Palm fringed white sand. Turquoise blue, caressing the body warm water. Most colorful fish between colored corals. Maximum relaxed smiling, chocolate brown islanders. Names like Bora Bora, Rarotonga, Samoa, Raiatea or Atutaki. Pictures that are commonly associated with the idea of "paradise" in the imagination of almost every person? And does not the term "South Pacific" internalize the realization of secret dreams for most of us?
The legendary South Pacific is actually not a geographically defined region. It covers a huge area in the South Pacific Sea and contains very different archipelagos.
The best known are the islands of Polynesia, which are bounded by Hawaii in the north, New Zealand in the southwest and Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands in the east, all four being a part of Polynesia.
For the expanded definition of the South Pacific, many also include Melanesia, whose islands are northeast of Australia, and Micronesia, whose more than 2000 islands and atolls are scattered across a vast expanse of land in the western Pacific Ocean.
Nobody can and wants to stay only ever at his single dream beach section during his long-awaited trip to the South Pacific, may that beach be so paradisiacal. Therefore, you should know what to expect around it to have the right expectations and thus avoid disappointment. Above all, you have to prevent a widespread mistake right at the beginning - the South Pacific Islands are not comparable to the Maldives.
On a sea surface of more than 50 million square kilometers spread over a number of independent island states such as Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands and of course New Zealand. As a remnant from the days of colonialism, however, many other Polynesian islands are still not independent, but part of other states. Hawaii is known to be the 50th US state. French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France, just as American Samoa is an overseas territory of the United States and the Pitcairn is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Easter Island is part of Chile, the Galapagos are part of Ecuador. Many Polynesian islands are uninhabited to this day.
The knowledge of the political framework conditions are extremely helpful, since in the course of history also direct influences on the culture of the indigenous population have resulted, which nowadays sometimes very obtrusive, sometimes discreet characterize each island.
In French Polynesia, the influence of the French for many years, especially on the main island of Tahiti and especially in the capital Papeete, is unmistakable. Over the years, the inherent chastity of the indigenous population has combined with the French laissez-faire to a fateful sloth, which has unfortunately often made overweight and ill-tempered contemporaries out of the once so sporty, friendly and friendly Tahitians. If you leave Papeete and drive into the deep green and mountainous hinterland or on neighboring islands like Mo'orea, these peculiarities often get better. The more remote one of the 118 islands is located somewhere in the 5 Polynesian archipelagos (which, in addition to the society islands around Tahiti, also includes the Marquesas), the more originality one can expect.
However, this originality found on Tetiaroa, Huahine and Raiatea, for example, is different from the one known from pictures by Paul Gauguin. Although the population lives mostly in simple huts, but everywhere more and more accommodations for guests are arising up to the luxury hotel. Of course, everyone wants to get its piece of the tourism cake.
For some visitors, that may be understandably frightening or even shocking, if they equate originality with an idealized virginity and strive for the simple thatched or palm-roofed cottage as lodging. Other visitors, on the other hand, have the equally justifiable desire to enjoy all luxuries of tSouth Pacific holidays that one would otherwise enjoy.
Given the environmental impact of garbage pollution on the islands and beaches, cynics claim that the dream images viewing Polynesia that go around the world are showing only in the man-made resorts anyway.
For all high-level travelers, there are two top destinations in Polynesia - Bora Bora and Brando Island.
Especially on Bora Bora you really find everything exactly as you had dreamed it. Landing at the small airport outside on the coral island in the northern part of the atoll. Taking the water taxi through the turquoise-blue lagoon to the 5-star resort. Living in a water bungalow with glass windows in the floor, through which you can permanently watch the many colorful fish, if you do not jump straight from your own terrace in this aquarium. And all this with a 24-hour carefree service.
If you are looking for something elite and special, choose The Brando, as the small number of rooms and the very high price level creates a reliable selection criterion, if you intend to get that. Already in the private plane from Papeete and especially on the island of Tetiaroa you will be in a select circle, as in the past for example Barack Obama with his family, who wrote parts of his memoirs on the island.
What the French are for Polynesia, the Americans are for Hawaii and American Samoa. The US influence is unmistakable and the lifestyle on the main islands is thoroughly American. Honolulu is a big American city, and even the small house beach called Waikiki Beach can hardly change that.
But Hawai is like everywhere else in Polynesia. If you go from Honolulu to the hinterland of Oahu or to one of the other islands (Maui, Big Island Hawaii, Kauai or even Molokai), the character is often quite different. Of course always dependent on where you are on the respective island. Even the small hidden beach can be found, if you do not just follow all the "insider tips" of the guide books, but rather ask a local.
Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands have preserved not only a political, but within limits also a certain cultural independence. Of course, the western influences are unmistakable everywhere, but the simple accommodation near the beach can be found even more here than on many other islands of Polynesia. Aitutaki, one of the Cook Islands, has recently been voted the most beautiful South Pacific island, among other things because it is free of larger hotels. What may therefore be paradise for backpackers, means for travelers with higher demands that the infrastructure is sometimes reasonably satisfactory only on the main islands and higher-class hotels are in short supply.
Over a Pacific area of almost 1 million square kilometers are spread te autonomous states of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji as well as the West Indies belonging to Indonesia, the French Overseas Territory of New Caledonia and the Torres Strait Islands, which is part of the Australian state of Queensland.
Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu offer a beautiful, often very mountainous landscape, but are one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of average income. Agriculture and fisheries dominate, tourism is still in its infancy. Asphalted roads are not existing or only close to the capitals or ports, some areas of the islands are still accessible only on foot or by pack animals. Vanuatu was destroyed to 95 percent of all misfortune by a cyclone in 2015. Regardless of the Vanuatu island Efate is among the most beautiful South Sea Islands in 2nd place.
In terms of infrastructure and tourism, New Caledonia, which is popular with the French, Japanese and Australians, is already well developed. In addition to a relatively good road network, more and more high-class hotels are emerging in the 4- or rarely 5-star range, but their quality does not yet correspond to hotels of the same category worldwide. Who accepts this, can expect much less mass tourism than in Polynesia and correspondingly has higher chances on the idyllic, deserted beach.
Fiji is one step further. On the main Fijian island of Viti Levu, the big hotel chains, which are a popular destination for Australian vacationers, have been around for years. Especially in Fiji, there are now more and more smaller islands on which private luxury resorts settle with 4 to 5-star level under consideration of convincing sustainability concepts. Since all these islands are not surrounded by a protective reef or atoll, there are only very rarely the water bungalows that are so popular with honeymooners. Nonetheless, you have pure South Pacific flair everywhere. It is not without reason that Fiji islands such as Nanuya ("The Blue Lagoon") and Mondriki ("Castaway" with Tom Hanks) are popular movie sets.
North of Melanesia lies the 7 million square kilometer area of Micronesia, the "Small Islands". The distance of the outermost islands is more than 4000 kilometers.
Micronesia archipelagos are Guam, the Republic of Palau the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. Although some of you may already have heard some of these terms, the names of other states in Micronesia sound very strange - Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. Each of these archipelagos has its own culture, language and history.
All of the Micronesian Islands are often referred to as "true nature museum" mainly in the lagoons and under water. Even on land in the jungle are many historical witnesses of the indigenous people, but also to discover the changing colonial powers. The combination of natural events, different cultures, customs and man-made conflicts and their legacies make Micronesia a world-famous and interesting destination for divers. These are also the largest tourist group in Micronesia. The accommodations on the islands are consistently very simple or at best reach a 4-star-like level. Some hotels on the Americanized island of Guam claim 5 stars for themselves, this perhaps applies at best in the assessment of the stationed on the Air Force Base soldiers and their families.
SOUTH PACIFIC - GENERAL INFORMATIONS
GETTING THERE. From Central Europe, Micronesia and Melanesia including Fiji are best reached by connecting to the east. French Polynesia, Easter Island, Galapagos and Hawaii are mostly accessible by flying west. For all other islands both directions can be given. Since you have to plan almost a two days trip to get there and the same for the way back, it makes more sense to connect the South Pacific with an intermediate stage in a destination on the way, which certainly is not a mandatory stop-over, but a real enrichment to the journey to the other side of the world. And it is best to include the South Pacific in a journey around the world.
ACCOMMODATIONS. Almost everywhere in the South Pacific you have to decide - a lot of originality or high-class luxury hotels, the combination does not exist. Maybe Fiji is most likely to do this splits. It should not go unmentioned that there are cruises of varying duration and quality almost everywhere in the South Pacific that can satisfy almost every requirement.
BEST TRAVEL TIME. Actually, a preferred season does not exist. It is always mostly warm and it can always rain. But of course there are periods when this is more likely. Therefore, for most islands travel season is April / May to October / November, Tonga more June to August and Micronesia December to April.
ACTIVITIES. Diving and snorkeling are the top sport activities anywhere in the South Pacific with appropriate opportunities. But the required quality standards and security backups such as overpressure chamber, etc. are not everywhere given, so divers should be well informed in advance. Sailing, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking and hiking with and without guide) are widespread.
BUDGET. The South Pacific is one of the most expensive holiday regions in the world. Quite apart from the already very costly arrival and departure, the prices for the accommodation are very significant. Of course you can live cheaply in Micronesia or Melanesia in a simple homestay, if you greatly reduce your claims. In a luxury resort on Fiji or Bora Bora you invest from 600 to 800 euros per night, although often no food is integrated. The rate for a 1-bedroom villa for two adults on The Brando in the high season is app. 4100 euros plus taxes per night, but perhaps you will get a very big piece of paradise included.
But where and how to find paradise, ultimately every individual traveler can decide for himself only.
© Travel Edition