A quick glance at any map of the South Pacific is enough to confuse even the most experienced travellers with its great abundance of islands and archipelagos. While the South Pacific inspires dreams of beautiful sandy beaches and colourful coral reefs, not many people who haven’t been there realize just how diverse the region is in just about every respect.
The South Pacific is home to dozens of small island countries and colonies where hundreds of different languages, ethnicities, cultures and biospheres exist. Choosing the right destination for a very special holiday in the South Pacific will undoubtedly sate your desire for that idyllic tropical paradise you’ve always been dreaming about. Following a few suggestions to help you get started.
With a population of around 180,000, Tahiti is the largest island of French Polynesia, a group of 118 atolls and islands and an overseas dependency of France. A magical tropical paradise with upmarket resorts, unrivalled diving, surfing, snorkelling and hiking, Tahiti is the perfect destination for any luxury holiday. Here you will find numerous long beaches of black volcanic sand which Tahiti is known for.
While the capital city of Papeete doesn’t offer much to tourists, a trip around the island by boat will make for an extremely rewarding experience with many unforgettable photo opportunities. In addition to having its own unique and ancient culture dating back more than two-thousand years, Tahiti also has many French colonial influences in both its food and fashion. Visitors will typically arrive in Tahiti by plane, and the only international airport, located near the capital, is served by various airlines including Air France, Air New Zealand, LAN and Air Tahiti Nui.
Rarotonga is the largest and most populous island of the Cook Islands, an archipelago administered by New Zealand. It is home to around 13,000 people, the majority of the population of the territory. Rarotonga is the perfect place for families, honeymoons or any other luxury tropical getaway. English is the main language spoken here. Rarotonga has long been a popular tourist destination, and it is also a great stopover destination for those doing a trip to Australia or New Zealand.
There are daily flights to Auckland in New Zealand. Rarotonga is best known for its luxury beach-side resorts and outstanding scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities. Those wanting a break from the beach may also want to take a hike through the luxuriant and heavily forested terrain of the inland regions. Rarotonga is also teaming with exotic wildlife, and the food is great too. Mangoes, passion fruits, guavas and paw-paws all grow natively here.
3. Easter Island
Easter Island is a small island with a population of around 5,800. Part of Chile, Easter Island is best known for its numerous ancient statues, of which there are no less than 887. In spite of being one of the remotest inhabited places on Earth, the islands have a long and rich history, and the oldest of the monolithic stone statues, known as moai, have been carbon dated to as early as 1100 AD.
Although Spanish is the main language spoken on Easter Island, Rapa Nui is also spoken by its large native population, and Rapa Nui is also the local name for the island. While by far the most important tourist sites are the moai, Easter Island is also a great place for trekking, and it is worthwhile taking a tour with a local company to learn more about the unique indigenous culture. There is only one settlement of any size on the island, the village of Hanga Roa, where most tourists sleep, eat and shop. The only practical way to get to Easter Island is to fly with LAN from Santiago de Chile.
4. Galápagos Islands
A territory belonging to Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are best known for their huge number of unique, endemic species which do not exist anywhere else in the world. For wildlife lovers, this archipelago is one of the most fascinating destinations on Earth. Some of the best known of the islands’ endemic species include the huge Galápagos tortoise, the marine iguana (the only iguana adapted to aquatic life) and numerous exotic (but harmless) snakes and other creatures.
In addition to wildlife watching, snorkelling, scuba diving and fishing are popular activities on the islands. The islands are also one of the few places on the planet which are not home to any indigenous population, and most of the 25,000 people who live there are from Ecuador. It is important to realise that the Galápagos Islands are home to a unique and fragile environment, and there are some essential conservation rules to abide by. Most flights to the islands leave from Quito and land in Santa Cruz Island.