trip was a great lesson in how little one actually needs for the child. The heaps of "necessities" we have at home were not missed at all.

Also, it was good for us to get out of the “closed” and sterile nursing world first time parents often create at home, and to learn to have some slow-speed fun as a family, baby included; he seems to have appreciated that we relaxed and exposed him a little more to the world. In the end, we have spent 6 weeks completely focused on each other – at home there would have been chores, visits, and other diversions, while here it was just us, all the time.

In summary, while we would not want to recommend a trip like this to everyone (mainly because of the perceived risks) we felt safe throughout and are very happy that we did it. From Subject Received Size Header Status Monday Aslak Syse Godt år i vente? ma 19:23 10 KB

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Silvija Seres, December 2007