Secrets of Paradise

Discover the mysterious dark side behind the crystal clear waters and sandy beaches of the idyllic South Pacific islands.

Produced by NHNZ

Each year tens of thousands of visitors from around the world fulfill their dreams of visiting the idyllic islands of the South Pacific.

But behind these seemingly perfect isles lie dark and mysterious secrets.

South Pacific: Secrets of Paradise journeys across the sparkling waters of the South Pacific to unearth the little-known traditions and history of this fascinating region.

Beginning on Easter Island, the world’s most remote inhabited spot, we investigate the enduring mystery of the hundreds of gigantic human statues, known as mo’ai, that tower above the island. We discover how and why these marvels were constructed, and how they may have helped turn an island paradise into a living hell.

We also learn about a strange and death-defying Easter Island religious ritual, and witness the bizarre tradition of elaborately painted men who hurtle down a mountainside atop two banana trees tied together.

Secrets of Paradise then travels to the islands of Vanuatu to join dozens of tourists who drive to within just 100ft of the lava and sulphur spewing crater of Mount Yasur. Before we leave Vanuatu, we visit one of its most obscure islands to ponder one of archaeology’s most intriguing discoveries.

For generations, legends claimed that when the country’s great chief Roy Mata died some 400 years ago, representatives from every clan in his territory – and their wives – were willingly buried alive alongside him. But no one knew if the horrific tale was true until the 196Os, when French archaeologists found a mass burial on tiny “Hat” island exactly where local people had told them they would find Roy Mata’s grave. Just as in legend, the chief’s skeleton was surrounded by dozens of couples — husbands and wives who had been buried alive, embracing forever in the throes of death.

Next we visit Tahiti to find out how it got its world-famous reputation as the “Island of Love.” We revel in the pleasure and mystery of the world’s most sensuous dances, investigate why the European missionaries once forbade these provocative dances and find out how the heroic efforts of one woman revived them for the modern world.

Finally, we reveal perhaps the most chilling secret of all, among the islands of Fiji, once known as the ‘Cannibal Isles.’ It wasn’t that long ago when human sacrifice and cannibalism were widely practised in the South Pacific. Sometimes people ate their defeated enemies as a religious act. Sometimes they ate people just because they tasted good.  We find out the tastiest parts of a human body and learn how the smell of flesh roasting in earth ovens was enough to make anyone hungry!

Join us as we explore the Secrets of Paradise and investigate the mysteries and legends of some of the most beautiful islands in the world. Perhaps life in the South Seas was once not as serene as it now appears. Could there be a darker side to paradise?

Episodes From This Series

Secrets of Paradise

1 hour / 2002

Islands of War

1 hour / 2002