on April 23, 2002
As all of Lonely Planet's guidebooks, this is of course an excellent travel tool, and truly "sets the standard". Any traveler is surely better off to the South Pacific with, rather than without, this densely written and wonderfully filled book (even though, for this particular destination, the Moon Handbook for the South Pacific would also be a very good choice). However, two things should be said about this particular LP guidebook. First, its coverage is hampered by the region's magnitude and diversity. The effort to cover so many different islands, with their own realities, their own peoples and cultures, is surely a noble endeavour. Yet, it resulted in lack of clarity, and data which is vague or uncomplete, especially on some countries (such as those of Micronesia) more than others. Getting separate LP guidebooks for individual countries or sub-regions (Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Rarotonga & Cook Islands, Tahiti & French Polynesia, etc) would be a much better choice for the discerning traveler - even though it may involve carrying a bit of extra weight around the beautiful seas and skyes of the South Pacific. Second, this guidebook suffers from an evident's "author's bias" in favour of the region. It is quite natural and inevitable, and also very positive, for authors to feel that their region is the best and nicest on our planet, home to the finest wonders of this world (to have the opposite, namely authors who are biased against their own regions, would be horrible). Yet, not all regions of the world can be great and perfect, and their peoples the finest and most friendly. Unknowing travelers should not be led to believe this. The South Pacific can indeed be a very tough place: not all islands and places are as great and beautiful as they may appear from this guidebook, getting around and having a nice time is not always easy (in fact, the region can be horribly frustrating), and the people are not always as pleasant as one might wish. By following indications for visa requirements for the Republic of Kiribati ("British citizens do not require visas"), I found myself pushed back on the aircraft, having to force my way in order to remain on the ground, and avoiding one nigt in a cell only thanks to the intervention of HM High Commissioner. Likewise, in Nauru it is not true that "you'll get a visa on arrival, provided the hotels have rooms". The Otintaai Hotel in Kiribati (allegedly the best in the country) does not have hot water as is claimed in the guidebook, and the Waterfront Villa Hotel in Palau (allegedly "the best deal around") is apparently so simply because the owners are extremely rude and prone to cheating, able to make your stay in beautiful Palau a real hell. Altogether, many countries which may sound like earthly paradises, are simply not so. The people, who are made seem friendly almost without exception, can be extremely obnoxious and difficult, not always happy to receive foreigners - especially in Micronesia and to a lesser extent in Melanesia, yet not so much in Polynesia. The advice contained in this guidebook should be taken with great care. Yet, in the end this remains a truly valuable tool, in a region so hard to get to know, where getting around and finally managing to enjoying one's trip - for those who do decide to go - can be truly hard. The sections on culture, wildlife, etc., despite their being rather summary, are extremely valuable and provide enjoyable reading. This book may not be up to the Lonely Planet standard (we should also consider that this is only the guidebook's first edition); but, considered LP's already high standards, it is not bad at all.