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The islands in the Pacific Ocean are a popular retreat for those wanting some of the best beaches in the world. But the islands have more to offer, including tropical rainforests, different cultures, architectural and historical highlights and some of the best diving and snorkelling anywhere on this planet. Many people fly in to one of the islands, either or not on a Round the World ticket. Popular places include Fiji and the Cook Islands, but there are dozens more. Getting between them is either costly (flights) or time consuming (cargo ships, ferries etc). If you want to visit some of the outer islands, it's almost inevitable to hop on one of the ferries, which often function as cargo ships as well. Compared to the Caribbean, there are relatively few international ferry connections, but domestic ferries are a great way to visit lots of islands if you have the time. Of course, there are more options of travelling by sea, but apart from the ones mentioned below, these mostly include travelling by cruise ship or (private) yacht. Also visit the general information about cargo ship travel, especially regarding options to get to the Pacific from for example the United States, South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Finally, there are dozens of options for shorter trips between islands, operated by local fishermen, usually in dinghies or other forms of local transportation.
There is a ferry between Tinian and Saipan taking slightly less than an hour one way.
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Two boats, the Micro Glory and the FSM Caroline Voyager, run infrequently between Colonia (Yap), Chuuk, Kolonia (Pohnpei), Lele and Moen and service the outlying atolls from time to time. It is not uncommon for these boats to only run once every few months, depending on whether or not the boats are in a good state of repair. It usually takes about 2 weeks to get from Yap to Chuuk and more to get even further east.
There are boats travelling to the outer islands of the four different states as well (Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae). The field-trip ship Micro Spirit does a (approximately) 14-day trip monthly between Yap Proper and all populated outer islands. Arrange permits to disembark and book through the Yap State Transportation Field Trip Service (350 2240). In the state of Pohnpei, the state boat MV Caroline Voyager offers irregular voyages to the outer islands. Call the Island Affairs Office (320 2710) for fares and schedules.
Only Arno is served by regular public boats from Majuro, but that is the only scheduled passenger service. State-run supply ships travel irregularly to the outer atolls; the Department of Transportation Office at Uliga Dock on Majuro can provide details.
Most transportation between islands is by private boat, but you might ask nicely to hitch a ride. Otherwise, weekly government run boats travel between Koror, Peleliu and Angaur.
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Most of the outer Gilberts are serviced by supply ships from Tarawa every month or two, and ships go occasionally from Tarawa to Christmas Island (Kiritimati), and the Fanning and Washington Islands. There is a regular boat from Tarawa to Abaiang the nearest of the outer Gilbert Islands.
The only option to get to American Samoa by boat is taking the MV Lady Naomi. It operates between the capital of Samoa, Apia, and the capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago, once a week departing Apia every Wednesday at midnight returning from Pago Pago every Thursday at 3:30pm, taking around 7 hours to complete the journey. Expect rough rides now and then. Although it costs about half compared to a plane ticket, it is rather basic and takes much much longer of course. The return deck/cabin fare from American Samoa is US$75/100 and tickets have to be purchased at least one day in advance from Polynesia Shipping Services.
The American Samoa Inter-Island Shipping Company operates the Manu'a Tele cargo ship. It departs Pago Pago for the Manu'a Islands on Wednesday at 10:00pm and it takes eight hours. The fare is US$35 one way, plus US$5 per piece of luggage. Tickets are only sold from 8:00am on the day of departure. The MV Sili also travels between Pago Pago and the Manu'a group. It departs Tutuila every second Friday at 10:00pm and a one-way ticket is US$20, plus US$1 per piece of luggage. Tickets are sold between 8:00am and 4:00pm on the day of departure.
As there are no direct flights anymore to Ofu from Pago Pago, you have to fly to Ta'u and arrange onward boats to Ofu from there. You have to arrange this when arriving on Ta'u with local fishermen and the price can be as high as US$100 per boat load, so try to look for fellow travellers to cut costs.
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There is a car ferry service between Upolu and Savaii, plying the 22 kilometres across Apolima Strait between the two islands. Tickets cost ST9/65 per person/car. Large ferries depart the Mulifanua Wharf on Upolu and the Salelologa Wharf on Savai'i every two hours between 6:00am and 4:00pm Wednesday to Monday, while a smaller ferry services this route at less regular intervals on Tuesday. Vehicles should be prebooked through the Samoa Shipping Corporation. The voyage takes about 1 hour.
Three cargo ships sail between Apia in Samoa and Tokelau. Bookings for the 20-hour (or more, this is to the nearest atoll, Fakaofo) trip can be made in Apia at the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office (685-20822, 71805; firstname.lastname@example.org; PO Box 865, Apia, 8:00am-5:00pm Monday to Friday). Sailings are usually fortnightly (2-3 times a month) but sometimes there are more sailings. Return deck/cabin fares are NZ$290/530 per adult; children half price. The MV Tokelau makes the trip to Tokelau every two or three weeks and in n addition, there are larger, passenger/cargo vessels that are hired to make the round trip every month or so. If you have a choice go for a hired vessel as they are more comfortable and have more passenger bunks than the one-cabin MV Tokelau.
Travelling between the 3 atolls that form Tokelau is only possible by the MV Tokelau or some other boats that travel two or three times a month between Apia on Samoa and all three atolls. Sailing time is three hours between Fakaofo and Nukunonu, and five hours between Nukunonu and Atafu.
Between Tuvalu's islands and atolls, you can take the government supply ships Nivaga II and Manu Folau, to reach Nanumea Atoll or in fact any other of Tuvalu's Outer Islands. They both make crossing to the outer islands once every three or four weeks. The southern trip takes three or four days, and the northern trip about a week. Take as much drinking water and food as you can, as meals tend to be rather monotonous. A return trip to the northern/southern islands costs A$250/190 for 1st class without food, and A$107/87 for deck class without food. For bookings and schedule confirmation, contact the Marine Services Office in Funafuti.
The MVs Nivaga II and Manu Folau, both government-owned cargo/passenger ships, travel to between Tuvalu and Suva, Fiji, every three months or so and the takes about four days. One-way fares are A$73/316 for deck/double cabin, with meals. Pacific Agencies (email@example.com) is the agent for the MV Nivaga II and Manu Folau in Suva, the Marine Services Office in Funafuti.
The cargo boat Nei Matagare makes trips roughly once a month between Tuvalu and Fiji and you might find a berth on this boat as well. Williams & Goslings are its Suva agents.
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Travelling between the Fiji islands by boat is an inexpensive and generally reliable means of getting around. For some of the backpacker resorts, it can be the only practical option. The most significant scheduled ferry routes operate between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, Ovalau and Kadavu and between Vanua Levu and Taveuni. The service between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu is the most frequent, as it connects the two major islands. Conditions on board the ferries are usually ok, with deck-travel the norm. Cabins are also available if you prefer more privacy. The main connections between the Fiji islands include the folllowing listed below:
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Local ferries sail between all the island groups that make up Tonga, but services are erratic and not comfortable at all. There are regular sailings though from Queen Salote Wharf in Nuku'alofa to Ha'apai and Vava'u. Ferry schedules are subject to change and are subject to demand or weather as well. To the Northern Islands, the following are the main options:
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The only way to get to almost all of the Cook Islands by boat, is by taking the local freight carriers. If you have time, this is a very adventurous way of getting around. Timetables can be found in local newspapers most times. Be prepared for sometimes long journeys and be very flexible regarding time as schedules change and delays are common. Think months, not weeks to make trips by ship.
Two shipping companies provide inter- island passenger and cargo services for the Cooks and both travel from Rarotonga to all of the populated islands and are based at Rarotonga's Avatiu Harbour and offer information, schedules and booking services. Generally, there's only limited cabin space and some ships have no cabins at all. You can bring your own food or pay for it beforehand. Showers and toilets are available to all passengers.
Mataroa Shipping (firstname.lastname@example.org) sometimes travels within the Cooks, and their office is inside a large building straight ahead as you approach Avatiu Wharf. A much better option with more frequent services is Taio Shipping (email@example.com). It is the main inter-island shipping company in the Cook Islands and has regular schedules between all the major outer islands and Rarotonga. The office is near Punanga Nui Market near the Avatiu Wharf.
It takes approximately a day for ships to get from Rarotonga to any of the other Southern Group islands. A one-way trip costs NZ$65 per island and for example the total Rarotonga-Mangaia-Ma'uke-Mitiaro-'Atiu-Rarotonga round trip takes about four days and costs NZ$260. The ships rarely travel to Aitutaki. It takes about 3½ days for ships to get to the nearest island in the Northern Group. One monthly service goes from Rarotonga to Manihiki, Rakahanga, Penrhyn and back to Rarotonga taking around 10 to 12 days and costing about NZ$700 to NZ$900 return.
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Tahiti - Moorea vv
There are ferries and catamarans travelling between Tahiti and Moorea several times daily. It takes between half an hour and an hour to travel between Tahiti and Moorea, depending on which company you go with. The car ferries, such as those run by Mo'orea Ferry, are slower than the high-speed ferries, which take only passengers, motorcycles and bicycles. The Ono-Ono has at least four crossings daily. The Aremiti 5 and the Moorea Express travel between Tahiti and Moorea six or more times daily between 6:00am and 4:30pm and this takes only 30 minutes.
There are also services, often combined with cargo, to more outlying islands, but on an less frequent basis, sometimes even only once a month. Boats usually leave from Papeete. Destinations include the Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands, Tuamota Archipelago, Bora Bora and even as far as the Gambier islands (Mangareva). An brief overview of the boats travelling to island further afield include:
Check the ferry link about all possibilities.
The inter-island, high-speed catamaran, Betico, sails three times a week between Noumea, the Loyalty Islands and Île des Pins., From Noumean, the Betico sails to the Loyalty islands about twice a week, usually on Monday or Tuesday and then again on Thursday or Friday. It sails to Île des Pins three times a week on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at the Gare Maritime des Îles at Noumea's ferry terminal (firstname.lastname@example.org; 7:30am-5:30pm Monday to Friday, 6:00am-10:00am Saturday). A one-way economy-class ticket from Noumea to the Loyalty Islands costs 6,200 CFP and to Île des Pins 4,700 CFP. It is 3,300 CFP for a one-way ticket between the islands. There are also Île des Pins day trips costs 8,200 CFP.
The Havannah is a cargo ship operated by the Compagnie Maritime des Îles (email@example.com, also at the ferry terminal), which runs on Mondays between Noumea and Maré and Lifou in the Loyalty Islands (one way 5,120 CFP).
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There are several options of getting around the Vanuatu islands by boat. Some of them are modern catamarans, some of them are nothing more than a sleeping place on a cargo ship. But it's a fun way of getting around and you will meet lots of locals. The options are as followed:
It is possible to travel by boat from the Bougainville province in Papua New Guinea into the Solomon's Western Province, though it is not a regular official passenger service. Also check with the authorities if it's legal to cross into any of the countries this way, as there have been reports of people that have been send back.
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There are boats travelling throughout the Solomons, servicing remote locations that sometimes aren't possible to reach by aircraft. Timetables are rare however and the quality of the boats often leaves much to be desired. You can opt for a cabin or a cheaper spot sleeping on deck. There are however a few noteworthy options to travel around by boat in the Solomon Islands. These include:
The main operators along the north coast and to the islands of Papua New Guinea are Lutheran Shipping (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Rabaul Shipping (email@example.com). Lutheran Shipping is based in Lae and operates most passenger ships along the north coast. The ships usually run at least weekly from Lae to Oro Bay, Finschhafen, Madang, Kimbe and Rabaul. From Rabaul there are regular boats to Kavieng and Manus. Be very flexible, as departures are usually only known about one month before and not entirely sure still. Some boats carry both cargo and passengers. There is tourist class air-conditioned seating and berths and deck class which usually include air-vented seats and berths. Bring as much drinks and food as possible, as supplies are usually scarce and not very diverse. Opt for tourist class if you can spare the extra buck, as deck class gets crowded sometimes. Be prepared for long journeys and sometimes rough seas.
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