South Pacific Map
The South Pacific is etched into the traveller's sub-conscious as a series of glorious, sunny, relaxed palm-fringed beaches surrounded by kaleidoscopic fish, soft coral, sensual girls and muscular, tattooed guys. And it was in Gauguin's time a hundred years ago, but that perfect combination of Polynesian assets is very difficult to find these days unless you have a big wad and jet into a five star bubble. Even then you'd be missing out on both real local culture and the thrill of discovering your own private little South Sea paradise.
Map of the Polynesia region of the Pacific Ocean.
Some simple South Pacific pointers:
- Fiji and its many islands are the best value group in this ocean, English speaking, not so far from Australia or New Zealand and well set up to look after backpackers and their needs.
- Probably the most beautiful, well-sorted (i.e. sporting superb resorts, hideously expensive of course) 'paradise' beaches in the South Pacific are on French Polynesia's Bora Bora, The Cook Island's Aitutaki, Tonga's Foa island (Ha'apai islands group) and Fiji's Yasawa Island.
- Culturally the most interesting easily-accessible island group is Fiji, though Rarotonga, Moorea and Samoa all have valid culture tours or shows.
- The ocean's best snorkelling and scuba diving are North Fiji's Somosomo Strait (speciality soft coral, best visibility May-Oct), French Polynesia's Rangiroa atoll (a huge cluster of tiny islets northeast of Tahiti, hotels available, best Dec-March for sharks) and Tonga's Ha'apai (terrific caves and canyons) and Vava'u islands (May-Oct for humpback whales. Superb sailing too).