This subregion of Oceania which includes three independent countries, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu extend from New Guinea to Tonga. The name of the region literally translates as ‘islands of black people’ alluding to the dark skin of its inhabitants and was coined to mark a clear distinction from the lighter-skinned people of Polynesia. Although the people may appear to be the same, diversity is evident in the number of languages spoken here which is 1,319 languages along with pidgins and creole languages.
The boundaries of the numerous islands which make up these countries can be quite confusing as national boundaries sometimes cross archipelagos. Vanuatu alone is made up of 82 islands! Given its location, Melanesia is characterized by volcanoes, pristine white sandy beaches, corals, magical karst formation springs, and mystical caves. Added to this are the people whose lives are so steeped in tradition and culture that a visit to some of the places is like a step back in time.