Caribbean Islands

The Caribbean, which has mostly been referred to West Indies, has over 7,000 islands in its periphery. Out of these, 13 islands are independent countries, and some are dependent on countries overseas. In addition to this, there are numerous coral reefs, islets and cays, which might or might not be inhabited by people.

Geographically the islands are situated on the Caribbean Sea, and all of them are close to the south-east of Gulf of Mexico, north of South America and east of Central America and Mexico. Some of the cays, reefs and islets border the main islands from these places. Bahamas and Turks and Caicos aren’t a part of Caribbean, but their geographical and political associations with the Caribbean Islands records them just like other islands.

At early 15th century, the population of Caribbean had been estimated to be around 900,000 indigenous people just before the European touch. When Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, began exploring in 1492, it was the first time, for Europeans to venture into the Caribbean. He had landed at the eastern Bahamas and reportedly named it ‘Indies’. This was because he thought it was Asia and East Indies.

Numerous explorers followed the path and then started settling here from America, Europe, China and some more countries like India. In this mix, some religious outcasts and a small army of pirates were included too! Across the Caribbean, African slaves were imported for working in sugar and tobacco plantations. By this time, the indigenous populations at the islands started declining. This was due to the exposure of diseases and also due to brutal genocide. Great military powers kept fighting to have their control on the islands, and it finally boiled down to a mixture of African and European culture. The languages transformed, and the large group of islands started bringing people close to one another. Today, it is one of the prime tourist destinations in the world, and you can never have enough of it!

Climate of Caribbean:

Winters are a great time to come to these islands because people like to escape the extreme cold in the north.  Tourism booms from the middle of December and goes right through April. The weather, this time, comes with slight rainfall, with about 80mm at the most. Two drawbacks which can shift your tour to some other time would be crowds and expense.

The shoulder season to tour is late spring when the weather is milder at north. The weather is warm with slight rainfall but the islands are less busy. The temperature is about 20 to 30 degree Celsius and travellers get a great discount for accommodation.

If the weathers are hot in the north, the Caribbean vacation decreases quite a lot. This makes June to August, their offseason for visits. It rains heavily during these months but when it is clear, it is sunny and bright. It day temperature usually stays over 30 degree Celsius but reduces at nights.

From June to November, the islands are prone to hurricanes. A lot of locals shy away from this season even though all areas are not equally affected. Planning a trip to the Caribbean at this time will need you to be specific about where you go. The southeastern region has less of hurricanes, while southwestern and northeastern have most. Tripping during these months can be risky, but the risk-takers are benefitted with unbelievable touring rates, out and about the islands.

Caribbean Attractions:

People have been flying to Caribbean Islands, over the last few decades, to enjoy their amenities. Visitors frequently come on cruise ships, or by air, and spend their vacation in any of the main islands they want. Caribbean boasts of its palm trees, turquoise waters and white sand beaches. It is at most times, blessed with the sunshine and the climate stays favourable to tour. Visitors who come here, want to come back again, as they can never have enough of the jungle-covered rocks, beaches, flora and fauna, activities and the historical surprises they are acquainted with.

There is nothing subtle about the landscapes of these islands. When you walk on the beaches, your toes will touch the perfect sand, as you look at the heavenly picturesque around. When you hike through the emerald wilderness, you can spot some red orchids and yellow parrots. The colours are infectious from the time you step in. The birds shed their dull plumage, and the travellers leave their grey and black clothes, at the wardrobe. Swimming below the waters would take you by some colourful darting fishes and corals. The beach bars are coloured like paint factories have exploded, and you add some more to the ambience with a glass of rum in your hand. The islands look like a colour palette which gleams up the experience for every local or visitor.

Main Islands to tour the Caribbean:

Planning a trip to the Caribbean Islands will give you numerous places to choose from, so we have listed the main islands to make your choice simpler. As you go through the descriptions, it will give you a rough idea of what you can expect when you get there. These come with the best attractions and amenities, which make your trip worthwhile. The main islands in the Caribbean are as follows:

  1. Anguilla
  2. Antigua and Barbuda
  3. Aruba
  4. Bahamas
  5. Barbados
  6. Belize
  7. British Virgin Islands
  8. Cuba
  9. Dominica
  10. Dominican Republic
  11. Grenada
  12. Guyana
  13. Haiti
  14. Jamaica
  15. Montserrat
  16. Netherlands Antilles
  17. Puerto Rico
  18. Saint Kitts and Nevis
  19. Saint Lucia
  20. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  21. Suriname
  22. Trinidad and Tobago
  23. United States Virgin Islands

You get all types of island adventure here, and when you get to choose from so many options, you know you have a variance to the beaches, flavours and cultures. You cannot ask for more from a beach paradise with the loveliest sands, party-like resort atmospheres, remotes areas to explore and unveiling the centuries-old culture. You might also possibly discover the inner pirate in you, so getting your trip planned now!

(AIMS) Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea

Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South Chinas Sea, together abbreviated as AIMS, have 9 main islands under the group of Small Island Developing States. Out of 52 Small Island Developing States and 9 from the region of AIMS, 6 islands are under Africa. These are Cape Verde, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe and Seychelles. Seychelles comprise of 115 islands and takes up the smallest area compared to the rest, while Guinea Bissau is the largest with 80 islands in total. Apart from the African islands, we have Bahrain, Maldives and Singapore.

These countries trigger vivid picturesque images to tourists who characterise the tranquil beaches, green landscapes, turquoise waters and reefs, as heaven on earth. The islands are very beautiful for a tour and are diverse socially, economically, politically and geographically. Although, they are prone to cyclones, hurricanes, storms and droughts, with frequent climatic changes as well, they are preferred by tourists who love to explore. People just need to be a little careful on their vacation timings, and they’d get the best of these islands. Let us read through some short descriptions on them, after which you can browse through the detailed descriptions:

Bahrain:

Bahrain Islands are an archipelago to the Middle East and lie by the Arab Gulf. Travellers love to come here because it is socially liberal and yet gives the authentic Arab feel. The culture of the people reflects a cosmopolitan side and they make an apt tourist’s destination with its sophistication and amenities. The climate here is like a tropical desert climate and stays usually dry. The best times to tour would be from winters to spring.

Cape Verde:

This island country lies on the Atlantic Ocean. Most islands here are mountainous and had been out of resources for a long time. It has been developing since the 21st century after they had devastating famines in later 20th century. At present, it has seen a positive reputation after promoting stable democracy in Africa. The increase in standard of living higher and politically liberations have improved their tourism scenario. The climate here is mostly temperate with warm and dry summers. The best time for visits is around and after September when the rainfall is just over.

Comoros:

This island nation is situated off the East Africa coast and falls on the Indian Ocean. Landing here takes you away from the clutter and busy lives, among some sprawling hotels, neon discos, amazing eateries and lots of activities to do. It is one of the most economical places to tour through, as they standard of living is low. The climate here is tropical and pretty warm. The coastal areas are usually hot and humid, with occasional rains and cyclones.

Guinea-Bissau:

This is a country which is also into developments and improvements, with many saddening reports but is yet successful in pulling off a travellers smile. From the loud to tender music, from grilled oysters with lime to faded colonial houses, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The climate here keeps fluctuating all through. The average is 26.3° Celsius and rainfalls are around 2,024 mm, but mostly accounted from June to September. The country goes through a drought period from December to April, so travel plans ought to be made accordingly.

Maldives:

It is an archipelago comprising of 1,192 islands and is grouped in 26 coral atolls. It is situated on the Indian Ocean, falls under Southern Asia and is south-southwest of India. Maldives came into prominence as a tourist’s destination after the 1970s. Today, it is not only a popular tourist’s site but also comprises of its 300,000 inhabitants. Tourism accounts for over 28% of their GDP, which assures you that coming here, can never be wrong! The climate here is tropical and gets plenty of sunshine. The temperature stays around 30° Celsius, and rains are mostly from April to October.

Mauritius:

This multi-cultural island falls on the Indian Ocean and is situated east of Madagascar. Like Maldives, this too is a popular tourist’s hub and has heavy crowds all year round. The island is known for its beaches, lagoons, reefs, along with volcanoes, rainforests, waterfalls, and hiking trails. The temperature is tropical but modified by south-east trade winds. They are dry during winter months between May to November and hot and humid from November to May.

São Tomé and Príncipe:

This is a small island country lying off the Atlantic coast. It is located in the Gulf of Guinea and straddles through the Equator. It was discovered by Portugal in late 15th century, and the islands had been a sugar-based economy which then gave way to produce coffee and cocoa. The palm-fringed beaches, emerald rainforest, mellow fishing villages and soaring volcanic peaks, are few of the highlights which attract people to tour the country. The climate is tropical by the waters, and takes makes is hot and humid with about 27 ° Celsius at an average. The interior gets cool during the rights and is full of rain from October to May.

Seychelles:

As mentioned before, there are 115 islands in this archipelago, which lies on the Indian Ocean, and off the East African coast. The beaches look like they have been powdered with white sands, and are lapped by topaz waters. The landscapes follow up with lush hills and it is one of the truest tropical paradises to travel through. The climate stays moderate with less of heat or cold. The temperature rarely goes below 24° Celsius or and 32° Celsius.

Singapore:

The Singapore Island in South Asia was founded as a British trading colony from 1819. Since then, it has been one of the most prosperous countries. Blending the skyscrapers and subways of modernity, the region is a medley of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian influences. The climate here is tropical and people love to come here for food and shopping. Their vibrant night-life scene is also one attractive side to see. What makes Singapore easy to tour are their less stringent entry requirements. A lot of people tend to fly in here for work and inhabitance.

WSSD

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) convened from 26 August to 4 September 2002, in Johannesburg, South Africa, reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to ‘full implementation’ of Agenda 21, alongside achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other international agreements. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI), adopted at WSSD, sets out new commitments and priorities for action on sustainable development. It is divided in to eleven chapters, each with its own specific focus.

 

WSSD and SIDS

The WSSD reaffirmed the special case of SIDS, dedicating Chapter VII of the JPOI to the sustainable development of SIDS in which it identified a set of priority actions, called for a full and comprehensive review of the BPOA in 2004, and requested the General Assembly at its 57th session to consider convening an international meeting on the sustainable development of SIDS.

 

New Partnerships

Non-negotiated partnerships for sustainable development, also known as Type II partnerships/initiatives, were also a key outcome of the WSSD. As of April 2011, 59 such partnerships registered with the CSD Secretariat focus on the sustainable development of SIDS. However, few of them are currently active.

 

Follow-up to WSSD

In a follow-up to WSSD, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution (A/57/262), inter alia, called for a 10-year comprehensive review of the BPoA at a high-level international meeting.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a chain of islands shaped like a ‘Y’, extending about 1176km in a north-south direction and placed between equator and tropic of Capricorn. It is closest to the Solomon Islands in the north and is also neighbored by New Caledonia towards south-west and Fiji to the east. The capital of Vila is about 1900km from north-east of Brisbane, Australia. The main Vanuatu airport is located here, making it accessible to the other nations. Vanuatu has more than 80 islands with a population of around 200,000 people.
Vanuatu weather is very warm, and you get to see lush tropical bushes everywhere. The summer rains make it greener, and they are followed by beaches, coloured in black or white sands. There are interesting coral reefs which make the waters pleasant to swim and snorkel. These islands are known for their nut growth, and you’d get numerous types here. From coconuts to peanut and navel nuts you have a lot to choose from, as the fertile sole and weather, adds to eat vegetation.
Vanuatu facts, through archaeological researchers, indicate that human beings have lived here for over 3000 years now. New Guinea happened to be the first to colonise Vanuatu. Crossing over from one island nation to another was long and dangerous, and the canoes included animals and plants as well. Migration was frequent until people started settling down. By the end of the 1800s, French and British had settled in the islands and signed agreements to make it a condominium. The nation got independence at 1980, but by then, the blend of cultures had made it quite cosmopolitan. The islands are known to have over 20 major languages, out of which Bislama, English and French are most commonly known. There are more than 115 mother tongues, which the locals commonly use among themselves.
The traditional cultures have been kept intact by the Melanesian people. It is not only about rituals, ceremonies and traditions, but the entire way of living, which is reflected on to how they interpret a situation, when occurred. The customs and traditions date back to centuries, and they ensure on showing respect with other communities. Their customs are reflected during the regular celebrations and events they go through, for example, marriage ceremonies, death rituals, etc. They have law and order which they strictly maintain for these. People generally resolve disputes peacefully by sorting out matters, and by exchanging gifts like foods, mats and pigs!
Vanuatu tourism will take you through the lovely islands, coral reefs, two colours of sands, volcanic landscapes, quiet beaches, friendly locals, fresh seafood, tranquil waters, economic stays, luxurious Vanuatu resorts and all the amenities that you’d need for vacationing at an island. Let us read through the top things to do and places to visit ay Vanuatu, so that you can make the most of your tour.

Samoa

This is an island nation, located in the South Pacific Ocean, and falls under the Polynesian territory. The population of the people is around 185,000, but many shift abroad for better opportunities. This island nation is halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. It has narrow coastal plains and comes with volcanic rugged mountains in the interior. The two main islands here are Upolu and Savaii. Upolu has an airport, which makes connectivity easier to all other parts.

The islands are serene yet spirited, they have their wild sides with well-maintained tourist’s locations, perfect for quietness but had volcanic origins – all these make it a paradisiacal paradox! The intense beauty of nature blended with iridescent seas, crystal waterfalls and jade jungles, make it a humble place and cut you out from commonly seen mega-resorts or flashy attractions.

Geographically and culturally, this nation is referred to the heart of Polynesia. Although the missionaries at the 1800s were pretty influential, the country still clung to Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan Way), and this is why it still retains the authentic and traditional side to Pacific societies. Despite its isolation, this nation is accessible to adventures! From the relative ruckus of Apia to the solitary times at Savai’i, you will have a nice experience to go through the best of both.

The climate in these islands are tropical and come with rain, sometimes a little of cyclones too. The wet months are from October to March, while the May to October is dry. The average temperature all through the year is 26.5° Celsius. This makes it a great time to tour during the winters, for the people living in the southern hemisphere.

Tuvalu

Tuvalu is a formation of atolls along with a group of low-lying islands, located in the South Pacific. It forms the 4th smallest country in the world and is a pretty neat place to tour through. During the British Colonial times, this place was called Ellice Islands. The current name translates as ‘cluster of eight’. This is because, even though there are 9 islands right now, the smallest one of Niulakita was inhabited by humans at 1949. It is believed that the ancestors of these islands were mostly from Samoa, and some came from Tonga and Wallis. Most of them were Polynesian settlers, except for Nui – where people descended from Kiribati.
The islands here are flat and hardly go over 15 feet. Funafuti, Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae and Nanumea are five atolls, which are large circular columns made of corals, and they rise vertically from the sea bed. These form reefs and the coral islands occur where the corals go above high tide level. Apart from the coral islands, you will come across large lagoons which are also enclosed within the reefs. They are both natural and man-made. There are islets at Funafuti, which occurred when the American forces extracted material for the runway, during World War II. You get flights to Tuvalu land at Funafuti, and we assume that you’d want to get here, especially if you are new to the destination.
There are four more islands, apart from the atolls, and they are pinnacles of land which rose from the seabed. Some of these have salt-water ponds in the interior, and some like Nanumea are famous for a fresh-water pond, which is rare among atolls. Most lands are covered with coconut palms, and to sum up, you get the best of an island experience here.
The climate at Tuvalu is hot tropical, with very little variation during the seasons. The Easterly trade winds make the weather slightly moderate, which lasts from March to November. The westerly gales come with heavy rain for the rest of the year. The islands aren’t prone to much of natural hazards but since they are at a low level, they are sensitive with the sea level alteration. The average annual temperature is about 30° Celsius with 3535mm of rains. The best time to visit this place is from March to November, which frees it from the heavy rains.
Tuvalu sinking is one of the major concerns in the area. It is predicted to be one of the first countries to be washed away due to global warming. Tuvalu tourism is all about making the most of the places till they survive.

Singapore

Location and Geography of Singapore

Lying between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, Singapore lies just off the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula in Southeast Asia.  The main island Pulau Ujong with its 62 surrounding islands make up the world’s only island-city-state with Singapore city covering most of the main island.  The highest point on the island is Bukit Timah Hill 163.63m (537ft).

In the north Singapore is connected to Johor in Malasia by a road and rail link: ‘The Johor-Singapore Causeway’, which also provides a means of piping water to Singapore.  In the west, there is the bridge known as the ‘Tuas Second Link’ also linking Singapore to Johor.  The bridge having been constructed with the aim of relieving traffic congestion on the causeway.

As a result of ongoing land reclamation, the island of Singapore is steadily growing in size.  It has already increased its size by some 23% and more projects to add another 100 km2 are to be completed in 2030.

Climate of Singapore

The climate in Singapore is typical of Southeast Asia.  It is hot and humid throughout the year with night time temperatures never dropping lower than 20°C (68°F)and daytime temperatures reaching as high as 30°C (86°F) or even higher.  Humidity is usually around 75%.

The rainy season is through November and December although it does rain throughout the year, but rain usually comes in short downpours.

History of Singapore

Once known as the Kingdom of Singapura this island state was established as a trading port in 1299 and because of its strategic position as a gateway to the East, suffered a number of invasions before the Majapahit of Java (Indonesia) totally destroyed the city in 1398.  The city was then rebuilt and Singapore became part of the Johor Sultanate.  However, in 1613 it was totally destroyed by fire set by Portuguese raiders and thereafter, although the area was under the control of the Dutch, Singapore was largely forgotten until the British took over and began colonising the islands in 1819.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was the Lieutenant-Governor of British Java from 1811 to 1815 and during the Napoleonic Wars was involved in the wrestling the Indonesian island of Java from the Dutch and French.  In 1819 having established that there was no Dutch presence on the island, Raffles secured permission to establish a settlement.  With a treaty signed by Hussein Shah, the Crown Prince of Johor, Raffles set about establishing the British settlement of Singapore and finally the Dutch gave up their claim to the island.  By this time the original population of the island, approximately 500 – 1000 Malay and Chinese, was being added to by administrators, traders and soldiers growing the numbers to 5000.  By 1923 the population on the island had grown so exponentially that it became clear that something had to be done to maintain law and order and a police force and magistracy were established along British lines so what had been a trading post, gradually began to evolve into a law-abiding city. By 1860, with the influx of immigrants from China, the population on the island had grown to 80,000.  These immigrants came to work on the rubber plantations established by the British and Singapore soon became known for its international rubber exports.

The Second World War.

Prior to the war, in 1938, the General Officer Commanding of the Malaya Command issued warnings to Britain of the likelihood of an attack by Japan but sadly these warnings were not acted upon.  The Japanese invaded British Malaya and finally Singapore was conquered at the Battle of Singapore in 1942.  The Japanese occupation of the islands resulted in the Sook Ching massacre that took the lives of tens of thousands of Chinese.  The suffering of the people of the island did not end there, as by November 1944 the Allies, in an attempt to regain control of the island, began their bombing raids in November 1944 continuing them until May 1945 during which the harbour was destroyed as well as power supplies, and the islands water supply systems.

The Japanese surrender was signed at the Singapore City Hall on 12 September 1945 and a British Military Administration was set up to govern the island until on 01 April 1946 Singapore became a separate crown colony.

Tin and rubber exports took the island along the road to recovery but the experience of the war led to much political upheaval, and anti-colonial sentiment and so began the cry for independence.

Self-government for Singapore

After the May 1959 elections Singapore, under the People’s Action Party, took responsibility for its own internal administration and the island became a self-governing state, and in 1963 a partnership with Malaysia formed the Federation of Malaysia.

The Federation of Malaysia did not last long as differences in ideologies and community disagreements led to the Singapore race riots of 1964.  Finally, without a single delegate from Singapore, the Malaysian Parliament voted to expel Singapore, and she was once again on her own, achieving independence as a republic on 9 August 1965.

The success of modern-day Singapore is attributed to the policies of Lee Kuan Yew, the then Prime Minister.  His son Lee Hsien Loong became Singapore’s third Prime Minister in 2004 and after his party’s seats in Parliament diminished after the 2011 elections he set about restructuring the economy raising productivity, providing grants and improving the island’s healthcare system.

2015 was the year of Singapore’s Golden Jubilee celebrations with the People’s Action Party still the popular choice.

Singapore Today

Singapore today is a modern cosmopolitan city which still reveres its ethnic roots in such quarters as Little India, Arab Street and Chinatown.  The beaches offer many water-sport options including sailing.  This city-state is a mecca of shops, restaurants and resorts. A model public transport system provides a reliable, clean, comfortable and affordable way of getting around.  Singapore is a clean, efficient and decidedly friendly city where everything works like clockwork and the crime rate is the lowest in the world.

Nauru

Location

This tiny island of 21 square km is an independent country, the smallest in the world, lying some 25 miles south of the equator in the Pacific Ocean.  Its nearest neighbour is 300kms to the East, is the island of Banaba which is part of the Republic of Kiribati and Sydney Australia lies some 4750+ km to the southwest with the Solomon Islands lying approximately halfway between Nauru and Australia.

Year round weather – The temperatures on the island reach as high as 90°F and heavy tropical rain in excess of 2050mm falls throughout the year.

Short History of Nauru

The history of Nauru is a sad one, as today the island, despite its tropical climate, is an island denuded of vegetation and unable to grow its own food resources as a result of the phosphate mining that has covered most of the interior of the island since 1900.

When the island was first discovered it was named ‘Pleasant Island’ as the people were friendly and the island was covered in lush vegetation.  The islanders subsisted on coconut pandanus fruit and seafood.  The men caught young ibija fish off the reefs surrounding the island and then raised them in Buada Lagoon in basic fish farms thus guaranteeing a ready supply of fish for the island’s inhabitants.  There were 12 tribes on Nauru:  the Deiboe, Eamwidamit, Eamwidara, Eamwit, Eamgum, Eano, Emeo, Eoraru, Irutsi, Iruwa, Iwi and Ranibok.

The first Europeans discovered the island in 1798 when the whaling ship Hunter sailed past, although no-one came ashore, the island was identified, charted and named by the British. By 1830 British whaling ships and traders anchored off the island and used the island as a replenishment centre for fresh water and food.  Sadly this contact with Europeans led to the islanders bartering food for alcohol and firearms.  Alcohol took its toll on the people and the introduction of firearms led to wars between the 12 island tribes, which up until then had lived a life of peaceful co-existence.  These internal wars decimated the population and the estimated number of inhabitants had dropped from 1,400 to 900 by 1888, by which time the island had become a German protectorate.

Germany and Nauru

In 1888 Germany annexed the island and incorporated it into its New Guinea Protectorate.  The Germans renamed the island Nawodo or Onawero and with their arrival the intertribal warfare ended, as guns were confiscated and alcohol banned.  The Germans then instated a king to rule the island population.

Phosphate was discovered in 1900 and The Pacific Phosphate Company, under an agreement with Germany, began the exploitation of the island’s natural reserves.  The first export shipment of phosphate was in 1907.

The First World War

In 1914 the island was captured by Australian troops and passed on into British hands with the signing of the Nauru Island Agreement in 1919.  Thereafter a commission to manage the island’s phosphate mining was set up taking full control of all phosphate mining operations in the interior.  The additional traffic that mining brought to the island brought with it the dreaded influenza and in 1921 an epidemic among the local islanders resulted in the deaths of 230 Nauruans.

The Second World War

With the Pacific war came the German, Japanese and Allied forces and much damage was inflicted on this tiny outpost. Phosphate mining areas and oil storage depots were shelled and many merchant ships were sunk off its shores.

The Japanese occupied Nauru in August of 1942 and the islanders suffered greatly under their new rulers.  The Japanese airstrip was bombed in 1943 causing more damage and preventing food supplies from reaching the island.  In 1943 the Japanese transferred 1,200 Nauruans to the Chuuk Islands where they were used as slave labour.

The Island finally surrendered to the Royal Australian Armed forces in September 1945 and the surviving 737 Nauruans on Chuuk Island were repatriated in 1946.  From 1947 to 1966 Australia, New Zealand and Britain were the trustees of the island appointed by the United Nations with trusteeship administered by Australia.

Nauru and Self-Government

Nauru achieved self-determination in 1966 and in 1968 became an independent republic the world’s smallest country.  In 1967 the Nauru people bought out the British Phosphate Commission and finally the people of Nauru had full control over their phosphate reserves and set up the Nauru Phosphate Corporation.  With this move came the short lived affluence of the island with a Per Capita GDP that provided the highest living standards of the Third World.

Finally the islanders realised the effects of phosphate mining.  It was clear that all the arable land of the previously lush interior of the island and all that it offered in the way of food had virtually disappeared.  In 1993 the island took legal action against its pre-independence trustees, appealing to the International Court of Justice for compensation.  An out-of-court settlement was agreed and Nauru received 2.5million Australian dollars annually for 20 years while New Zealand and the UK paid out a single settlement of $12million each.

However, by this time the phosphate deposits on the island were running out and by 2006 reserves were almost completely exhausted.  Not only did this undermine the economy of the island but it has left the island with vast areas of such horrific environmental devastation that the island was no longer able to sustain itself and financial mismanagement by the government added to the woes of the island which today is virtually bankrupt.

Nauru Today

Population:  The native Nauruan population was devastated first by the influenza epidemic of 1921 and again during WWII by the Japanese, but by 1950 had recovered somewhat to number 1,500.  Today the Nauruan population on the island stands at approximately 6,000 and a further number of 3,000 is made up of nationals from other Pacific islands as well as Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Australians and New Zealanders.  There seems to be harmony between the ethnic groupings with each living its own particular Nauruan lifestyle.

The Language:  It seems that Nauruan is a standalone language with little in common with other Austronesian languages but only now is work in hand to construct a Nauruan dictionary.  While English is the lingua franca of the island all ethnic Nauruans speak English as well as their own unique tongue.

National Identity:  To be considered a true Nauruan you must have been born to a Nauruan mother and registered under your mother’s clan.  If your family should fail to register you in this way then your claim to being a Nauruan falls away and you have no claim to shares in phosphate revenues or land.  If a child is born to a non-ethnic Nauruan mother but has a Nauruan father then the family must seek special permission for the child to be registered as a Nauruan.  No others may lay claim to be a true Nauruan.

Agriculture and Living Space: As a result of the devastation caused by phosphate mining much of the interior of the island is a wasteland and still awaits full rehabilitation.  Because of the lack of arable land on the island the 9,000 inhabitants are sustained by imported goods as there is little or no agriculture on the island.  Living space is limited to the coastal areas and people live around the perimeter of the phosphate mines and along the narrow coastal strip.

Food and Drink:  Cultivation of crops on the island is virtually impossible and there are no longer any local fruits or vegetables, most foodstuffs have to be imported.  Fresh food is limited to fish although beef is available at odd intervals but even then is very limited.  Nonetheless, there are a number of restaurants on the island with the most favoured being Chinese.  The few rather down-at-heel hotels sometimes offer Western food but again not often.  International brands of alcohol are available at the hotels, restaurants and supermarkets.

Nightlife on Nauru is provided by a single bar and the Menen Hotel’s restaurant plus a few independent Chinese restaurants.

Status and the elite:  Flaunting of wealth is not the Nauruan way, so status symbols are limited to the ownership of motorbikes or trucks, and the size of one’s house.  Those who are wealthy with off-shore bank accounts are only known by reputation and not by the flaunting of status.

Crime and Punishment:  There is very little crime on the island most breaches of law and order are due to drunkenness which for the most part results in some drunken driving, but as there is not much in the way of traffic and there are no highways this never amounts to very much.  There is no prison on the island so should a serious crime occur then an arrangement is made with Australia for the incarceration of the criminal.

Modern Culture:  Children are precious in Nauru and as a result are, by western standards, spoilt.  Children are never left uncared for and adoptions are common in cases when parents are no longer living or are unable to care for their offspring.  Women rule the household and mothers are particularly venerated.  It is an expectation of each clan that elders are respected and that children despite being spoilt honour both parents and elders.

Religion:  Christianity is practised by most Nauruans today, but in the past the islanders believed in the creation of the island by two spirits manifest in two rocks on either side of Topside (the Central Plateau).  Sadly, during mining operations on the island these rocks have disappeared.  However, Buada lagoon is still a site of spiritual strength for some.

Papua New Guinea

Where is Papua New Guinea?

Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean lies North of Australia and west of the Solomon Islands. To the north and northwest are the Philippines, South Korea and Japan. This large Island land mass with its surrounding smaller Islands is divided into two regions. The west section of the island is the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya and the East half of the island is Papua New Guinea.

Short history of Papua New Guinea

The island was first discovered in 1545 when it was named Nueva Guinea and in 1884 what is now a province of Indonesia was officially recognised as Dutch New Guinea while the Eastern part of the island was divided into two separate colonies. The north of this Eastern half of the island became German New Guinea and the south, British New Guinea.
The Northeast corner of the island was administered by a chartered trading company the German New Guinea Company of Berlin, which was formed specifically to exploit the ready supply cheap labour for the production of copra and coconut oil for export to Europe. Germany granted the company the rights to administer the territory on its behalf, and to negotiate with the native population. However in 1899 the charter was rescinded and this part of the island became an official German Territory under the auspices of the German Imperial government and was from then on known as German New Guinea.
The South Eastern portion of the island was formally annexed by the British in 1988 and was named British New Guinea. In 1906 this area was ceded to Australia and renamed Papua New Guinea. This south east part of the island was enlarged to incorporate German New Guinea at the start of the First World War in 1914. After the war many of the plantations in the Northern section were given to war veterans the League of Nations conferred trusteeship over New Guinea to Australia in 1921. There followed a time of moderate prosperity for New Guinea not just from the produce of the plantations but also from gold mining until the 2nd World War. During the 2nd World War Japan attempted to invade the island in a major offensive during the Pacific war. Bitter fighting continued on the island until the Japanese defeat in 1945.
The road to independence for Papua New Guinea began with the Papua and New Guinea Act of 1963 and by 1964 the majority in the PNG Assembly were native Papua New Guineans and 1968 a new ministerial system was adopted and Papua New Guinea had its own Administrator’s Executive Council. Finally in 1971 the road to independence was almost complete all that was required for self-government was by then in place. Self-Government was finally granted in 1973. In 1975 Papua New Guinea became an independent sovereign state with the Queen as its sovereign head. Since then Papua New Guinea has had many changes in government and has experienced internal wars especially with the island of Bouganville, which after 7 long years of bloody insurrection finally gained its independence from Papua New Guinea in 2005.

Papua New Guinea Land and Climate

The length of the island is dominated by its central mountain chain that is covered in tropical rain forest and fast flowing rivers, which descend from the highlands, create great tropical swamps in low lying areas before they finally reach the sea. The swamp forests are home to the local sago palm which provides a staple in the diet of the local people.
Drier areas are in the west of the country where extensive grasslands are interspersed with savanna woodlands.

Climate

Papua New Guinea has a tropical climate with high rainfall throughout the year and with coastal temperatures that average 28°C humidity is high throughout the island ranging between 70 and 90 percent. As you move to higher altitudes the temperatures drops a few degrees to around 23°C but they can drop even lower depending on how high you go.
There are no distinct seasons on the island although June to September are considered the dry season. The dry season is not really dry, it just means that there is less rain during this period. The rainy season (highest rainfall) is usually between December and March. This is when monsoon clouds drop most of their rain, mostly in the north and west of the territory, and Typhoons often hit the island at this time.

Papua New Guinea People and Culture

Traditional foods: The People of Papua New Guinea have a varied diet which includes vegetables and meat and For the most part fish is a significant part of the diet in coastal areas. Starchy vegetables include wild sago, breadfruit, yams, taro, sweet potatoes and rice. Green vegetables are mostly wild greens with fruits such as bananas, coconuts and mangos. Most meat is from domestic animals although wild fowl, turtles and cassowaries are still hunted. Cooking is mostly roasting or boiling although on special occasions ceremonial ovens are dug and foods are cooked in these pits.
Urban foods: In the urban areas of the Island restaurants offer international cuisine and there are also fast food stands (Kaibars).
Traditional feasts – these are usually to celebrate such things as weddings and births and can go on for days with much dancing, drumming and feasting, mostly on roasted pig cooked in ovens dug into the ground. Although liqueur is not traditional these days much alcohol and beer is usually consumed on these occasions. As a result of past colonial influences Christmas and Easter are also often celebrated with all the trimmings of a traditional feast.

Class Structure

In the past this was unknown but with colonisation came education so there is a marked difference between the peasant or grassroots villager and the new rising elite who are the more educated and higher income earners. Despite this the elite still cling to their traditions and attend traditional ceremonies as well as provide the purse for many such celebrations.
There are 800 distinct tribal cultures in the territory of Papua New Guinea which includes its many surrounding islands.
Modern Life in Papua New Guinea
Port Moresby the Capital of Papua New Guinea is where a modern Western life-style can be experienced, as it is here that nightclubs have been established as well as many restaurants which offer international cuisine but they are expensive. The roads in this city and many of the other larger towns, are filled with imported cars and are the newest status symbol.
There is no social welfare system partly because of the traditional norm that a village will care for its own. Much of government spending is on basic infrastructure and schools and recently projects to deal with AIDS and STDs.

Top Things To do in Belize

Belize Map Location

Belize on the Yucatan Peninsular of South America has an Eastern Caribbean Sea coastline and is bordered to the north by Mexico and to the South and West by Guatemala.  This independent country covers a small area 290 km in length and at its widest point a mere 100 km, a total of 31,900 square km.

A Short History of Belize

The first known inhabitants of Yucatan Peninsular were the Mayan Indians who evolved from simple farmers to a highly civilised people who created one of the finest and most civilisations, if not equal, then certainly comparable to the Greek and Roman civilisations, which endured for approximately 1,000 years.

Mayans were great astronomers and mathematicians and it was these ancient people who first realised the concept of zero.They also built great, well-planned cities with palaces and temples typically built in the shape of pyramids.  

Why the Mayan civilisation disappeared is much debated, but the accepted theory is that the Mayans overpopulated the area and as with the lack of space and resources internal fighting began eroding the very foundation of the civilisation until it simply broke apart. By 900 CE the civilisation was fast disappearing but you will still come across people in Belize who are of Mayan origin.

The Pirates of Belize

In early past of the 17th century Pirates, the most notable of which was Captain Peter Wallace who is said to have discovered the mouth of the River Belize and with his crew and fellow pirates numbering 80 men set up the first rough settlement in Belize.  From here they were able to plunder and capture ships sailing from and to the New World.  These were the famous Pirates of the Caribbean. Eventually after the Treaty of Madrid piracy came to an end and these first settlers began the first logging camps of Belize and were known as Baymen.

Slavery in Belize

When the British discovered the value of the dye obtained from the Logwood Tree used in the dying of wool and silk, they imported thousands of slaves from Africa to fell, first the Logwood and later Mahogany and so established an economy in the region that lasted for approximately 100 years.  Slaves had many uses in this British colony.  Woman and children were used as domestic workers, and nannies. Men not employed in felling the forest trees often served as gardeners and small holding labour which gave the colony self-sufficiency at a basic level.  Other slaves were trained to work as blacksmiths, nurses or bakers.  However these were all basic skills and none were able to work where a high level of skill was required.  Intermarriage between British Settlers and slaves gave rise to the Creole population of Belize.

British Honduras and Belize

After Britain captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655 many disbanded soldiers and sailors came to Belize and settled there thus increasing the settler population.  However, life was not peaceful, and for the next 150 years there were many wars between the Spanish in Mexico and the settlers of Belize which continued despite the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 and the Convention of London in 1786.  This continuing harassment of Belize by the
Spanish finally came to an end at the Battle of St. George’s Caye when the British and their slaves defeated the Spanish.  On the 10th of September every year the people of Belize still celebrate this victory.

Finally the British won sovereignty over the this Yucatan territory in 1858 and in 1862 it was given the name of “British Honduras”.  British Honduras became gained its right to self-government in 1964 and on the first of June 1973 changed its name to Belize.  Finally, on the 21st of September 1981, Belize became an independent territory.  Today ongoing disputes continue with Guatemala over ownership of much of the territory of Belize.

The Languages of Belize

Although the official language of Belize is English, the most heard language in Belize is its own particular Creole which is a strange mix of English although this is not easily understood by an English speaker.  As you near the Guatemalan  and Mexican borders, however, you will find Spanish to be the dominant language. In addition and because of the variety of ethnic groupings in Belize it is not unusual to hear Mayan, German, Lebanese, Arabic or even Chinese being spoken.

Food and Drink in Belize

There is no national dish in Belize or even one national cuisine, it is instead a mix of all the influences that have coloured its history an eclectic mix of Caribbean, Mexican, Spanish, Mayan and African.

In Dangriga, in the district of Stann Creek, cassava is plentiful and so you should really try their cassava bread and perhaps sample the delights of Hudut a fish dish where the fish is cooked in coconut milk and served with a side dish of mashed plantain.  Perhaps even accompany your gastronomic adventure with a glass of cashew wine.

There are so many more delights to tease the palate and give heart to any gastronomic adventurer such as a traditional Mayan meal and the delights of Suckling pig which is cooked in outdoor underground ovens.  All the food is spicy and more often than not includes hot peppers.  Coconut milk is also widely used and instead of bananas plantains are used in many of the dishes.

The Top resort areas of Belize

Along the coast of Belize are the islands of Belize, many of which are not included in any travel brochure and because they are so secluded and less travelled do not enjoy the infrastructure required to make them popular tourist havens.  But there are the larger islands where you are able to enjoy beautiful beaches, great restaurants from high end to budget style beach bistros.  

 

Ambergris CayeThanks to the ingenuity of the Mayan people who dug a canal across what was the tip of the peninsula, is now the largest island of Belize, larger than Barbados. This is the island that hums with life, from the gas drove golf carts that buzz around everywhere to the great restaurants and nightlife. Watersports are the thing here, as well as scuba diving.  If its Mayan ruins that interest you can take an excursion from here to the mainland.

Caye Caulker – not quite as big as Ambergris, but quieter with a slower pace.  You can get to the island either by water taxi or a speedy short flight.  A visit to this island is for those who wish to experience more of the local life without all the tourist trappings, but it is changing and working its way to becoming a challenge to the larger island of Ambergris.  Although without much of the infrastructure of the larger island this is a great place to go windsurfing, snorkelling. Sailing, canoeing or kayaking.

Placencia – in the southern part of Belize has the best beaches in Belize and is accessible by road, sea or by air.  Here you find a rich culture of music and Garifuna traditions.  The Garifuna people are of mixed race, descendants of African, Caribbean Islanders and the Arawak people.   Unlike Ambergris Caye it is not so congested and there is no buzz of golf-carts.  As Placencia is near the great reef there is plenty to see if you like to snorkel or scuba dive and you might even see a great whale shark.  There are numerous islands offshore from Placencia where the romantically inclined can spend a night, or you can arrange an adventurous day trip to Laughing Bird Caye.

 

Top Attractions of Belize

Belize is a country whose waters are warm and clear, and a great coral reef follows the length of its coastline.  This is where those who enjoy tropical sands, diving along coral reefs, or all the pleasures of water sports as well as the typical laid back Caribbean warmth and hospitality, come to holiday.  But that is not all, there are ancient Mayan temple ruins hidden away among the lush forests.  It is the top Central American destination for tourists from all over the world.

Mayan Ruins

Xunantunich dated as far back as 900BC is made up of 26 separate structures made up of palaces and temples.  The main pyramid stands 40 meters high and is known as El Castillo.  El Castillo is  the second tallest structure in Belize, the tallest being the temple at Caracol.

Lamanai – meaning ‘submerged crocodile” is in the northern Orange Walk District of Belize,  was still inhabited by the Maya in the 16th century.  Not all of Lamanai has as yet been uncovered and so there is still much archaeological excavation taking place, but its High Temple and other high structures make for great sightseeing.

Caracol is the largest Maya ruin in Belize and was once the largest ancient Mayan city of the Mayan Classic Period 250 to 900 CE which was the period when the Mayan civilisation was at its zenith.  The ruins lie deep in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve and covers an area of more than 160 square meters (180 square miles).  Radiating out from the main centre or core of the city are a myriad of causeways or sacbeobs that radiate outward, like the rays of the sun, through the city.  The highest structure in Belize is to be found here in the Sky Palace, the Temple of China.  It rises to a height of 42 meters above the plaza.  For the avid sightseer, there are excavated tombs to explore where hieroglyphic texts are to be found, and much else to marvel at.

Cahal Pech – The Place of Ticks is in the Cayo District above the town of San Ignacio.  There are 34 structures in all that include residences and temples.  Archaeologists revealed in 1988 that this was already inhabited by 1200 BC, but abandoned around 850 CE.  So this is the earliest Maya ruin in Belize.

 

The Districts of Belize

There are six Belizean districts each with its own distinct environment and a blend of cultures. The main islands of Ambergris and Caulker make up two of these districts but the remaining four are divisions of the mainland of Belize.

Belize District with the colourful city of Belize with its history of pirates, loggers and slaves and slave owners has many points of interest, the most important without a doubt is the Baron Bliss lighthouse bequeathed to the city by the Baron on his death aboard his yacht at the age of 57.  All his wealth was left in trust to the city and the city celebrates Baron Bliss Day every year on the Monday closest to the date of his death, the 9th of March.  It is a national holiday marked by a grand sailing regatta.  The district has many picturesque villages with delightful names such as Lucky Strike, Double Head Cabbage, and Scotland Halfmoon.  

Cayo – in the west of Belize is the home of the Capital of Belize, Belmopan.  This district is lush and green with networks of rivers and beautiful waterfalls and many caves an eco-tourist paradise.  It is home to Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout a thriving and important agricultural settlement.  The countryside is dotted with quaint villages with names that will delight you, such as Tea Kettle and Ontario.  Cayo is said to be the cultural heart of Belize with its historical sites, tasty cuisine and much to see and do.  You can go kayaking in the Ridge Forest Reserve, swim at Butterfly Falls, explore the caves or visit the great Mayan ruins of Xunantunich.

Orange Walk – in the northern part of Belize is what was once the sugar growing area of Belize and producer of the renowned Belize rum.  Now, however, farming has diversified to include soybean, onion and papaya cash crops as well as cattle farming.  Orange Walk has the one and an only toll booth on the northern highway placed at the entrance to Orange Walk Town a strange mix of sugar cane refinery smokestacks and river boats that offer tours upriver into the jungle.  In this district are the Amun Ha (Lamanai) ruins.  It is certainly a paradise for bird watchers and eco-tourists alike.

Corozal – 89 miles (143 km) north of Belize City.  This district is a little off the beaten track for the average tourist and it is for this reason that many retirees from Europe and North America make it their retirement home.  But it has much to offer the eco-tourist, avid fisherman especially in the Shipstern Nature Reserve, as well as sites of Mayan temples.

As it is only 7 miles from the Mexican border there are also trips to Mexico from here if you feel you need a little Mexican chilli in your itinerary.

Toledo – The forgotten district of Belize is only now beginning to wake to the sound of tourists.  Its Mayan communities settled in tiny quaint villages.  The two larger villages of San Pedro with its pretty stone church and San Pedro Columbia through which runs the Colombia River offer hiking trails to the Lubaantun ruins.  If you wish to explore the Rio Blanco National Park Falls and Uxbenka ruins then head for the tiny villages of Santa Cruz or Santa Elena.

Stann Creek – This is where you find the wonderful golden beaches of Placencia and the offshore cases.  The district is also known for its mountains and lush jungles.  Here you can experience Garifuna art, music and cuisine and still in some places, Mayan culture.  This district is the major fruit growing area, exported to Britain and Europe from its large and deep port, Big Creek.  The capital of Stann Creek is Dangriga also known as the cultural capital of Belize.  But the great attraction of Stann Creek is Hopkins Village which celebrates its own national holiday Hopkins Day.  The people of Hopkins Village love their drums and many of their drum ceremonies, most particularly Garifuna Independence Day, can last until the early hours of the following morning.  As the village has moved on from being just a sleepy little fishing village it now offers the tourist good restaurants, small bars and gift shops.  While you are in Stann Creek you a visit to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve, but be prepared as it is within a 159 square miles of broadleaf rain forest so you will get wet.