Drops in the ocean

Think about the land surfaces of the globe added together. The Pacific Ocean is even bigger; it also happens to be twice the size of the puny Atlantic. Land breaks through the deep, vast blue so rarely that these freckles seem especially precious, but now the Pacific Islands are at risk of disappearing. As 'The Independent' reported yesterday, if global warming continues at the present rate these tiny dots could be swamped. Yet for the moment they remain idyllic, as Cathy Packe discovers while navigating her way round a short list of these ocean jewels.

Tahiti

Largest of the Windward Islands, one of the Society Islands, and part of French Polynesia, Tahiti is simply the best known island in the south Pacific. Land of Gauguin and Mutiny on the Bounty, it is shaped like a crepe pan with a stubby handle, or a flatfish with a blobby tail, depending on whether you emphasise the French or Polynesian culture. It became a French protectorate in the middle of the last century, when Britain failed to help the formidable Queen Pomare. Descendants of the royal house still live on Tahiti as ordinary citizens.

Once this was the land of dark-eyed girls in grass skirts; nowadays the "primitive simplicity" which first attracted Tahiti's adopted son is mainly found in the Paul Gauguin museum on the south-east side of the island. Down here is the South Pacific of legend; palm trees, blue water, coral reefs. And don't miss the fresh fish on sale by the roadside; a beach barbecue beats anything you can eat in any of the fancy restaurants.The capital, Papeete, will appeal if you like France. Here the breakfast baguettes are fresh, and the traffic will make you feel you are on the peripherique. But instead of Paris-Match, a black pearl makes a more authentic souvenir.

Raratonga

From the minute your jumbo jet touches down in Raratonga in the middle of the night, you know you are in paradise. The island's whole population will be there to serenade you with local songs and garland you with flowers. This feels like the end of the world - which in a sense it is; it's only just east of the International Date Line, so yesterday goes on longer here than anywhere else.

This is the largest of the Cook Islands; it is lush, volcanic, with brightly coloured birds and an overpowering smell of jasmine. A bus will take you around the island; if you want to get into the interior, you can walk to a high point known as the Needle, which can be a nerve-racking trip, particularly after heavy rain.

There are plenty of opportunities for snorkelling and other water sports, but if you want to feel like a real Cook Islander, spend a morning at the cultural village. Here you will discover 101 uses for a coconut, from mosquito coils to fishing nets. If you want to see how to cook with it, though, go to the Flametree restaurant to eat some of the most delicious food in the Pacific.

Kiribati

The local pronunciation, "Kiribas", may tell you that this group of islands was once known as the Gilberts. This is one of the remoter parts of the world, completely inaccessible from anywhere you might want to start out from. The group totals 33 atolls and islands, including Kiritimati or Christmas Island. The capital is Tarawa, a wishbone-shaped conglomeration of coral islands, threaded together on the southern side by a road running along the lagoon. The gaps along the northern shore mean that to get from one end to the other you will have to get your feet wet.

This is the ultimate peaceful retreat, but there is a price to pay for being far from the madding crowd. The simple life can be primitive - the sun and the mosquitoes are vicious, sanitation is basic, and if you get ill, don't expect to find a well-stocked chemist.

The variety of fish caught around the islands is magnificent, although supplies of other food are limited. Any meal should be washed down with the local toddy - sap from the coconut palm - either drunk as it comes, or boiled and fermented for a few days to make it reassuringly alcoholic.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test