12 best Pacific holidays: Discover a world of castaways and coconuts

1 Bungee jumping

Forget bungee jumping from cranes at your local fun-fair - the land-divers of Pentecost Island are the genuine article. Every Saturday during April and May, local tribespeople of the Bunlap area of Pentecost hurl themselves off towers from heights up to 114ft tethered only by vines around the ankles. Destination Pacific (tel: 0171-400 7024) offers the chance to visit this bizarre festival with a seven-night package including three nights on Pentecost. The price starts at pounds 1,469 per person based on two sharing and includes return flights, transfers and room-only accommodation.

2 Bounty without mutiny

Noble Caledonia (tel: 0171-409 0376) offers South Pacific tours which follow in the footsteps of Fletcher Christian and Captain Cook. The 27- day trip visits some of the region's most remote islands, including the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Pitcairn. Prices start at pounds 6,095 per person, based on two sharing, and include flights, transfers, tours and accommodation. Full-board accommodation is offered when aboard the MV World Discoverer, b&b when in hotels.

3 Solomon Islands

Few tourists visit one of the South Pacific's most exciting destinations - the Solomon Islands. Sicklebill Safaris (tel: 01328 856925) offers an adventurous 27-day tour examining the varied natural and cultural highlights of the beautiful Solomon archipelago. You will discover the islands' wildlife - especially the stunning birdlife - hike up several mountains and stay in local villages. The tour, which departs next October, will start at around pounds 4,000 and includes flights, transfers and full-board accommodation in a variety of hotels and lodges and one night's camping. The group is limited to seven people.

4 Economy

Bridge the World (tel: 0171-734 7447) is offering one of the cheapest ever holiday deals to the South Pacific. If you book before the end of January 2000 and travel in May next year, a seven-day stay in Fiji will cost just pounds 747 per person, based on two sharing. This deal includes return flights on Air New Zealand, transfers and b&b accommodation at the Hideaway resort on the Coral Coast.

5 Honeymoon

Few places offer a more idyllic post-nuptial setting than French Polynesia. One of the most stunning islands is Bora-Bora, which James Michener described in his classic novel Tales of the South Pacific as "the most beautiful island in the world". Transpacific Holidays (tel: 01293 567722) offers tailor-made honeymoon breaks in the South Pacific. A two-week stay centred on the islands of Bora-Bora and Moorea costs around pounds 2,488 per person based, obviously, on two sharing. This includes flights, all transfers and hotel accommodation without meals.

6 Samoa

The nine mountainous islands of Samoa possess some of the finest unspoilt wilderness in the South Pacific. Robert Louis Stevenson was so taken with Samoa's beauty he spent the last five years of his life there. Tailor Made Travel (tel: 01386 712045) offers a 16-day package to Samoa, including three nights spent in a traditional thatched beach hut on Savaii island. The price of pounds 1,562 per person is based on two sharing and includes international flights, all transfers, accommodation on a room-only basis and four days' car rental on Savaii.

7 Sailing packages

Qantas holidays (tel: 0181-741 3111) offers sailing safaris from next April to the islands of Fiji aboard a 108ft square-rigged topsail schooner. The four-day trips will provide plenty of opportunity to learn about tall- ship sailing as well as to do some snorkelling and even a spot of limbo dancing. The price of the package, which does not include flights, is pounds 166 per person based on two sharing, or pounds 253 for a single. It includes transfers and full-board basic but traditional accommodation. A return flight on BA to Los Angeles and an Air Pacific flight to Fiji can be booked together for pounds 820.

8 Polynesian birds

Wildwings (tel: 0117 9848040) offers the chance to explore the unusual birdlife of Polynesia on a 16-day tour. The trip begins in the Cook Islands and attempts to seek out some of Polynesia's rare endemic birds - like the Tuamotu sandpiper and the bristle-thighed curlew. This unique trip is planned for early 2001 and will cost pounds 3,449 per person based on two sharing. It includes return flights, all transfers and guides. Accommodation is room-only on land but full-board for the six nights spent at sea. The company makes donations towards bird conservation on Raratonga and Papeete.

9 Art-lovers

Perhaps some of the most striking images ever seen of the South Seas were produced by the French post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin. He spent the latter years of his life in the region and died on Hiva Oa in the Marquesas islands in 1903. Raddison Seven Seas Cruises (tel: 0171-287 9060) offers a special-interest art-lovers cruise aboard the MS Paul Gauguin. This 12-night holiday, including seven nights at sea, departs 3 June next year and will visit the places that inspired and influenced the artist. Passengers will be able to attend on-board guest lectures. Prices start at pounds 2,790 per person based on twin shares and include flights, transfers, activities, and full-board hotel and ship accommodation.

10 Melanesian culture

The 80 islands that make up the southern Melanesian nation of Vanuatu offer some of the most authentic experiences of traditional island culture. Pidgin English is among the 140 dialects spoken in Vanuatu. Transpacific Holidays (tel: 01293 567722) can tailor-make trips to the islands, including an individual seven-day tour of Vanuatu. A three-week stay that also includes stays in Fiji and Samoa would cost around pounds 3,057 per person based on two sharing. This includes all flights, transfers, tours and hotel accommodation with some breakfasts.

11 Diving

The island chain of Fiji harbours pristine coral reefs amid warm shallow seas that can be explored with a full tank of oxygen. Scott Dunn (tel: 0181-672 1234) offers exclusive diving holidays at the resort Jean-Michel Cousteau - established by Jacques Cousteau's son - on the remote island of Vanua Levu. Seven nights cost pounds 1,780 per person based on two sharing. Flights, transfers and full-board thatched bure accommodation are included in the price. Dives cost pounds 38 a descent and divers are accompanied by a qualified marine biologist.

12 Vive le nouveau millenaire!

The South Pacific Tourism Organisation (tel: 0181-876 1938) can advise on last-minute availability for millennium trips. The South Pacific will be one of the first regions to greet the year 2000. The Cruise People (tel: 0171-723 2450) can book a special 16-day cruise around French Polynesia that will celebrate the new millennium at the island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas archipelago. This voyage-of-a-lifetime departs 21 December from London and starts at pounds 5,970 per person based on two sharing. The cost includes flights, transfers and full-board cabin accommodation.

MARK STRATTON

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