If you're into counting off countries, don't leave tiny Tokelau for last. This dot in the Pacific may well be gone, swallowed up by rising seas due to global warming, if you leave it too late.
Tokelau's name is Polynesian for north wind, and it's one of the most isolated places on earth. It takes 20 hours to sail there from its nearest neighbour, Samoa, and you can forget about flying - there's no airstrip. It's largely due to this remote factor that indigenous culture has been preserved on Tokelau to a far greater degree than elsewhere in the Pacific.
Each of Tokelau's three atolls - Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu - is a ribbon of tiny motu (islands) surrounding a lagoon. They're home to a small population of hardy souls who live an almost subsistence lifestyle in very crowded conditions.
Tokelau destination guides
How to choose a South Pacific island
The South Pacific confounds even the savviest map buffs with its splatter of dots spread across the world's biggest ocean. What you can't tell from a map, or even most tourist brochures is that these palm-laden pinpricks are as diverse as the region is vast.
South Pacific: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s South Pacific guide provides a selection of literature to get you in the mood for your trip. There are many excellent books that have been published about the Pacific.