the sand in my bucket list
“THE MAGICAL SOUTH PACIfiC is right on our doorstep, sure we might be lacking in the museums and castles of our northern counterparts BUT THE SOUTH PACIfiC IS not only beautiful but it is steeped in culture and history and it’s ….. sunny!”
It’s funny how we put travel locations that are ‘far away’ on a pedestal; the wine country of Tuscany, the snow slopes of Chamonix, the ruins of Pompey. Yet there are those that live close by these icons of European travel and probably put them in the bucket of ‘been there done that’. Yet if you talk to Europeans about the South Pacific they have the same sense that those places far away seem to have more allure. It seems ‘distance’ does make the heart grow fonder. But as the rest of the world dreams of the swaying palm trees and crystal water of the South Pacific we are so fortunate that it is right on our doorstep. New Zealand is the gateway to the South Pacific and that gate we need to fling wide and experience all the South Pacific has to offer. In these few pages it is impossible to adequately summarize the history, culture, and geographical diversity of the islands that stretch across thousands of kilometres in the southern hemisphere smack in the middle of the world's largest ocean. From French Polynesia in the east, across the Cook Islands, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands in the west, the islands of the South Pacific are a rich mixture of jungles, coral reefs, beaches, volcanoes, unique cultures, and European colonial influences. English is spoken just about everywhere, it’s affordable and unforgettable. A word of caution; the South Pacific islands are fragile. Coral reefs are easily damaged, local eco systems easily destroyed, not by malice but by ignorance, and as we've seen in areas such as Indonesia, tourist dollars can also bring havoc to the environment. A lot has been done in the South Pacific in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way. A lot of resorts use ocean water for air conditioning, purify ocean water for drinking and bottle water in reusable glass containers rather than plastic. There are nationwide awareness programmes about waste and most islands boast some sort of rescue programme for indigenous life like plants and turtles. So it is important that when visiting we play our part as well. The South Pacific is our playground, it’s affordable, varied, fun and the next few pages will hopefully whet your appetite to put a little sand in your bucket list.
is about 4 hours
from New Zealand by plane making it one of our closest neighbours. Its population is around 185,000 but many more Samoans live outside the country, particularly in New Zealand, Australia and California. The islands have narrow coastal plains with volcanic, rocky, rugged mountains in the interior. The two main islands are Upolu and Savaii. The capital, Apia, and the international airport are on Upolu. Like many of the South Pacific Island the main islands are the result of countless volcanic eruptions, leaving easily visible volcanic cones all over both islands. None of the volcanoes are currently active, but small earthquakes often rock the island. The last volcanic eruption was in 1911, on Savaii. The eerie, lifeless lava fields that remain from this event can be visited easily, since the only sealed road on Savai’i goes right through the middle. Both islands are almost entirely covered by lush vegetation, although almost none of it is the original rainforest that covered the island before humans arrived. Most of the land area is given over to farms or semi-cultivated forest, providing food and cash crops for the locals. Samoans originally arrived from Southeast Asia around 1500-1000 BC. The oldest known site of human occupation dates back to that time and is at Mulifanua on Upolu Island. In 1830 missionaries from the London Missionary Society, notably John Williams arrived and Samoa rapidly embraced Christianity. More recently, Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints) have constructed several sizeable churches. An important arrival was Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish author, who travelled to the South Pacific for his health and settled in Samoa in the early 1890s. His house at Vailima in Upolu and his grave on the hill above it can be visited.
Image by Cory Scott