Melanesia

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Travel Guide Oceania Melanesia

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Introduction

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Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania, located in the western part of the continent. It stretches from the western part of the Pacific Ocean towards Fiji. Basically, many of the islands immediately located to the north and northeast of Australia together from Melanesia.
The name Melanesia (in French Mélanésie) was first used by Jules Dumont d'Urville in 1832 to denote an ethnic and geographical grouping of islands whose inhabitants he thought were distinct from those of Micronesia and Polynesia.

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Geography

A distinction is often made between the islands of New Guinea and what is known as Island Melanesia, which consists of "the chain of archipelagos, islands, atolls, and reefs forming the outer bounds of the sheltered oval-shaped coral sea". This includes the Louisiade archipelago (part of Papua New Guinea), the Bismarck Archipelago (part of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands), and the Santa Cruz Islands (part of the country called Solomon Islands). The country of Vanuatu is composed of the New Hebrides island chain (and in the past 'New Hebrides' has also been the name of the political unit located on the islands). New Caledonia is composed of one large island and several smaller chains, including the Loyalty Islands. The nation of Fiji is composed of two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, and smaller islands, including the Lau Islands.

The names of islands in Melanesia can be confusing: they have both indigenous and European names. National boundaries sometimes cut across archipelagos. The names of the political units in the region have changed over time, and sometimes have included geographical terms. For example, the island of Makira was once known as San Cristobal, the name given to it by Spanish explorers. It is in the country Solomon Islands, which is a nation-state and not a contiguous archipelago. The border of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands separates the island of Bougainville from nearby islands like Choiseul, although Bougainville is geographically part of the chain of islands that includes Choiseul and much of the Solomons.

Norfolk Island, has archaeological evidence of East Polynesian rather than Melanesian settlement. Rotuma in Fiji has strong affinities culturally and ethnologically to Polynesia.

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Cities

  • Honiara - the capital of the Solomon Islands
  • Luganville - the second city of Vanuatu.
  • Nouméa - the capital of New Caledonia.
  • Nadi - Fiji's main tourist hub.
  • Port Vila - Vanuatu's capital.
  • Suva - the large capital of Fiji.

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Sights and Activities

  • Espiritu Santo - the largest island in Vanuatu.
  • Isle of Pines - a small island in New Caledonia and one of the most beautiful islands in the Pacific.
  • The Levuka Historical Port Town in Fiji.
  • The Lagoons of New Caledonia.
  • East Rennell in the Solomon Islands, the largest raised coral atoll in the world.
  • Chief Roi Mata’s Domain in the Shefa province of Vanuatu.
  • Australian Convict Sites on the Norfolk Island.

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Getting There and Around

There are flights from Australia and New Zealand to Melanesian destinations. Fiji has some direct flights from Asia and North America too.

Melanesia Travel Helpers

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This is version 6. Last edited at 10:57 on Aug 22, 18 by Utrecht. 11 articles link to this page.

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