Oceania is a dazzling and charming treasure trove of more than hundred islands. Sprinkled all over the Pacific Ocean, these islands and territories come together to form the smallest continent on the planet. After the huge landmasses of other major continents, Oceania seems to be an assorted basket of leftover surface areas on earth. The continent includes Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, as well as the thousands of coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific Ocean, including the Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia groups in its circumference. Australia is the largest and the most prominent member of this group of island nations and enjoys the reputation of being a continental country. For this reason, the continent of Oceania is often referred to as Australia/Oceania.
Oceania might be a miniscule existence in continental terms but this doesn’t limit the region’s entertainment and luxurious opportunities. It features a wide variety of distraction to choose from, when you want to gain new strength and energy from your adventures and activities. Go wine tasting, especially in the winery regions of Barossa Valley in Australia, ski or snowboard the slopes of the Southern Alps at New Zealand or enjoy scuba diving by the Pacific coasts of Palau; Oceania is one of the most beautiful travelling destinations on earth with a unique and fascinating array of natural splendours. It is a land of spellbinding beauty and enchantment where the exotic images of nature and enticing fragrance of flowers embraces your senses. Take in the historical sites of Tasmania, warm smiles of friendly Tahitians, the beaches and glamour of Papua New Guinea, the mythical surroundings of Solomon Islands, or the submerging existence of the Kiribati islands, opportunities are galore in this continent. With so much of pampering elements around, you will discover that Oceania has filled you with peace, delight and a wonderful sense of happiness.
As islands of Oceania are scattered all over the Pacific Ocean along the northern and southern edges of the Equator, it is difficult to determine the geographical features of the continent collectively. For convenience, the whole region has been categorised into separate subdivisions according to location and topographical features. In recent times the islands of this continent are recognised under two sections; Near Oceania and Remote Oceania. However, this version is till in nascent stages and for this reason, the older form of segregation remains popular. According to this, Oceania consists of the regions of Australia, Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia.
The territory of Australia under Oceania includes a large island of its namesake and an off shore territory of Norfolk Island in its jurisdiction. This section of Oceania along with the island nations of New Zealand and New Guinea is also often referred to as Australasia due its location to south of Asian continent. However, this term depicts a hazy geological implication and holds little value from political and cultural point of view. So, Australia is considered to be an integral part of Oceania and is also the most dominating entity of the whole continent. Spread over an area of 7,686,850 sq km (2,967,909 sq mi), Australia is an island nation and flaunts a vast coastline of total 25,760 km (16,007 mi). The topography of Australia provides the nation another global distinction as the flattest terrain with oldest and least arable soils. Most of the country landscape, specifically the western part, comprises of desert or semi-arid expanse. The coral collection of the Great Barrier Reef at northeast Australian coast is the largest one in the world. The climate of this region is basically dry in nature with less amount of rainfall in most of the country terrain. Politically, along with the adjacent island of Tasmania, Australia is addressed as the Commonwealth of Australia.
The next part of Oceania includes Micronesia, a widely scattered group of small islands over a large region of the western Pacific. Geographically, Micronesian islands are all part of the same volcanic zone. They are made up of the republics of Marshall Islands, Palau, Kiribati and Nauru the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). In addition, Micronesia also includes the territories of Guam, Saipan, the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as Wake Island. Among these, Palau is a selection of coral-reef islands and atolls strewn across the North Pacific Ocean. On the other side, the Federated States of Micronesia is an archipelago of four constituent island groups of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It is one of the wettest places on earth with a precipitation level of about 330 inches (8.4 m) per year.
The Melanesia region of Oceania includes the independent countries of East Timor, Fiji and Vanuatu, as well as the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia. This region extends from the western side of East Pacific to the Arafura Sea at north and north-east of Australia. In the Melanesian archipelago, Fiji is a conglomeration of 322 islands and 522 smaller islets and is made of volcanic disposition. Papua New Guinea is the only country in the continent of Oceania that possesses an international land boundary; with Indonesia in this case. Dense tropical rain forests and sugarcane plantation are the main vegetation of this region.
The Polynesia section of Oceania contains numerous island groups, including all of French Polynesia, New Zealand and the Samoa, Tonga, Marquesas, Society and Tokelau islands. In addition, the Cook Islands, Easter Island, Niue, the Pitcairn Islands, Tuvalu, and Wallis and Futuna islands are also part of Polynesia. These islands are spread over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. Among them, French Polynesia is a group of about 118 islands and experiences typical tropical weather conditions with high rainfall and humidity. Compared to this, the islands of New Zealand are much cooler with subtropical and Antarctic climatic conditions.
Beyond its varied topographical features, Oceania also possesses an ancient past deeply immersed in the ocean waters. For centuries, the islands of this continent have been visited by explorers from different European countries that encouraged maritime expeditions. However, settlement efforts began by eighteenth century only and not before they battled stiff opposition from the Aborigines or native inhabitants. The primal inhabitants of Oceania were those who arrived more than 40,000 years ago to this area from the neighbouring Southeast Asian regions. British, Spanish and Dutch forces invaded and colonised parts of Oceania in different periods of history. Today most of the islands of this continent are established as independent republics barring some dependencies and off shore territories of United Kingdom and France. Much of Oceania remains uninhabited due to sparse population count and remoteness of some islands.
Although the continent lags behind in human resource strength, the region is rich in natural resources and mineral contents like lead, zinc, nickel and gold. The main agricultural products of Oceania are copra or coconut, timber, beef, palm oil, cocoa, sugar and ginger. Fishing has also emerged as one of the mainstay of the economy here. Though most of the countries under this continent are still largely dependent on agriculture, nations like Australia, New Zealand and Fiji are gradually developing a strong manufacturing sector. Today, Australia is counted as a major player in the international market with an annual growth rate of the GDP at par with almost all the leading economies. On the other hand, recently, New Zealand ranked 19th on the 2005 Human Development Index and 15th of The Economist's 2005 worldwide quality-of-life index. Also, healthy amount of privatisation and a planned tax structure are gradually creeping in Oceania. However it is the tourism industry that has swept the continent as a major earner of foreign currencies.