The Republic of Vanuatu lies in the sparkling South Pacific Ocean. While it’s only a short flight from Australia and New Zealand, chances are, it’s a world away from wherever you are right now. Like a handful of shells cast upon 5000 square miles of pristine waters, this Melanesian archipelago remains relatively untouched by the waves of mass tourism.
This is a nation where traditional customs remain strong, …a place where the people live in harmony with the moods of the waters and the land.
In Vanuatu, the opportunity for adventure, and the chance to relax, await at every turn. This is a place that will challenge the way you think about happiness, and what it means to truly live in the moment. Most visitors to Vanuatu arrive at the nation’s capital, Port Vila, situated on the main island of Efate.
Vila, as it’s affectionately known, sits at the edge of a magnificent natural harbor filled with corals and sea life. Visiting yachts and inter-island traders bump and sway at anchor, evoking the romance of times gone by. While around the harbor, beaches, islands and resorts welcome weary 21st century travellers looking for a chance to reconnect with loved ones, and themselves. Like many South Pacific ports, Villa is wonderfully laid back and relaxed, so leave your designer gear at home, pull on some flip flops and slide into island time. Wander the markets filled with handicrafts and produce from across the archipelago.
For those fussy shoppers used to checking labels, relax, everything here is organic. Explore the beaches of Mele Bay, …and send a postcard home to loved-ones from the underwater mailbox at Hideaway Island. At sunset, enjoy the cool sea breezes and warm hospitality of your resort, or hang out with sailors, expats and locals at the bars and restaurants along the waterfront.
If you can drag yourself away from your deckchair, Vila is the perfect jumping off point for adventures all over the island, from sunset cruises, ..to kayak adventures, …forest walks, …to zip-lining.
Just a ten-minute drive from port Vila, and then a five-minute walk into the heart of Erakor Rainforest, is Ekasup Cultural Village. Here, proud villagers are waiting to share their centuries-old customs, crafts, music and stories with you.
For a day trip that many rate as the highlight of their Vanuatu adventure, take a 35 minute drive north from Port Vila, then climb aboard a boat to nearby Lelepa Island. Cool off in a pristine aquatic wonderland, …or simply glide over coral gardens in a traditional outrigger.
Enjoy a beach-side barbeque, then take a cultural tour across the island, learning about traditional bush medicine and soaking up the local smiles along the way. Before you leave however, quietly enter sacred Fels Cave, once part of the domain of Roy Mata, the great 13th century chieftain who united Vanuatu’s many tribes. Tiny Lelepa Island is just one of Vanuatu’s 80 islands.
The largest, is Espiritu Santo, just a 50-minute flight north from Vila. At the island’s sleepy capital Luganville, stock up on supplies at the markets, before venturing off to explore the natural wonders of Santo. Vanuatu is dotted with incredible blue holes, a geological phenomenon that results in pure waters of jewel-like quality. Take a dip in one of the best, at Matevulu, just a 30-minute drive from Luganville.
Follow the coast north though the coconut plantations and farms of Santo, to some of Vanuatu’s finest beaches. Stay a few nights in a bungalow at Lonnoc or neighboring Champagne Beach, and wake each morning to some of the whitest, footprint-free sands in the world. A little further north, hang out with local families and enjoy the idyllic waters of Port Olry. After exploring mainland Santo, explore the islands off its southern coast.
While away your days enjoying the pristine marine environment of Aore Island. On tiny Bokissa Island, let one of the locals massage out those 21st century knots. While on neighboring Ratua Island, why not stay right on the water and let the outgoing tide carry your stresses far out to sea. Two miles off the coast of Santo is Malo, an island of exceptional natural beauty.
Join a kayak tour and gently paddle up the pristine waters of the Malo River. Just as the river narrows and the forest closes in around you, it opens out again, revealing yet another of Vanuatu’s remarkable blue holes. After the islands of Efate and Santo have worked their soothing magic on you, get even further away from it all, on Tanna Island. Just a 45-minute flight south from Port Vila, Tanna is fringed with beaches ranging from pure white,…to black volcanic sands.
The island offers a range of accommodations too, from simple beachside bungalows, …to stunning eco resorts with all the mod cons. But away from the coast, time has stood still. Many of the hillside villages on Tanna remain largely unaffected by the trappings of the modern world, and that’s the way the locals prefer it. At Lowinio Village, the residents proudly share their way of life, which they call “kustom”. This isn’t just a show for tourists, here, the welcome and the smiles are among the warmest you’ll ever receive.
Tanna means Earth, and after kicking up the dust together, you’ll feel completely grounded too. You’ll certainly feel the earth shake on Mt. Yasur, one of the world’s most active and accessible volcanoes. In 1774, Captain James Cook changed course to Tanna after seeing the volcano’s far-off glow.
Cook attempted to climb the volcano, only to be turned back by locals who considered the mountain sacred. Today Mt. Yasur’s custodians invite visitors to stand on the caldera’s fiery rim to witness one of the greatest spectacles on the planet. As lava shoots into the evening sky, some tremble, most are awestruck, but all are humbled. In fact, you’ll feel humbled wherever you go in Vanuatu …by the incredible natural beauty, …by the richness of the culture, …but mostly, by its people.
In these islands, the true measure of wealth is how much a person can give away. After experiencing the warmth and generosity of Vanuatu’s people, it’s easy to feel that Vanuatu could be, one of richest places on earth.