Expeditions · Destinations · South Pacific · Vanuatu · New Guinea · Solomon Islands
March 28, 2023 Words: Katie Altman

The South Pacific Less Traveled

Take a deep dive into the sights, sounds and culture of Melanesia.

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If you dream of a once-in-a-lifetime South Pacific adventure that will open your eyes, heart and mind to astonishing cultures, landscapes, and wildlife, behold Melanesia, a six-country sub-region of Oceania in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Three Melanesian countries that are particularly attractive to adventure travelers are Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands, each of which includes little-explored destinations that are reachable only by ship. They are best explored on a Seabourn Expedition – a luxury safari at sea - with our experienced and knowledgeable Expedition Team.

Papua New Guinea

Encompassing the eastern half of New Guinea and it’s the islands off its coast, Papua New Guinea has 3,200 miles (over 5100 km) of coastline and a stunning volcanic landscape, but little in the way of tourist infrastructure beyond a few central areas. Getting off the beaten path with the right guidance allows you to get up close and personal with some of the world’s oldest continuous cultures.

On the small and unspoiled island of Kitava, in the Trobriand Island group, visitors are often greeted by traditional dancers when arriving on the white sand beaches. Locals are also often happy to invite guests to the village of Kumagea to learn about their lifestyle and local crafts.

The Sepik River, the longest in Papua New Guinea, is home to remote tribal villages that welcome respectful visitors to witness traditions like “Sing-Sings” — song and dance festivals where tribal members dress in ornamental costumes made from bird feathers and shells, and face paint of mud, clay, and tar. Villagers also host "mumu” feasts, featuring meat, vegetables and coconut milk cooked in a pit lined with banana leaves and hot stones. Wildlife lovers will rarely put their cameras down in Papua New Guinea. The vibrant array of wildlife includes the Queen Alexandra Birdwing butterfly — the largest in the world, with a wingspan of 10 inches. The country is a birder’s paradise, thanks to 32 colorful bird-of-paradise species, red-tailed tropicbirds, and winking owls, to name just a few. Wallabies and kangaroos (including adorably fascinating tree kangaroos) are also found in Papua New Guinea — it’s the only place they are found naturally outside of Australia.

The biodiversity of marine life in Papua New Guinea makes for some of the world’s best snorkeling and diving. Snorkelers can encounter moray eels, clownfish, rare Rhinopias, barracuda, nudibranchs, turtles and more.

The Republic of Vanuatu

Commonly referred to as simply Vanuatu, this is an under-the-radar dream destination for seekers of adventure, culture, and nature. An archipelago of over 80 islands between Australia and Fiji, spanning more than 800 miles (about 1300 kilometers), Vanuatu offers visitors a unique experience, to say the least — including beaches beyond compare, fascinating indigenous cultures, world-class diving, delicious cuisine and much more.

Vanuatu is a paradise in many ways, but for divers and beach lovers, it’s like heaven on Earth. The country is home to several very accessible wrecks, including the famous SS President Coolidge, the largest in the world. Divers at these sites, and everywhere in Vanuatu, are treated to a jaw-dropping display of colorful fish and other marine life.

One of the most sought-after sights in Vanuatu is Champagne Beach on the island of Espiritu Santo. It’s easy to see where the name comes from: at low tide, water passes over volcanic rock that emits gas bubbles, delighting beachgoers with a distinctive fizzing sound. Add white powdery sand, eye-popping turquoise water, and Ideal swimming temperatures, and you might just have the world’s most perfect beach.

The culture of Vanuatu is complex and fascinating, and the people —called Ni-Vanuatu —are incredibly friendly, even welcoming visitors to be present for some of their most sacred rituals. On the volcanic island of Ambryn, renowned for its spirituality, you can walk through the forest to a clearing to see the mysterious Rom dance unfold. Warriors dressed as evil spirits wear banana leaf capes and colorful masks. The drums, stomping and chanting start slowly but build to a frenzied climax. Every aspect of the Rom dance carries a powerful spiritual meaning, symbolizing tribal myths and supernatural beliefs. At the end of the dance, the masks are burned, to prevent the evil spirits away from the village or dancers. The Rom dance is nothing less than astonishing for anyone lucky enough to witness it.

Another unique custom (or “kastom” to the ni-Vanuatu) visitors may experience is a Nangol, or “land diving” ceremony on Vanuatu’s Pentecost Island. Seen at very specific times of the year, men and boys jump from a tower with vines tied around their ankles. Think of it as the original form of bungee jumping. The community dances and chants as each participant takes their brave leap of faith, and the feast afterward is always a delicious celebration.

In addition to legendary seafood platters, Vanuatu is also known for the high quality of its tropical produce, and the local cuisine makes the most of it. Lap lap is the undisputed national dish. Root vegetables or bananas are ground into a paste and wrapped in banana leaves, often with meat such as chicken added. The mixture is cooked in underground volcanic rock ovens and served with fresh coconut cream. The cacao grown on Vanuatu’s remote islands has won international awards, so sampling the local chocolates is a popular (and delicious) activity.

The Solomon Islands

This archipelago lies between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. It consists of six major volcanic islands and hundreds more outlying islands. The country is quite undeveloped with only 150 of the 900+ islands inhabited — which also means its environment is remarkably pristine. It is a prime destination for travelers seeking untouched landscapes and a meaningful connection with nature.

Emerald Rainforests. Volcanoes. Awe-inspiring Waterfalls. Colorful coral reefs. Diverse wildlife. The Solomon Islands has it all when it comes to natural wonders and beautiful visual appeal. And forget about crowds: with its vast number of islands and little to no tourist infrastructure, this is the rare place where it feels like time has truly stopped. Of course, getting to the most stunning undiscovered islands isn’t easy, but Seabourn’s Expedition Team will take care of that for you.

This island paradise is home to some of the world’s clearest waters and the healthiest and most varied sea life — making it a bucket list destination for snorkelers and divers. Those fortunate enough to have access to the most pristine spots are rewarded with sights of incredible fish like the orange anemonefish, regal angelfish and the yellowtail damsel, swimming among 500 species of coral.

The primary Solomon Island is Guadalcanal. It’s an intriguing location for history buffs, thanks to some well-preserved World War II relics and memorials in museums and sites across the capital city of Honiara. Divers flock to Iron Bottom Sound, with hundreds of wrecks from the famous 1942 Battle for Guadalcanal — from B7 bombers to a military transport ship and more. The attraction isn’t just historical: the wreck of the USS John Penn has one of the world’s highest fish counts, while the Japanese submarine Kinugawa Maru is brimming with colorful corals and fish including batfish, sweetlips, drummer, and rays.

Ghizo Island, another prime diving spot, also has underwater WWII relics including an American tank, plus reef networks with remarkably diverse fish and coral. Its warm, clear waters are also highly prized by swimmers.

Wherever you go in the Solomon Islands, you will find the residents kind, friendly and open – this country is called the “Hapi Isles” for a reason. The Solomon’s thriving traditional culture is easily accessible and fascinating. Most islanders live in rural villages, with a lifestyle that has remained nearly the same for generations.

Ready to experience the gorgeous landscapes, diverse marine life, local food, and unique cultures of Melanesia? Our newest ship, Seabourn Pursuit, will take you to this remarkable and remote region of the world. Under the guidance of Seabourn’s world-class Expedition Team of experts, you will have the adventure of a lifetime.

Ready to set sail?

Consider these upcoming voyages:

17-Day Polynesia To Melanesia: Island Cultures & Coral Gardens

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ARRIVES: Sydney, Australia

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28-Day New Guinea Immersion

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15-Day Isles Of Papua New Guinea

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from $14,399*

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