Introduction to Oceania
Oceania is a vast area located in the South Pacific Ocean. It is often referred to as a continent, but it is actually a geographical region. It consists of 14 separate nations, which are bordered by water instead of land.
Aside from the countries that make up Oceania, there are also countless small islands scattered throughout the South Pacific. Other well-known countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea are considered as part of the Oceania region.
This part of the world is frequented by visitors seeking a tropical paradise. Expect pristine, white-sand beaches with swaying palm trees, indigenous tribal communities, and rainforests.
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Each of the 14 independent states and nations offers varying landscapes that are waiting to be explored.
The most common type of landscape in the Oceania region is an archipelago. It is a group of small islands that are either inhabited or uninhabited. There are four major archipelagos that comprise Oceania, which are Micronesia, Polynesia, Melanesia, and the Malay Archipelago. There are also several island groups in the region such as the Bismarck Archipelago, Samoan Islands, and the Mariana Islands, to name a few.
Atolls are another unique form of geographical landscape found in Oceania. It is an island consisting of multiple coral communities. Some of the most notable atolls are the Marshall Islands’ Kwajalein Atoll and those found in the nation of Kiribati (about 32 in total).
Other distinctive formations found in the region are volcanic islands. The infamous “Ring of Fire” is located in the region of Melanesia. It is a string of active volcanoes that are located along the border of the Pacific Ocean.
Taste the Cuisine of Oceania
Oceania is rich in natural resources and seafood. You can, therefore, expect that the cuisine of the islands is going to use exotic and fresh local ingredients. Oceania cuisine has a mixture of influences from Asian and Western cooking techniques. The following are common ingredients in the cuisine of the region:
Coconut milk – This ingredient is used extensively in the Oceania region for various cooking techniques and dishes.
Banana – The use of banana in cooking is a staple in Oceania, not just for desserts.
Seafood – Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, seafood is a common ingredient in many dishes in the region.
Taro – This is a type of root crop vegetable that is grown on the various islands in Oceania, which is used in many dishes.
Tropical fruits – There are many tropical fruits that are used in cooking such as mangoes, pineapples, papaya, and more.
Rice – Just like in Asia, rice is a staple food item in the region.
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The people of Oceania possess a rich repository of cultural tradition. These traditions span several centuries and have been passed on from one generation to another. Due to the arrival of Europeans to the islands in Oceania, there is also a significant amount of Western influence in the modern culture of these nations.
Despite these Western influences, the indigenous cultures in the region are still largely preserved. Many communities have sustained their ancestral way of living. From the method of cooking by burying food underneath the soil, to their language and religious beliefs, they are still practised today. In Melanesia alone, about 85% of the population live in rural areas and are self-sufficient.
Oceania is gifted with an abundance of natural beauty and landmarks. Below are some of the best attractions to check out when you visit this region:
- Australia – The Great Barrier Reef is the most incredible ecosystem in the world. It is home to over 2,000 coral reefs and over 900 islands. Other notable attractions in Australia are Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and The Twelve Apostles.
- New Zealand – Milford Sound is the best tourist attraction in New Zealand. Take a boat tour to Milford Sound when you are in the country, hike up Mount Cook, or explore the Waitomo Caves.
- Vanuatu – Vanuatu is known for its pristine beaches that are great for snorkeling and scuba diving. It is also home to Mt. Yasur, an active island volcano.
- Papua New Guinea – Kimbe Bay is the most visited tourist attraction in Papua New Guinea. It is a large bay known as an important biodiversity hotspot.
- Samoa – The Alofaaga Blowholes attract millions of visitors to Samoa on an annual basis. You can find the blowholes in the village of Tapa.
- Fiji – Fiji is a tropical paradise that tourists flock to for its beautiful beaches and islands. Some of the highlights are the Mamanuca Islands and Yasawa Island.
- Solomon Islands – Rennell Island is one of two inhabited islands in the Solomon Islands. It is a raised coral atoll that features a massive lake.
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The Oceania region is vast with many different islands located separately to each other. If you are planning to explore the area, there are a few things you need to know.
Australia and New Zealand are the only two well developed nations in this region. For the rest of Oceania, most of them rely heavily on the tourism industry. You can expect a simpler quality of life on most of the islands with a few luxury hotels and resorts in operation. It is important to carry cash with you at all times as not all establishments accept credit cards.
Remember that while most of these islands are located close to each other, they are not the same. Some islands are better suited for scuba diving while others are great for leisure swimmers. Plan your activities beforehand so you can decide which island nation to go to for your desired activities.
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As the Oceania region is close to the Pacific Ocean, it can largely impact the climate and seasons on these nations. From April to August, the temperature will have started to cool down. There are occasional thunderstorms, though, but they can be infrequent if you visit before the monsoon season.
There is also a risk of tropical cyclones throughout the year. Make sure to check the local weather forecast if you want to travel or try out various water sports activities. There might be slight differences as to the start of the monsoon season for each island nation. It is best to research the specific country you are visiting.
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Here is a guide on what to expect when you travel to Oceania:
Each country in Oceania has its own currency. If you bring major currencies, you can easily exchange them for the local currency.
You will find a lot of English-speaking locals on most tourist hubs. But it will depend on the nation you are visiting, as there are some wherein you might encounter difficulty with the language barrier.
Most of the nations in Oceania offer a wide range of accommodation types. You can, therefore, find the right accommodation to suit your budget, whether you want a high-end or a low-cost one.
Expect hot temperatures and high humidity levels in some parts.
There are many options to get around on the islands. You can hire a local boat, motorcycle, rent a car, or ride the local bus.
Scuba diving is a popular activity in Oceania. But the visibility level can go down during the rainy season. Make sure to check the local weather if you intend to go diving.