During my school years, the geography lessons were one of my favourite classes, a good sign for the traveler to be that I am. At the time, Vanuatu sounded as a kind of poetic name, but it seems that the place is a good inspiration for day-dreamers, as I am.
Who are Vanuatu people?
The Y-shaped archipelago of Vanuatu is situated in the South West Pacific. Out of the 83 islands, the most important are: Espiritu Santo, Tanna, Malekula and Efate. The local population is Melanesian but are also called ni-Vanuatu. They speak Bismala, a local language mixing English and French. Besides, other 110 languages are spoken in different islands of the archipelago. The population is quite diverse, the islands hosting French, Australian, Chinese and Vietnamese communities. This diversity of languages and cultures recommends Vanuatu as one of the most friendliest places in the region. People that spent shorter or longer time there will always remember the smiles and friendly ‘hellos’ they were received with by the locals
What to do in Efate
The main destination of Efate is the capital city of Port Villa, where one can find a colourful mix of offices, restaurants, galleries and markets. You can book a tour of the city or decide to make a trip outside or even a cruise in the island. Everything is relatively easy to do as there is a high concentration of tour operators and guides ready to help.
A tour round the island will reveal a lot of great beaches, unique cultural experiences and a bigger picture of the village life. You don’t have to fear to take a tour by yourself on the care, taxi, or a bus.
In addition, one can do: horse ride, fish, swim, surf, bush walk, drive, kayak and cycle. Quite a lot of options, isn’t it? The main influences are French, English and Asian, with many local restaurants – from take-aways to classy restaurants – and resorts. The accommodation options are fit for a diversity of budgets and possibilities: there are several international standard hotels and resorts, idyllic island style place, camping, bungalows, but also opportunities for backpackers.
Underwater in Espiritu Santo
Divers from all over the world wish to go at least once here to experience the marine life and the famous shipwrecks – many situated only five minutes drive from Luganville, the capital of the island. Among them: the Million Dollar Point, Champagne Beach and the world famous SS President Coolidge, a 1930s luxury liner converted into a US troopship which lies in 20-70 meters of water. The island provides an important source of revenue for the economy of Vanuatu, thanks to the rich reserves of cocoa, coffee and coconut. Add to this also the quality of the cattle exported here.
A recommended guided tour here should include the Millenium Cave. As in the case of Efate, the accommodation offers a diversity of options for every budgets. The same goes for the dining temptations.
Volcano experiences in Tanno
The most populated island in the southern province, Tanna is hosting what is considered the world’s most accessible volcano, a ‘magical place to forget about the rest of the world’. The volcano on the island is situated on Mt. Yasur, where culture and mystery and customs are preparing an addictive cocktail for every traveler. The recommended option is to book overnight stops, preferably over 3 nights. The hiking to the top lasts around 20 minutes, and from the top one will witness an unforgettable sight.
The island is appreciated for the high quality of the production, with many kava, coffee, exotic fruits and vegetables growing on the island.
One can reach Tanna via flight from Port Villa. The accommodation options are diverse and the best advice is to ask the opinion of a representative of the tourism office in Port Vila.
Besides the volcano, other choices for spending your time in Tanna are: a visit at the Kastom Village with wild horses and white grass plains, a tour in an air taxi and a visit at a coffee plantation.
Dancing in Pentecost
This particular island is famous for the land-diving ritual, the original bungy jumping. The ritual, called in the local language Naghol, takes place on Saturdays in April, May and June. If for the tourists it looks as an interesting and funny ritual, for the locals it guarantees a plentiful yam harvest the following year.
The island is also known for the ritual dancing, the specific mat and basket weaving and the symbolic sand drawing.
Another volcanos in Ambrym
Ambrym is attractive mountain lovers and anyone interested in learning more and exploring the geography of volcanoes. The twin volcanoes of Mt. Marum and Mt. Benbow are both active but does not present a high danger for the visitors. The natural life is very rich, especially for those interested in the large turtles.
Dancing kastom in Malekula
Malekula is the second largest island in the archipelago, with a population of 20,000 people and over 30 different languages representing many cultural groups. The diversity is represented in the culture and dances, one of the most famous being the kastom, and the art – sand drawing, masks and puppet figures.