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74Isea&iIAUTUMN 2011inghistory generously spliced with legend. Mangaia isanother volcanic isle of particular interest to archaeologistsand anthropologists. Visit on Friday and you will catch the mar-ket where you can feast on fresh fruit, then deep-sea fish orwhale watch in the afternoon before a night at Babe's Bar. BESTFOR. beach life, family fun, friendly localsDON'TMISS. the Aitutaki Lagoon; traditional island dances; theeight-million-year-old limestone caves of AtiuSAMOAThe islands of Samoa are divided between American Samoa andindependent Samoa. Landscapes range from rainforest-carpeted volcanic mountain peaks to white-sand beaches,cascading waterfalls, sheer cliffs, blue lagoons and coral reefs.A perfect way to see the sights is to hire a bicycle and take tothe peaceful roads. Amid the natural scenery, you'll encounterpretty villages with churches and open homes facing ontovillage greens. The main islands are Upolu, where highlightsinclude Lalomanu Beach and Fagaloa Bay on the east coast,which is surrounded by some of the oldest rainforests in theSouth Pacific, and Tutuila, where there is a National Park.BESTFOR. culture, sceneryDON'TMISS. the Togitogiga Falls on Upolu; the Taga Blowholeson Savai'I; sleepy Manono IslandVANUATUThere are 83 islands in the group, 14 of which are relativelylarge, the rest much smaller. You can really soak up native islandculture here as the locals live in traditional villages where life stillrevolves around fishing and drinking kava. Visit Mount Yasurvolcano on Tanna, where you can also wander around traditionalvillages and witness ancient island ceremonies, see wild horsesand swim in underground caves. Active guests can keep busyhiking on Espiritu Santo, the largest of Vanuatu's islands, orscuba and wreck dive in its surrounding waters - such asMillion Dollar Point, where thousands of tons of equipmentwere disposed of by the US during the Second World War. Itmakes for a unique and fascinating dive, although striking coralAbove right: take yourpick from more than 1,000 islands in theSolomon groupMARGAUX35.7m (117'), 6 guests from US$59,000 per week MEA CULPA39.6m (129'), 8 guests from US$120,000 per week

WINTER 2012I sea&iI75reefs, blue holes and underground caverns elsewhere promisemore scenic experiences. The more beach-minded among yourgroup should head to the main island of Efate, which isbecoming known as the gourmet capital of the South Pacific.BESTFOR. adventure, culture, friendly localsDON'TMISS. diving down to spot the SS President Coolidge wreckoff Espiritu Santo; abseiling down the Mele Cascades waterfallin the tropical forests of Vanuatu; driving a buggy across theisland; hand-feeding tropical fish and enjoying a beach barbecueSOLOMON ISLANDSWith almost 1,000 islands in this South Pacific archipelago, thereis an endless choice of things to see and do. In the west-ern province is the Marovo Lagoon, the world's largest salt-water lagoon and home to an amazing diversity of marine life.On many of the other islands you can trek to the top of waterfallsand volcanoes. There are also botanical gardens and a nationalart gallery and museum to add a little culture to your trip. Honiara,in particular, saw some of the most dramatic fighting of theSecond World War and you can take tours to sites of interest andvisit the US and Japanese memorials here. Certainly worth a visitis Tetepare Island, which, uninhabited for 150 years, has recentlyearned international renown for its conservation and archaeo-logical significance. This pristine wilderness is home to anincredible variety of plants and animals, such as three species ofturtle (including the endangeredleatherback) and pygmy parrots.Ecotourism activitiesinclude rainforest walks, picnics, moonlitcoconut crab walks, village visits and turtle tagging with rangers.BESTFOR. history, culture, surfing, watersportsDON'TMISS. dolphins playing in the coves of Savo at sunrise;Honiara market - the perfect place to stock up on fresh fruit,vegetables and fish for your cruise; swimming with reef fish inthe turquoise lagoon of Tetepare.nDue to the distances between islands, and limited accessibility/facilities in some areas, it is not possible to visit all the islands mentioned during a charter, but they could be incorporated as part of an extended trip.Depending how much time you can devote to the islands, your Camper &Nicholsons charter broker, see page 6, can recommend a realistic itinerary