on August 2, 2000
About the best desciption for this 900+ page guidebook is exhaustive. I felt exhausted after going through all 900+ pages. And I am sure David Stanley was exhausted after visiting all these remote islands and compiling all this information. Being something of a seasoned island-hopper myself, I can appreciate the nature of what he has achieved with this book. Stanley has covered the vast South Pacific about as well as it could be covered. His coverage is candid, comprehensive and detailed. There probably aren't too many things that he's left out. The contents and arrangement of subjects make for a very usable book with tons of information on most any question a traveler would have about the South Pacific islands. The Introduction background material is both informative and essential for the first-time South Pacific traveler. The On the Road section provides important detail on getting there and getting around within the islands. Each island nation has its own section divided by main islands and/or groups. Each island section then has detail on the nuts and bolts of accommodations, food, transportation services, activities, tours, entertainment, events, etc. all the things a traveler needs to know. This pattern is followed for each island country and provides a perceptive and insightful view of each area. First-time South Pacific travelers will appreciate this book for its simple completeness. It has about everything one needs to know about this fascinating world of islands. Experienced island hoppers will also appreciate the fact that Stanley covers so much in so much depth. It is a credit to his resilience and work ethic as a writer and reporter. The last section of the book is Resources. This section has an extensive bibliography of South Pacific travel-related information plus a lengthy list of Internet resources. Like his companion guidebooks on Tahiti, Fiji and Tonga-Samoa, Stanley brings a sense of candid observation and perception to his task. This allows him to produce a book that is valuable and very user-friendly. If you're looking for a book that covers all the South Pacific islands in all its colorful diversity, look no further. This book will serve you well for either real island trekking and island-hopping or just serious arm-chair travel.
on May 4, 2000
In the late 1970s, on my first trip to the South Pacific, someone showed me a copy of an early edition of the South Pacific Handbook. I fell in love with it and have purchased every edition since. This is not just a travel book: it is an adventure in itself.
It's a challenge to find adequate words to describe this book. It seems to me to be a scholarly or encyclopedic work because of its depth and scope, but the information is so well organized and clearly presented that everything falls comfortably in place. You can quickly find what you want to know.
I am writing this comment with the 7th edition of the South Pacific Handbook next to me. The first part of the book, through page 123, provides an extensive background to the South Pacific. Subjects covered include the formation of coral reefs, flora and fauna, the history of discovery, exploration, settlement, colonization by Europe and The Pacific today, government, economy, the people of the South Pacific, conduct and customs, health, food and drink, and much, much more.
David Stanley (the author) devotes the next 800 pages to the islands of Tahiti-Polynesia, the Pitcairn Islands, Easter Island, the Cook Islands, Niue, the Kingdom of Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, Tuvalu, Melanesia (Fiji), New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands. Reading these pages, you will feel as though you are there. I don't think anything has been left out.
At the end of the book, under the general heading of Resources, is a list of all the information offices (including web sites and e-mail addresses) for all the island groups discussed in the book. There is an extensive Bibliography, including guidebooks, geography, natural science, history, Pacific issues, social science, literature, the arts, reference books, booksellers and publishers, map publishers, and periodicals. A Discography section listing noncommercial recordings of Pacific music follows. A section on the South Pacific on the internet - websites and e-mail addresses for everything you can imagine - is next. Finally, there is a Glossary section and an extensive Index.
In the 1980s, I went to Aitutaki (an atoll in the Cook Islands) after reading a seven-sentence description in the first edition of the South Pacific Handbook. Aitutaki was exactly as Mr.Stanley describes it and I owe my exciting experience there to him.
The next time you are in a bookstore, I suggest that you at least browse through this book. If you buy it, you might try reading it in bed at night. If you're like me, you may start to dream about Bora Bora (French Polynesia), Aitutaki, or some other jewel in the South Pacific.