Thinking about a trip to the South Pacific? Whether it’s swaying to the sounds of a church choir, coming face-to-face with the tribal masks of traditional warriors at a festival or hiking to sky-high moss-covered waterfalls, a trip to Melanesia – which encompasses the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Western New Guinea – isn’t your typical beach holiday.
So which destination to choose? Here’s a rundown of the types of experiences you can expect in three South Pacific destinations: Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
1. Solomon Islands
Make your way to where the wild things are while exploring the Solomon Islands, home to extensive mangrove forests and fringing reef that snakes around sandy islets. This tiny archipelago has been put on the map thanks to its world-class diving sites and jungles strewn with WWII history. This is where John F. Kennedy was saved by Solomon Islanders during his service in the navy before becoming president of the United States – you can visit Kennedy Island to learn more about the story. Swing in a hammock at an eco-resort after a day of exploring, immerse yourself in tales of a darker past on a visit to Skull Island, then flip the day over by tapping your toe to a mixture of traditional beats and singing at a church service.
Direct flights are available from Australia (Brisbane and Sydney), Fiji (Nadi), Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby) and Vanuatu (Port Vila) to the capital of Honiara.
2. Papua New Guinea
Calling all adventure-seekers! Hiking the 96-kilometre (60-mile) Kokoda Track is tough going but it’s a worthy pilgrimage as you make your way through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea. Follow the trail cloaked in an overhanging rainforest, steering towards traditional villages as you navigate through mountains that have naturally divided tribal territories for centuries.
Papua New Guinea exudes cultural and biological diversity, known for its trekking, birdwatching and all-out celebrations of tradition. The Rabaul Mask Festival holds dance ceremonies belonging to the people of East New Britain – a province that was largely destroyed in a volcanic eruption in 1994 and has been completely rebuilt. A tremendous amount of work goes into the tribal masks on display and by attending the gathering, you can expect to be taken into the heart of local tradition.
Direct flights operate from the capital of Port Moresby to Australia (Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney), Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Manila and Tokyo.
You might consider Fiji as being only a resort-style type of destination. Think again. Go from flopping on a beach towel along a sandy shoreline to dropping into the base of a waterfall in the middle of the highlands. Hike over evergreen grasslands into a remote village, raft through Fiji’s volcanic rock interior and snorkel over vibrant coral reef coastlines. A tantalizing addition is the Indian influence in local cuisine, with half the population being Indo-Fijian. You can expect to find mild curries and roti added to the menu, even in remote parts of the islands. Staying in a community at a local homestay adds to the experience, with Fijian hospitality being second to none in the South Pacific.
Fiji has direct flights from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and the United States to Nadi International Airport, on the main island of Viti Levu.
Of course, there are more countries to explore in Melanesia, but these are good spots to start. Explore our range of tours in the region.
Feature photo by Jenna Hoare.