The group of islands referred to as Melanesia lie to the north and east of Australia. They include Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, along with many other smaller islands. The scattered topography of Malanesia is home to an ancient cultural heritage and around 1,300 languages - although colonial influence (from countries including The Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan) has had a major impact on Malanesia, bringing Christianity and western culture to the islands. A geological region of severe volcanic and earthquake activity (the Andesite Line) separates Melanesia from Polynesia and Micronesia. The weather conditions are generally hot and tropical, cooling towards the highlands. Due to the effect of the northwest monsoon, a lot of rainfall is experienced between December and March.