Australia and Oceania
Sometimes people want to drop everything and go to the end of the Earth! Is there any relevant reason not to do it? In fact, if you accomplish this goal, you can find mountain peaks and coral islands, pristine lagoons and active volcanoes, waterfalls and impenetrable jungle, extreme and beach relaxation. Moreover, you are expected to admire thousands of unique plants and animals that are nowhere else to be found. Everything listed above is related to Australia and Oceania. In this region, time flows in its own way. Some islands look quite modern, offering tourists a delightful service. At the same time, there are corners completely untouched by civilization, as if lost in a series of centuries.
The borders of Oceania are very conditional. It is assumed that New Guinea is the extreme western point of the cluster, Easter Island is the eastern point, Hawaii defines the extreme northern point, whereas New Zealand is the extreme southern point of Oceania.
Historically, Oceania has been divided into three ethnographic and geographical regions: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Melanesia includes New Guinea, the Loyalty Islands, the Bismarck Archipelago, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz, Fiji, and Vanuatu. In turn, Micronesia is usually expressed through the Mariana island, Caroline Islands (Palau, Yap, and Truk), the Marshalls, Kiribati, and Nauru. Finally, Polynesia includes Hawaii, Central Polynesian Sporades, New Zealand, the Tuamotu Archipelago, as well as a variety of islands of significant size (Easter, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Samoa, Tonga, Marquesas, Cook, Gambier, Chatham, Pitcairn, Tubuai, etc.). Simultaneously, small islands, atolls, and reefs are present in Oceania.
Australia and Oceania are washed by two oceans: in the east — the Pacific Ocean, in the north, west, and south — the Indian Ocean. This part of the world covers an area of 8.523 million km². From the perspective of the territory, Australia is dominated by flat terrain. The Great Dividing Range is the largest mountain system in the continent. The highest peak of the mainland is called Kosciusko (2228 m). New Zealand and New Guinea account for 80% of the land area of Oceania. These territories can also boast of the most varied landscape. Mount Wilhelm in New Guinea (4509 m) is the highest point in this part of the world.
Australia and Oceania are located within 5 climatic zones. Most of the mainland belong to the tropical zone. At the same time, its western part is the wettest and greenest part of the region. In the center, the climate is arid, whereas the north coast can be characterized by subequatorial climate (summers are wet, although winters are not accompanied by precipitation). The south and east of Australia are situated in the subtropical climate zone. In turn, with the exception of New Zealand, all of Oceania's islands are located in the equatorial and tropical zones. The local climate is humid and warm, without sharp temperature changes. New Zealand has a temperate climate, with sufficient rainfall, gentle summers, and mild winters. For Oceania, natural disasters are not uncommon: earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, and typhoons are present there. For example, Hawaii is often affected by volcanic eruptions.
Australia can hardly be called the greenest continent, as 44% of its surface belongs to deserts. They are mainly concentrated in the northwest. However, the east coast is widely known due to its rain forests. In 1986, they were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The islands of Oceania, for the most part, are covered with moist evergreen forests. Coconut and banana palms, pandanus, breadfruit are considered the most common types of vegetation.
The largest island countries in the region are New Zealand and New Guinea; the rest are much smaller. A visit to New Zealand can be combined with a trip to Fiji. Both countries are covered with emerald forests and surrounded by pristine beaches. The flora and fauna of these islands are largely unique, and the splendor of pristine nature is wonderfully combined with the benefits of civilization. New Guinea has a variety of unique examples of flora and fauna as well.
The vacation in natural conditions and the opportunity to join the culture of Aboriginal people is the primary advantage of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, and Tonga. There are quite good resorts with all the necessary attributes for comfort, delicately blended into the natural landscape.
The Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and Tuvalu are especially attractive for divers, admirers of snorkeling and fishing.
Hawaii, the 50th state of the United States, is very loved by travelers. In fact, of the 162 islands, only 7 are inhabited. Nevertheless, they are so different that they are quite capable of meeting any tourist need — from surfing on a beautiful beach to an excursion to an active volcano. Easter Island, owned by Chile, is popular in this region as well. People tend to come here in order to try to unravel the secret of huge stone Moai human figures. If it doesn’t work out, they can relax by the ocean, taste local dishes, and admire the unique culture of the island. Admirers of a relaxing vacation should go to the beaches of French Polynesia, New Caledonia, or the Cook Islands.
The population density in Australia is much lower than on other continents. In 2019, 25364723 people lived here. Indigenous people make up about 1% of this amount. They belong to the Negroid-Australoid race, which is why they have a dark brown skin color, wavy black hair, and a wide nose. The national composition is dominated by Anglo-Australians who are the descendants of immigrants from the UK. Large groups of Welsh, Irish, Germans, Dutch, Italians, Poles, and Greeks also live here. Representatives from India, China, and Israel are represented as well. Two-thirds of the population are concentrated off the coast —in the east and south of the continent. Aborigines mainly live in the northern and central parts of the country; approximately 20 thousand of them are nomads. Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world, as 85% of its inhabitants are city dwellers. The vast majority of the population professes Christianity, whereas nearly 60% are protestants.
When it comes to ethnic composition, New Zealand is very similar to Australia. The Anglo-New Zealand nation prevails here, and only 12% are indigenous (Maori tribes). Aborigines, like New Zealanders of European descent, for the most part, are Christians, and only a small group of them follow authentic religious rites.
The population of Polynesia, with the exception of Hawaii and some small islands, is characterized by a predominance of the indigenous population: Papuans and other Polynesian peoples. There are much fewer descendants of European immigrants and immigrants from India and Malaysia.
In terms of ethnic composition, Hawaii is very different from the rest of the islands of Polynesia: 37% of people living here are Japanese, 12% are Filipinos, 6% are Chinese. The so-called “white” population (mainly Americans) makes up 23% of the local population, while the Hawaiians themselves are only 17%.
On Tahiti Island, there is a large group of ethnic French and quite a lot of Chinese. But Samoans and Tongans are considered the most significant group of the local population at the moment (with an exception of the Maori, Hawaiians, and Tahitians). In turn, Tongans still take appropriate measures in order to preserve their culture and religious rites. In other territories, the traditional beliefs of the islanders were supplanted by Christian missionaries in the 19th century.
In most parts of Melanesia, black Melanesians and Papuans live. Papuans own the interior mountainous and forest regions of New Guinea, as well as some smaller islands nearby. Melanesians inhabit the coast of New Guinea and most of the islands.
Fiji and New Caledonia differ from other regions by the fact that there are fewer Aboriginal people living on their territory. In fact, 50% of the population of Fiji are Indians. They profess Hinduism and Islam. In New Caledonia, there are many French, as well as descendants from Franco-Melanesian marriages and assimilated (French-speaking and French-speaking citizens) locals. Most of the islanders, except the Papuans of New Guinea, were forced to follow Christianity in the process of colonization.
The natives of Micronesia are very close to the Polynesians both in appearance and in their economic and cultural type. They also include the Chamorro and Palau people, who account for 48% of the population. At the same time, the people of Palau live on the islands of the same name, Chamorro — on the Mariana Islands, including Guam, which is inhabited by the Americans (29% of the islanders) as well. Besides, 95% of Micronesians are Christians, 3% follow traditional religious rites.
Most countries in Oceania are characterized by a high birth rate and a fairly low mortality rate. Local males numerically prevail over women. The gender difference in the population is about 2%. The average life expectancy of islanders is 76 years, Australians — 82 years.
Best time to visit Australia and Oceania
The best time to visit the continent depends on the region you intend to travel to. Sydney and the surrounding areas, as well as the Great Barrier Reef, are quite comfortable year-round. It is better to go to the northern part of the country from May to September, as there are monsoons from December to February. The central part of the country is the most pleasant to visit from March to August. Simultaneously, the southwest is most welcoming from September to May, whereas it is recommended to visit Tasmania from November to March.
New Zealand, like Australia, is much more welcoming to tourists in winter than in summer. From July to August, it rains and heavy winds blow. During this period, the temperature ranges from +6°C to +12°C, but the climate is somewhat milder on the coast. The tourist season begins in September and lasts until the end of May. It is at this time that the weather is the most comfortable here (+ 16-20°C).
Most of Oceania is located in the humid equatorial and tropical zones. Therefore, the temperature of this territory does not change from season to season. The average daytime temperature is around +30°C, and nightly temperatures are +23°C. The water temperature of the islands in the tropical zone is about +25°C, although the water temperature in the equatorial zone rises to +27°C.
Top 15 things to do in Australia and Oceania
- Go diving or snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
- Admire koalas, kangaroos, and platypuses in their natural habitat.
- Get a breathtaking tan on the beaches of Tasmania.
- Spend time in the theme parks of the best Australian Gold Coast resort.
- Plunge into the atmosphere of the natives of Vanuatu and New Guinea.
- Swim with giant stingrays, turtles, and dolphins off the coast of the islands of Micronesia.
- Relax in the fashionable resorts of Fiji.
- Find out how wines from Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales differ.
- Visit the places in New Zealand where the film "The Lord of the Rings" was filmed.
- Visit unique cave art at Kakadu National Park in Australia.
- Visit the largest marine reserve in the world on the island of Phoenix.
- Admire the deepest place on Earth, the Mariana Trench, located next to the chain of the islands of the same name.
- Dance the traditional Hula dance with the Hawaiian natives.
- Visit the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
- Admire a penguin colony on Macquarie Island.