South Pacific Journey to Distant Islands






South Pacific Journey: Find out how to Go to 14 of the Most Distant and Culturally Fascinating Islands

Could 20, 2023 No Feedback »

The South Pacific area comprises about 30,000 islands – it appears unfathomable – 30,000! So how on this planet do you resolve which of them to go to? I used to be confronted with this query as I attempted to plan my South Pacific Journey. One in all my targets was to go to the actually distant, seldom visited South Pacific islands in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu with out spending months doing it. Right here’s the excellent news…it’s potential! Study how one can get to 14 of essentially the most distant islands in Melanesia in 17 days whereas studying concerning the distinctive tradition, historical past, and panorama of the South Pacific.

What began as a sprinkle of rain, transitioned rapidly to a downpour. I attempted to cowl up my digital camera and appeared round to attempt to discover cowl. A lady in a hut was making an attempt to get my consideration as she waved her fingers. Our eyes locked and he or she motioned for me to come back inside. As soon as once more, the South Pacific was exhibiting its welcoming hospitality.

I ducked into the thatched hut. I used to be shocked once I glanced up and observed a complete group of village ladies and young children watching me.

Loh Island South pacific hospitality
Protected from the rain with native ladies

I appeared across the hut constituted of palm leaves, a mud flooring, no electrical energy, no plumbing – it was life at its simplest. The entire ladies have been wanting to ask me questions, as I used to be of them. We fumbled by means of a dialog about marriage, motherhood, and schooling. I used to be as fascinating to them as they have been to me. Two very completely different worlds collided in that hut because the rain got here down, and I used to be so excited to expertise it.

I discovered that the villagers of Loh hadn’t welcomed international guests since 2016. This lack of tourists was far more than a pandemic-related absence, it was the character of dwelling on a really, very distant island within the South Pacific.

Distant South Pacific Journey

On this uber-connected world – it’s arduous to find locations that really feel actually untouched. They’re typically arduous to get to, have restricted area, and have little infrastructure – which creates a lot of insurmountable hurdles for vacationers who need to do South Pacific Journey.

Regardless of these hurdles – distant locations like Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu are completely well worth the journey. One option to overcome these hurdles is to journey to the South Pacific Islands by ship.

Heritage Expeditions South Pacific Travel
Heritage Adventurer – your transportation to the distant South Pacific Islands

I’m not speaking about simply any ship. It’s necessary to comprehend there are the standard cruise firms that cruise the South Pacific Islands, nevertheless, they go to the islands which have extra infrastructure. They begin from huge cities like Sydney, LA, and Brisbane. They usually go to the extra common vacationer locations like Tahiti or Fiji; locations with airports and cruise ports. Certain – these are nonetheless small South Pacific islands, however they’ve the infrastructure to welcome 1000’s of passengers from huge cruise ships.

Most South Pacific cruises don’t go to the distant, tiny islands like Loh Island. Those with no tourism, accommodations, electrical energy, or plumbing. And that’s precisely the place I wished to set foot…onto the South Pacific Islands which can be arduous (if not not possible) to get to.

Papua New Guinea Bougainville Volcano

Enter Heritage Expeditions who has been cruising to distant South Pacific islands for 10 years now. The small family-owned expedition cruise firm really gives expedition-type journey to locations which can be almost not possible to get to. The Heritage Expeditions Secrets and techniques of Melanesia cruise will take you thus far off the vacationer path…there’s barely even a path in any respect!

What’s Expedition Journey

Expedition journey is a journey area of interest that permits for the pliability to reply to the setting, wildlife and different journey components. It’s typically finished by small ship as a result of it’s normally the one option to get to essentially distant locations. An expedition cruise appears to be like kind of like a mini model of a cruise ship – however this isn’t a typical ‘cruise’. There’s no want to decorate up, no theater exhibits, and there aren’t any shore excursions; it’s extra unpredictable and rugged in a means. An expedition ship is sufficiently small to have the ability to anchor off shore in deep waters and passengers are transported by Zodiac rafts on shore to small villages or nature areas.

South Pacific Expedition Travel
Attending to the distant South Pacific islands

We had a lot of days the place flexibility was obligatory and we went means off the itinerary, altering plans resulting from cultural points (warring tribes!) and climate. We traveled in some uncharted waters and went to locations that the captain or the expedition chief had by no means been to earlier than. On expedition journey, you let the journey take you, fairly than you taking the journey.

Or as our expedition chief put it – it’s important to be rigidly versatile to do an expedition journey.

Hearken to the Beginner Traveler Podcast the place I discuss journey by expedition ship to Melanesia. Study what to anticipate and why it’s such a particular area to journey to.

South Pacific Journey

The South Pacific is greater than a musical – it’s a whole group of islands within the Pacific Ocean that consists of three areas; Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia.

South Pacific Map
MAP Map supplied by @Kahuroa

My South Pacific journey took me by means of the Melanesia area on Heritage Expeditions’ new 120-passenger Heritage Adventurer ship. This was the right option to journey to South Pacific distant island villages and cultures that usually get only a few if any guests.

To offer you an thought of simply how few folks go to Melanesia
Vanuatu – 121,000 annual guests
Solomon Islands – 29,000 annual guests
Papua New Guinea – 211,000 annual guests
France 218,000,000 annual guests

Why Journey to Melanesia?

Melanesia is made up of 4 nations; Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea. These nations embody 1000’s of islands within the South Pacific overflowing with biodiversity.

It is likely one of the prime birding locations on this planet with over 501 endemic birds and it’s dwelling to the Coral Triangle which comprises at the very least 500 species of reef-building corals and is likely one of the eight main coral reef zones on this planet.

After which there’s the explanation I cruised by means of Melanesia – the tradition. It is likely one of the most culturally complicated areas on this planet. The islands have over 1000 languages! The locals reside in villages devoid of contemporary conveniences (besides cell telephones), counting on the sources of the land, touring by canoe, preserving their historical past by means of oral traditions, fostering tight-knit communities centered round household ties and elders. They interact in commerce utilizing shells and pigs, take part in elaborate ceremonies, perform sure unsettling rituals, and, at occasions, uphold the follow of a ‘bride worth.’

South Pacific culture

Melanesia is likely one of the final locations on earth the place you’re going to get to expertise this stuff of their purest type.

South Pacific Island Tradition – Like Nothing You’ve Ever Skilled Earlier than

Journey the South Pacific and also you’ll most positively hear terrifying tales of headhunters. It’s the place a number of the final headhunting tribes have been discovered. Traditionally it was a land of warring tribes and cannibalism. Though that doesn’t exist any longer, there are nonetheless loads of tribal disagreements, and the warring is deeply rooted of their tradition.

Expertise the One-of-a-Sort Singsings

The time period ‘Singsing’ refers back to the elaborate festivals held all through Melanesia, the place villagers showcase theatrically choreographed dance and vocal performances. They’re spectacular occasions with ornate costumes, dances, uncommon music, and singing.

The dances and costumes signify numerous village occasions comparable to giving thanks for harvests, asking for a profitable hunt, blessings for weddings, funerals, births and good well being. There have been dragon dances, frog dances, elaborate masks, headdresses made from uncommon feathers, and complex piercings. More often than not I sat and watched in disbelief and awe that this was for actual.

Watch the number of costumes, dances, music, and folks of the South Pacific

The villagers inspired us to take part in most of the singsings, which invariably resulted in them bursting into laughter and pointing on the amusing foreigners and our dance strikes! I liked becoming a member of the dances, you may’t assist however to be glad interacting on this historical cultural custom.

South Pacific Cruise Island Hopping – The place to Go and What to Anticipate

Each day we stopped at completely different island communities and had an opportunity to work together with the locals. I don’t assume it might be potential to go to all of those islands by yourself. Nonetheless, with Heritage Expeditions it was straightforward to traverse to those little identified islands in a comparatively brief time frame.

Sepik River Papua New Guinea – Land of the Crocodile

As we landed our zodiacs in Kopar village the youngsters and villagers waved a welcome to us. The villagers carried out three completely different dances that includes elaborate costumes: the fish dance, dragon dance, and snake dance. Locals from surrounding villages alongside the 700 mile lengthy Sepik River flocked to Kopar to see the efficiency in addition to to get a superb take a look at us…the guests.

Very like journey to India – it’s important to be snug with being stared at whereas doing South Pacific journey.

Along with the frilly costumes for the singsing, I used to be additionally in awe of the unbelievable artifacts and handicrafts that the villagers had laid out for us to admire and buy. As soon as once more, households traveled for days to carry their crafts to Kopar to satisfy (and promote to) the guests.

sepik river crafts
A household sells crafts of the Sepik River

Manus Island Papua New Guinea – Dancing with Tree Frogs

The neighborhood of Manus Island hadn’t seen guests for two+ years. To make up for that they welcomed us with open arms and smiles. As our zodiacs got here near shore school-age children lined up on the seaside singing and dancing wildly with an accompaniment of a heavy drum beat.

The neighborhood even welcomed us into the village by way of a ceremonial ‘ribbon chopping’ (twine chopping). It was a stunning ‘Western world’ welcome to a really historical tradition. They entertained us with singsings, together with a dance depicting the tree frogs that descend from the timber to feed and drink. Males sporting costumes made from timber, leaves, flowers, and shells actually dropped from the timber and hopped round leaving your entire crowd in giggles.

Nissan Island Papua New Guinea – Assembly Forest Spirits

The Balil 1 villagers warmly welcomed us as our zodiac boat bounced by means of the small inlet into the sunken crater that kinds Nissan Island.

Though it was a Sunday and usually a quiet day your entire village and surrounding villagers confirmed as much as carry out a singsing and tour us round their village to share their tradition. The spotlight of the occasion was the forest spirits dance, that includes costumes crafted from tree branches, with every spirit adorned in an intricate picket masks.

The native children giggled and screamed as the boys danced round with spears wanting ominous. These dances didn’t solely carried out for us – the guests – but in addition the native folks and youngsters in an effort to educate the traditions to the youthful generations within the village. I got here to study that our visits have been an necessary a part of this passing down of information to your entire village. Generally tourism could be harmful, however on this case, it actually felt like our South Pacific journey had goal and advantages that far outweighed the downsides.

Balil 1 had a small college that we toured. The abundance of quotes and indicators displayed within the classroom, discussing well-known people, gender fairness, the importance of environmental conservation, and the worth of peace, stunned me.

Remnants of the warfare have been scattered all through the village on Nissan Island, because it had been dwelling to an airstrip utilized throughout WWII. My favourite dialog was with Cecilia who was a grandmother of twins she was taking good care of. I walked up and requested her what she carried in her bag and he or she pulled out an empty Coke bottle! Troopers liked Coke, and inevitably some bottles have been left. We ended up in an extended dialog about WWII and the way they don’t make Coke bottles like they used to! She confirmed me how she used the previous (very heavy) bottle to crack open coconuts!

Bougainville Papua New Guinea – Scars of Civil Warfare

One of the tragic islands in Papua New Guinea – Bougainville was a special sort of go to. I discovered concerning the tragic historical past of the current civil warfare, which lasted for 10 years, and the underlying causes that sparked its initiation. The extended combating claimed the lives of over 15,000 folks.

We rode in vans to go to the now defunct Panguna Copper and Gold mine that was on the middle of the tragedy. We witnessed the sad remnants of what stays and noticed the way it continues to influence the folks and the setting as much as this present day. The locals interact in every day gold mining actions because the mine nonetheless holds plentiful reserves of gold and copper. Nonetheless, the devastating environmental penalties ensuing from the mine’s closure are actually heartbreaking.

Bougainville folks culturally affiliate themselves extra with the folks of the Solomon Islands than Papua New Guinea, giving rise to a current referendum during which they voted to interrupt away from PNG and type its personal autonomous area.

That afternoon we had an unbelievable Papua New Guinea sendoff from one of many singsing teams on the island. No devices, no drawback! In Bougainville all you want is previous footwear and bamboo! I used to be in awe as I listened to such stunning music all created with bamboo pipes and flipflops.

Tetepare, Solomon Islands – A Lesson in Conservation

Welcome to the island gem of the Solomon Islands – Tetepare Island. Over 100 years in the past, quite a few tribes totaling about 1,860 folks inhabited the island. Nonetheless, the thriving island was ultimately deserted. There are 3 potential causes: dysentery, headhunting, and curses – or perhaps all of them?

For over 100 years, it has remained uninhabited and is presently managed as a conservation web site by 12 rangers from the Tetepare Descendants Affiliation. It was rescued from logging and imminent destruction, and now serves as a conservation mannequin for the Solomon Islands and your entire South Pacific.

You possibly can study extra about this unbelievable transformation within the e book, “The Final Wild Island – Saving Tetepare”

They actually have a little eco lodge (a couple of conventional huts) there that may be very easy, however you may keep on the island – hike, tag turtles, and take part in conservation efforts. It’s an opportunity to essentially see what it’s like to remain in a easy island setting. Additionally they have unbelievable snorkeling simply offshore. In actual fact, it was in all probability my favourite snorkeling of your entire journey.

We have been in a position to get ‘fingers on’ with two of the islands most necessary animals – coconut crabs and endangered Inexperienced and Hawksbill turtles! We watched the rangers tag a turtle document it’s data after which launch it to the ocean. You would see simply how a lot the rangers liked their jobs and the island.

Coconut crabs conceal in timber, caves, and within the floor. It’s the biggest terrestrial vertebrate on this planet weighing as much as 4 kg. They usually kind of appear to be an enormous spider…which is a bit terrifying! They’ll really break right into a coconut and might carry coconuts as much as 3 miles. Surprisingly these crabs can’t swim, so that they dwell on the island the place they’re protected.

Malita Solomon Islands – The place the Cultural Tables Turned

Malita is a extra developed and populated island within the Solomons; nevertheless, we have been there to satisfy a really particular tribe for a singular expertise. Right here we met a couple of members of the Kwaio tribe who made a particular journey to satisfy us and share their tradition. The Kwaio dwell in one of the vital inaccessible locations within the Solomon Islands; excessive up within the highlands in an space referred to as Naufe’e. They mainly had a mountain fortress which allowed them to maintain to their previous methods and exists regardless of the remainder of the island modernizing.

Chief Esau and a small group traveled for a number of days to come back right down to the coast and meet us and the ship. They did demonstrations of their cooking, how they made handicrafts, and the Chief instructed us about their work to construct up sources for ladies and youngsters within the village and extra.

Chief Esau Kwaio Tribe
Chief Esau Kwaio Tribe

Nonetheless, we additionally had a chance to take part of their tune and dance rituals – however there was one catch. With a view to take part we needed to put on their conventional clothes…which was mainly nothing however a lap lap. A lap lap is only a small waistcloth or loincloth. This was a chance to get absolutely immersed of their tradition…and get bare and dance! Would you do it?

Frigate Island Solomon Islands – Swim with the Locals

We obtained one other unbelievable welcome to this tiny island. In a cultural twist, the boys of the island did the entire dances. After the festivities, we have been free to roam the island and take a look at the mangrove forest or head out snorkeling. The locals got here out in full drive to see the festivities and discuss with us. It occurred to be the final day of faculty and the island instructor introduced the entire children out to work together with the foreigners. That is in all probability one of the best form of ‘social research’ the youngsters might get! They loved swimming with all of us and getting rides on the zodiacs.

Frigate Island South Pacific kids swimming
Youngsters swimming at Frigate Island

Nendo Island Solomon Islands – See a Purple Feather Hat

Nendö is the biggest of the Santa Cruz Islands, which misinform the south-east of the Solomon Islands. Right here we made a particular go to inland to the village of Noipe.

We rode at the back of lories and bounced alongside on the primitive highway in direction of the center of the island. Once we arrived it felt as if we have been in a ticker tape parade. Locals surrounded us on the highway cheering our arrival.

They welcomed us with leis, coconuts, a ravishing harmonious choir, and historic dances. Noipe organized a whole instructional afternoon – it was my favourite village we visited. After the dances they’d a dozen little huts arrange the place we might stroll in and find out about a selected cultural custom. There have been ear piercings, cooking, utilizing tree bark to make conventional clothes, and mat weaving. There was even an illustration of how they make their notorious pink feather hats.

Purple Feather Hats

Nendo Red Feather Hat
Purple Feather Hat

The pink feather hat shouldn’t be a hat in any respect. It stands as the one identified bird-based forex in human historical past. This Solomon Islands hat is generally seen in museums, however I had the chance to go to the one place on earth the place it was created – Noipe.

I’m not going to lie – this idea of forex is actually arduous for me to understand – however I all the time welcome the possibility to find out about cultures completely different than mine.

The ‘hat’, referred to as a tevau, is definitely 50,000 to 60,000 itty bitty pink feathers taken from the Scarlet Honeyeater chook. Particular craftsmen within the tribe make it. They ‘glue’ every little tiny feather with a sticky sap to an extended wooden coil.The coils are usually 20 to 30 toes in size, it might take an individual over a yr to finish a full feather coil!

It achieved forex standing as a result of the islanders didn’t have entry to uncommon ores to make cash. As an alternative, folks thought-about scarlet honeyeater feathers as the last word hard-to-get useful resource. They used Tevau as funds made to a girl’s household on her marriage till the Nineteen Eighties. I’m wondering if they’ve ever ceased utilizing them since we nonetheless noticed their manufacturing within the village at the moment.

At its top, to make the forex they needed to pluck from 20,000 particular person birds annually. Regardless of this intense harvesting, chook consultants say the inhabitants of untamed honeybirds on the island thrives to this present day.

I liked Noipe, the folks have been so sort, and so excited to have us go to. I walked away having discovered a lot about their tradition, and received to see one of the vital distinctive cultural items, the tevau, within the South Pacific.

Santo Island Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s largest Island, Santo; is the situation of James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. We began our go to with slightly decadence by indulging in champagne on Champagne Seaside in Vanuatu. This stunning seaside received its identify because of the volcanic gases that bubble up by means of the powdery white sand on the shoreline to make it appear and feel like champagne underneath your toes! Though the skies appeared like nasty climate – we solely had solar on the seaside which made for a spectacular seaside and snorkeling morning.

Simply once I believed I had witnessed each conceivable type of music in Melanesia, I used to be as soon as once more taken unexpectedly. A bunch of beautiful ladies walked into the waves with none devices and created unbelievable music within the water! They cupped their fingers in numerous methods to slap, scoop, and displace the water iso that it that made notes and music. It was awe-inspiring.

Apparently, ladies discovered this ability whereas doing the village laundry within the rivers. They wash the village’s garments within the river and began to play with the sounds that they may make, and shortly they’d a ‘band’! Not solely did they current a water live performance, additionally they taught us how we might study a couple of notes!

Within the afternoon we moved on to discover one other a part of Santo Island – Luganville. This city was an necessary space throughout WWII. Most of the allied forces, together with People, have been stationed right here and constructed a good portion of the infrastructure that continues to be in place to this present day. We visited a lot of WWII websites and museums in addition to the native market.

We ended our time on Santo Island with a dip in one in every of its well-known blue holes. Crystal-clear, deep iridescent blue swimming pools distinctive to Vanuatu. These pure phenomena are shaped when underground streams originating within the island’s western ranges resurface as springs, chopping deep round swimming pools into the karst. The right swimming gap!

Blue hole Vanuatu
Blue Gap

Every South Pacific Island we visited was completely different from the subsequent, however every felt untouched by time. By touring on the Heritage Adventurer it made navigating the distant South Pacific islands potential in 17 days. The Secrets and techniques of Melanesia Cruise is an ideal option to do South Pacific journey to essentially the most distant islands. And it’s one of many solely methods to see the world’s most fascinating cultures.

2023 Secrets and techniques of Melanesia Sailings

Secrets and techniques of Melanesia Itinerary
DEPARTURES 23 Oct 2023

Don’t neglect to get journey insurance coverage if you’ll this a part of the world. Whenever you journey to a lot of these distant locations, you’ll need journey insurance coverage that features emergency evacuation. I usually use Allianz Journey Insurance coverage Insurance policies.

That is the third Heritage Expeditions Cruise I’ve taken, and every one was unbelievable. Every of them have been to essentially uncommon locations and as soon as once more was primarily about tradition, wildlife, and panorama.
Ross Sea Antarctica
Wrangle Island Russia


I used to be a visitor of Heritage Expeditions on this journey, nevertheless all opinions expressed listed below are my very own.

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