Melanesia & Indonesia

Ubud terraced landscape near Benoa, Bali, Indonesia

With its beautiful beaches, lush landscapes, exotic culture, beautiful handicrafts, and fascinating dance traditions, Bali has drawn travelers from around the world for decades. In this tropical paradise, you’ll find lush volcanic mountainscapes, rice paddies, a profusion of fragrant flowers, and terraced hillsides. Offshore lie coral reefs vibrant with marine life.

Dili Timor-Leste vantage point

One of the youngest countries in the world is Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor), which became a sovereign nation in 2002. The island of Timor was colonized by the Portuguese in the early 16th century, and Timor-Leste’s capital city, Dili, retains its Portuguese ambiance, despite occupations by the Japanese during World War II and Indonesia in the late 20th century.

Consisting of 82 volcanic islands, the nation of Vanuatu lies in the South Pacific, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia. Spanish for “the holy spirit,” Espiritu Santo is the largest island in the Vanuatu archipelago.

Honiara, Guadalcanal is the capital of the Solomon Islands

The third-largest archipelago in the South Pacific, with 992 islands, the Solomon Islands were settled by European colonists and missionaries during the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1893, the archipelago was divided between Great Britain and Germany. Among the British-controlled islands was the then-obscure island of Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomons.

Home of the Komodo dragon — the world’s largest lizard, which is found in the wild nowhere else on Earth — Komodo is located in the center of the 17,508 islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago. Although settled since at least the Neolithic era, the island today is inhabited mostly by the descendants of convicts who were exiled here.

Port Moresby viewpoint

Located on the shores of the Gulf of Papua, Port Moresby is the most populous city in Papua New Guinea — and the South Pacific. Historically made up of tribal peoples making their living from the sea, Port Moresby did not begin to develop as a Westernized city until the late 19th century.

Dugout canoe with samarai islanders in papua new guinea

Just 54 acres in size, Samarai Island was once an important trading center, due to its location on the southeast coast of Papua New Guinea, on the China Strait between Australia and East Asia. It was discovered in 1873 by British navigator Captain John Moresby, who initially called it Dinner Island.

Roughly 2,000 years ago, Melanesian and Polynesian settlers arrived on the shores of the Torres Strait Islands, in the far north of the Australian state of Queensland.