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Vanuatu Country Guide
This travel guide provides an informative insight to plan your Vanuatu vacation. It will help you discover the history, the people, and the geography of the archipelago of Vanuatu in order for you to better plan an enjoyable, trouble free and safe holiday in the "Happy Isles of Oceanie". Vanuatu consists of 83 tropical islands; some with active volcanoes, and all rising high out of the deep South Pacific Ocean; Vanuatu is a land of vast geographical contrast and cultural diversity.
Often called the 'timeless islands', Vanuatu is a land that is never raced, never hurried - a gentle, peaceful place where the people and visitors alike can simply take the time to enjoy natures' blessed land.
Our Vanuatu Country Guide below will provide you with all you need about the best of amazing Vanuatu. If you are interested in City events, attractions and things to do, click on the Vanuatu Destination Guide and our local Vanuatu Tour Ideas. Let us guide you through our beautiful island paradise with our in-depth local knowledge. If you wish to find out more about Vanuatu's amazing and colourful history, go to 1,000 Years of Vanuatu History.
Check out the latest Vanuatu resort and hotel features in the world's largest image library on Vanuatu; see our extensive photo and video library; if you want to check the country's only real time International Flights Arrivals and Departures, or if you are more interested in statistics, check out our International Arrivals data.
From uncrowded surf at Pango Point in Port Vila, to trekking volcanoes on Tanna Island - Vanuatu travel deals are for young and old backpacking or soft adventure travellers; from anthropologists to film stars; Vanuatu welcomes all, with the spontaneous smile of the Pacific.
The capital (Port Vila), is a small cosmopolitan town, it lays claim to one of the most beautiful harbours in the South Pacific, with its array of dining experiences, duty free shopping and local markets. Port Vila is not representative of Vanuatu, it is in total contrast to the ancient tribal lifestyles found on all the other innumerable islands of the archipelago. Local tour operators will fill your days with interesting outings returning you to your Vanuatu accommodation be it a resort, or beachside bungalow, for that obligatory sunset cocktail or cold "Tusker" beer.
Our Vanuatu Destination Guide and Vanuatu Tour suggestions will tell you all you need to know about Vanuatu's best tourist attractions. Also, be sure to check out general Travel Information for your Vanuatu's Pacific Neighbours Fiji, Samoa, The Cooks, The Solomons, Tonga, and Australia.
If you have found this travel website useful, Bookmark us or link to us, so that others can benefit from your discovery (see our "links" page for details) and when you have experienced our personal service, why not let others know in the South Pacific's best traveller feedback website: Tripadvisor (when you're there, type www.vanuatu-hotels.vu and find out what other travellers are saying about us (you can also see a small sample of genuine write-ups from past clients in this site click here). You will discover why we are the Number One Travel Website to Vanuatu.
Vanuatu Country Guide
Useful information on this page includes:
Learn about and see Vanuatu's amazing history before you go.
This offer is exclusive to Vanuatu Hotels.
Discover Chief Roi Mata and his followers who were buried alive with him; the Lapita people - the first inhabitants of these islands; the world acclaimed indigenous art of Vanuatu; read the journals and see maps of navigators such as Cook, Quirós, and Bougainville that discovered this country; view never released to the public rare documents and maps from the national archives; the volcanoes and islands of the archipelago; the history of Sand Drawing; the 19th century colonisation and Blackbirding of the Vanuatu people and many more...
These DVD's are the creation of a team officially assisted by the National Museum and Cultural Centre of Vanuatu, and financially sponsored by the French Senate. Vanuatu Hotels contributed to the production.
Warning: please be aware there is nudity in the film.
Cost: AUD$35 plus registered postage.
Visa & Matercard accepted.
Simply contact us and we will email you the order form.
Packaging, Postage & Handling
Pacific Countries: 1 DVD - AUD$10; 2 DVD's - AUD$12
Asia, Nth & Sth America, The Caribbean: 1 DVD - AUD$12; 2 DVD's - AUD$17
Europe, Africa, Russia: 1 DVD - AUD$13 ; 2 DVD's - AUD$20
Package will be registered at the Port Vila Central Post Office.
Receipt of Post Office registration will be emailed to you for your records.
Also called Anatom. This is the most southern island in the archipelago. It is mountainous, with beautiful beaches and a magnificent coral reef. It is mostly known by travellers for its coral atoll island named Mystery Island. It is a 15 minute boat ride from the main village.
Aneityum was first discovered on the 16 April 1793 by French navigator D'Entrecastreaux. In 1844 James Paddon set up a trading station, selling Sandalwood and Kauri. By 1852 most of the forests were cut down. He then moved to another island called Erromango, with the Pacific's largest single sandalwood forest. Whalers would use Aneityum's sheltered harbour right up until the 1870s to melt whale blubber into oil in large metal pots (one of these pots can be found in the main street of Port Vila outside the National library) although locals prefer informing tourists the other version; "pot for cooking white people".
The Presbyterian missionary John Geddie arrived in 1848 and proceeded to convert more than three quarters of the population to follow the Christian faith. He built a large stone church capable of seating all of his flock. Wrecked by a Tsunami in 1875, the church remains, although most of today's villagers have no recollection who built it and why.
The main island is home to 84 species of orchids, the largest collection in Vanuatu. Aneityum's climate is even better than its northerly neighbour Tanna. Temperature ranges between 23°C to 30°C fromJanuary to March (wet season), and 16°C to 23°C the rest of the year with little rainfall.
The people are less traditional than other islands but are just as super friendly and are easy to communicate with.
Getting to Aneityum
Flight to Mystery Island by Air Vanuatu Domestic airline departs every Tuesday and Saturday from Port Vila via Tanna Island.
By going to Mystery Island you get to see quite a lot of the southern islands. Make sure you get a window seat on the left of the plane (facing forward) going down to Tanna Island in order to obtain the best views. After Tanna, sit on the right side for great views of Mystery Island.
You would need to bring as much of your own food and drinks as possible. Limited supplies are available from the shop at Anelcauhat Village on Aneityum Island.
There is a "restaurant" on Aneityum at Williams Guesthouse (telephone +(678) 68899) with fish, local vegetables and fruits; all very fresh and healthy. On Mystery Island, you're more on your own except for the help of Louise from Williams Guesthouse who will bring you supplies and also cook for you.
Other essentials to bring are a basic first aid kit, especially for coral cuts, bug bites and sunburn. Also insect repellent is highly recommended. You may not need any of this, but once there, it's too late for regrets.
You would most probably have the island to yourself as no-one lives there (folklore states that the people of Aneityum won't live there as they believe it's haunted by the spirits). It's your chance to be Robinson Crusoe! You can arrange with the boat owner to come and pick you up (400 to 500 vatu) whenever you want, to take you around the main island (around 10,000 vatu).
Aneityum and Mystery Islands are not the sort of places you plan an itinerary for. Here you wake up, have a swim, and decide your day over a char grilled lobster on the beach. Check out our growing selection of hotels in Aneityum, Vanuatu
Chief Roi Mata's Domain, World Heritage site in Vanuatu
Just half an hour's drive north of Port Vila lies the stunning tropical landscape of Chief Roi Mata's Domain. Featuring a string of perfect beaches, a breathtaking harbour, and spectacular views of the hat-shaped island of Artok, this area has provided the backdrop for three separate series of Survivor, the international reality television program.
In July 2008, Chief Roi Mata's Domain was formally registered as a World Heritage site. Until now, the Pacific has not been well represented on UNESCO's World Heritage List but, together with the early agricultural site of Kuk in Papua New Guinea, Chief Roi Mata's Domain is now the first cultural World Heritage site from independent Pacific Island States. These two sites join East Rennell, in the Solomon Islands, which is already inscribed for its outstanding natural values.
The World Heritage status of Chief Roi Mata's Domain - which recognises the outstanding cultural values of this landscape - draws attention to the profound significance of local history. Dig a little deeper and there is a rich cultural tradition to be found beneath the Survivor set of white sand beaches and stunning coral reefs.
But just who was Chief Roi Mata? The chiefly title of ‘Roi Mata' was probably held in succession over several centuries by a series of individuals. Many stories are told about different Roi Matas, but the most famous of them was the last holder of the title. This last Roi Mata is still revered throughout central Vanuatu for his exploits, and particularly for his part in bringing to an end a long period of major wars that had raged throughout the region. To do this, he held the first of the great peace feasts, at which he introduced a system of totemic clans, binding people together through maternal links.
As an old man, Roi Mata finally collapsed at a competitive feast on Lelepa Island and was carried up to nearby Fels Cave where he drew his last breath. The walls of this giant chamber cave are richly decorated in ancient engravings and red paintings, together with drawings in black charcoal that date to the period of the last Roi Mata. One of these drawings - a large figure of a man - is often identified as a portrait of Roi Mata himself.
Standing at the mouth of the giant chamber of Fels Cave, you look directly across to a small offshore island, the uninhabited island of Artok. In Roi Mata's time there was a small community living on Artok, but when the decision was taken to bury the great chief on this island, this community was relocated and granted land on the mainland of Efate. Roi Mata's body was taken from Fels Cave back to Mangaas, and then across to Artok. Some versions of the Roi Mata legend claim that his magic men parted the sea from Katou Point to Artok, allowing the funeral party to cross to the island by foot.
Once on Artok, they dug a deep pit, and placed the body of the chief lying on his back, his legs flexed open and his heels together. Between his legs they placed a small packet of bones - perhaps a favourite child who had died before him? On either side they lay the bodies of his closest confidantes, two men and a woman, probably drugged into a stupor. A young woman, bound hand and foot, was placed at his feet. But she, it seems, was still conscious. Then they filled the grave.
After a period of perhaps 100 days, a much larger group of people returned to the gravesite to perform the final death rites. Local traditions recounted in the 1930s tell of up to 300 people going voluntarily to their deaths to accompany Roi Mata on his final voyage to the land of the dead at Tukutuku Point on the Efate mainland. Their bodies were laid around the deep pit containing Roi Mata, many of them in couples, the man on his back and the woman lying on her side with an arm or leg laid over the man. Most if not all were still alive, though drugged, when the burial was covered over.
The final burial party feasted on pork - and possibly on human flesh - and then danced over the mass grave, stamping the soil flat. Slabs of stone were set upright above the heads of Roi Mata and other senior figures in the grave and then... silence. For four centuries Artok lay under a powerful tapu prohibition. Roi Mata's former residence at Mangaas was also abandoned. Fish teemed in the reefs, trees grew undisturbed to gigantic heights, and people's voices hushed to a whisper as they passed the island or the dark forest at Mangaas. No-one since has dared to assume the powerful title of Roi Mata.
Not until the 1960s, when expat Ernie Reid built a small traditional weekender bungalow near the burial site, did anyone try to sleep on the island. It was Ernie who guided French archaeologist, José Garanger, to the gravesite, which he excavated in 1967 together a crew of Lelepa islanders. Within a small area around the central tombstones they found the remains of more than 50 people arranged around a deep pit in which lay the central figure of a tall old man. All but two of the bodies lay with their feet pointing towards the land of the dead at Tukutuku. Feet and other skeletal remains sticking out from the side walls of the excavation point to still more bodies lying beyond the area opened up by Garanger's team. Early radiocarbon dates for the burial placed it in the 13th century, but recent re-dating of more reliable materials points to a date of about 1600 AD.
Chief Roi Mata's Domain - the area of northwest Efate and the islands of Lelepa and Artok that represented the Chief's immediate area of influence - was an obvious first choice for Vanuatu's nomination for World Heritage inscription. It is hoped that the inscription will assist the people of Lelepa and Mangaliliu villages to continue to preserve the sites of Mangaas, Fels Cave and Artok Island, with the support of Vanuatu's National Museum and Cultural Centre.
The World Heritage and Tourism Committee, a joint initiative between the people of Lelepa and Mangaliliu, has been appointed to oversee the ongoing management and protection of Chief Roi Mata's Domain. Community-based eco-cultural tourism is one way in which the committee hopes to generate revenue in order to assist with the overall preservation of the site, while also provide a modest income for the villagers who reside within the site's outer boundary.
The ‘Roi Mata Cultural Tour' begins with a short visit to the Vanuatu National Museum and Cultural Centre in the capital, Port Vila, where a ‘Roi Mata' feature display leaves you craving for more! From here you are whipped away to the Northwest of Efate to be left spellbound by the World Heritage property of Chief Roi Mata's Domain. Tours cater to your needs - so whether you're treating yourself to a short weekend escape to this tropical paradise, or planning on really discovering the heart of this truly captivating country, please, let ‘Roi Mata Cultural Tours' take you on an exclusive journey into Chief Roi Mata's Domain.
The welcoming people of the Lelepa region, represented by the World Heritage and Tourism Committee, are highly dedicated and committed to protecting this World Heritage site, and ensuring that the legend of ‘Chief Roi Mata' continues to instil an inspiring reverence in Vanuatu history and contemporary life.
Please Contact Roi Mata Tours for all bookings:
Malon Lore - +678 26949
Topie Warry - +678 5447025
Richard Matanik - +678 5440695
Colour Images by John Nicholls
Archeological images by Vanuatu National Museum and Cultural Centre
Source: Chris Ballard, Meredith Wilson and Adam Trau
With such a large north-south area, Vanuatu has all the tropical variances possible. From hot and humid in the north, to mild and dry in the south. The Capital Port Vila on Efate can expect 27°C in July to 30°C in January. Nights can drop to 12°C. Humidity from December to February is around 82% and 70% around July.
Rainfall from January to April is around 300mm per month - for the rest of the year around 200mm per month. The Banks Islands in the top North can receive above 4,000mm of rain in a year, yet the southern islands may receive less than 2,000mm.
Cyclones are a natural phenomena to understand and respect. Mainstream tourism facilities are solidly built and experienced in cyclone management. Cyclones appear (in varying degrees with plenty of warning) on an average every year from December to March. By following instructions given by the local authorities, you will be in no danger.
Tourism peaks in the months of July to December. The months of January to June are the quietest. Experienced travellers take advantage of these tourism troughs to travel, as airlines, accommodation providers and other tourism related businesses discount heavily during this period.
The months of January to June are a little more humid, but cooled by the occasional tropical down pour, all part of the experience! You will also witness the explosion of flora and waterways. The added bonus is that in this period, tourism numbers are low. You have more opportunities to mingle with locals and carelessly do your own thing instead of being rushed by the crowd.
Click on our Weather link to view the current conditions in Vanuatu, then select the region you wish to view.
Revealing and sexy clothing (especially wearing beach wear in the capital) is not advisable, as over 100 years of missionary work has had its effect on the perception of what is considered as respectable attire in the islands. Regardless, it's considered disrespectful to the local people and can be interpreted by some indigenous inhabitants as an invitation for sex.
As Vanuatu is not a ‘fashion conscious' place no-one will notice or care if you were wearing the latest from 'the Paris Collection' or not. We do suggest that you bring all year round: Easy to hand wash, practical tropical wardrobe such as light cotton summer clothes; a ‘sloppy joe' pullover; light weight waterproof wind jacket. If planning to go to the outer islands, bring a good torch (with spare batteries, you will use them!), lightweight, walking shoes, sandals for wet weather or good thongs (flip flops/croks) and old clothes.
See more information in our Travel Tips on this page.
Our Win Win Tip: When exploring the outer islands take all the older clothes you can carry, wear them and give them away to the islanders when you are finished wearing them. You and your children will be aptly rewarded in other ways. Instead of dumping your worn clothes in a charity collection bin at your local shopping centre and never knowing who really receives these (if they ever do...), your children will interact with the very people who would be the recipients of those clothes (most NiVanuatu people buy these second hand clothes from shops in Port Vila).
Many of our past clients have commented on how their previously "self indulgent kids" were quite different after their "giving" experience in Vanuatu. Sharing and giving is a natural course of daily life in Vanuatu. The T-shirt you give to one person will be worn by all his friends as well. Three T-shirts on top of each other will be their winter outfit.... You will provide them things that are hard for them to obtain, save them the expense of buying clothes (basic wages are quite low in Vanuatu) and you will depart with priceless memories, plus have more in your luggage for purchased local arts and crafts.
The international country code for Vanuatu is +678. To dial overseas from within Vanuatu dial 00 followed by the relevant country code and phone number.
Emergency phone numbers in Vanuatu are: Ambulance (22-100); Fire (22-333); and Police (22-222).
International Roaming from New Zealand and Australia is available. Telecom Vanuatu has a package called ‘Smile Visitor' which consists of a sim card with a pre-purchased credit. This can be purchased at the Vanuatu Telecom Office in town.
Telephone: +(678) 081111
Or with the new player's Digicel, giving Telecom some overdue competition.
Digicel have made themselves very visible, and can be found everywhere. They have a bunch of different cheap plans for you.
Telephone cards in Vanuatu are available from the Vanuatu Standby Accommodation, Travel and Information booth, on your arrival before proceeding to customs, or hotel receptions and most general stores.
Internet cafes can be found in Luganville & Port-Vila. You may also find that some post offices will also provide some kind of Internet facilities, and can be found on the main streets in Port-Vila and Luganville as well as on Espiritu Santo. Postal services to mainland Europe can take up to 7 days.
Communicating With NiVanuatu people:
*Don't expect your western "sensible barriers" to be understood by NiVanuatu people as they may not know where you meant them to stop: I asked my gardener to do what was necessary to get the lawn mower working.....thinking he would bring me the spark plug to be exchanged, he brought me the piston. Since he did not know how to rebuild the machine, he walked away never to be seen again....!
*Don't provide tools or machinery to people unless they have a practical knowledge of them...a NiVanuatu man nearly killed himself from exhaustion after spending days trying to cut down trees with a chainsaw...He found this tool most inefficient, it was heavier and builkier, in addition to being much slower than his bush knife and could not see why the white man had told hime to use this tool?.....the white man had forgotten to show him how to turn it on!
*In Vanuatu, the display of anger, displeasure or irritability at a person or situation will reduce the recipient to a stony silence with a lack of co-operation or empathy to your point of view. Please be patient as it is a waste of time complaining. It will have no bearing on the outcome.
*If you are verbally abusive, you will generate one of two answers: The first could be smiling or subdued laughter..no it is not out of arrogance, quite the contrary, it's out of desperation as the person has no mechanism to handle verbal aggression, they will be as friendly as possible and hope the reason for their temporary discomfort disappears. The alternative response will be discernibly different: you might get a fist in your face. Thankfully, the former response is the most common, although the second would often be the more appropriate.
*Don't ask a question with the answer built into it. Local will always agree in order not to contradict you. "Is this the road to X..? will generate a Yes; try: "Where is the road to X..?" you might get a different answer.
*Don't always expect other nationalities to place as important value on accuracy as you do. Ask a villager the distance to a particular place, and the answer may be 5km. Yet the reality may be 15km. Why the difference?...simple: he has not got a clue how long a kilometre is?..or if he does, he does not relate to it as being of much importance (after all, time has a very different value to him than you, being "on time" is a foreign Western concept...). Anyway, don't you know that we don't measure distances by distance, but by time around here?
"How long it takes to get there?" would be a better question...however, refer to the previous point for instructions.
*Be aware that in the islands, direct eye or raised voice level contact may be interpreted as intimidation. A local person's voice level combined with body language may be directly opposite to Europeans. He or she may nod agreement with everything you say in order not to offend you but may not have understood a word you have said!
*If you're in a bus and people on the footpath are turning their backs to you, don't be offended, it has nothing to do with you..they're simply letting the driver know that they don't require him to stop. In case you have not noticed, there are not many bus stops in Vanuatu, those that exist don't get much use.
*If you see men or women holding hands, it's not what you think. Men hold hands with other men, or women with women, because there is no sexual connotation attached to it, however, you will very rarely see a man holding a woman's hand in public..this would be considered as a public exhibition of sexual relations.
The Vanuatu currency is called the vatu (VT) all major foreign currencies are exchangeable in Vanuatu for Vatu. As a general rule, add 30% to the vatu for an approximate equivalent in AUD$ or NZ$ i.e., 1,000 vatu = $13.00.
Check today's the Australian dollar Exchange Rate from OANDA.com, The Currency Site.
Caution: These exchange rates are a reference guide only.
Actual rates in-country will be slightly higher or lower.
There is a 12.5% Vat tax (goods & services) on everything except on goods sold at the markets in Port Vila or the outer island cash economy.
ANZ, Westpac and the new Bred Bank are the major banks and have foreign exchange services but no one beats "Goodies" for rates. Plus, they are local! Goodies have two offices in Port Vila. Myth: The US and Australian Dollar can be used as everyday currency in Vanuatu. That's Nuts! You will lose heavily. Have it changed into Vatu at Goodies. You will obtain a better exchange rate in Vanuatu than from your country of origin, plus you're assisting the local economy.
Tipping in Vanuatu: It is not expected nor the custom to tip in Vanuatu, and only encourages a "master-servant" relationship. However gifts are very appreciated and the exchange of gifts for services rendered fits well into the local traditions (western governments have a hard time coming to terms with this practice as it is interpreted as bribery and corruption. But in the Melanesian culture, this practice is a normal way to do business...well the White Man introduced that "Cash" stuff).
A bag of rice to a village chief may be received with gratitude and dignity, but to offer triple the value in cash may be regarded as patronising, plus it will artificially inflate the price for the next traveller; set wrong expectation, and rapidly destroy the genuine spontaneous friendship so easily given to you.
A nice gesture is to give phone cards or a T-shirt, or school pads, pens etc., for the children. Plenty of kids here! We naturally don't recommend lollies and the like as it only encourages junk food dependency plus giving cash to local men may often be spent at the Kava bar and of no benefit to his family. If you have to give cash, ensure it is given to women, preferably mothers who generally control the family budget. The introduction of Poker machines has certainly not helped the situation considering these places are for the most part frequented by local people (mostly men) who can ill afford to waste their small wages in this way.
Investment in Vanuatu: Vanuatu is known for its tax-free status. There are no taxes on income, capital gains and death duties or exchange controls. There are many opportunities to invest in areas of fisheries, agriculture, forestry and tourism. The Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA) was set up to assist foreign investment.
For details, contact : VIPA, Level 1, Laguna Building, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Telephone +(678) 24096 or 24441, fax +(678) 25216; Email: email@example.com.
However, there is a 12.5% VAT Tax on all goods and services plus varied (some can be surprisingly high, so potential investors be weary!) duties on importing goods.
We have assisted numerous investors (Tourism only) over the years, please contact John Nicholls on firstname.lastname@example.org should you be wanting to set up a tourism project.
Paying by Credit Card: Be Aware; some accommodation providers and tour/activities operators pass on the credit card bank fees which can be up to 5% of your bill. In order not to pay this, it is best to travel with cash.
All accommodation and tours transactions via Vanuatu Hotels are free of credit card fees - we incorporate them in our rate...it's worth comparing: if booking direct with a hotel, resort or tour operator, please check if the rate quoted includes the credit card fee and VAT of 12.5% as some do not.
DIYH....Do It Yourself Holidays
Thousands of Independent Travellers to Vanuatu do it every year and save big time!
Simple! The more you do yourself, the more you save. Ready?
It's childs play, just follow these 4 easy steps:
1. Book your international flights at http://www.bestflights.com.au/cheap-flights
(Read through the Country Guide for further trip planning tips)
2. Book your domestic flights (if required) with http://www.airvanuatu.com/home
(Note: if flying international with Qantas or Air Vanuatu, you are entitled to 20% discount on all domestic airfares)
This website's 'Useful Links' section has a comprehensive range of ecotourism informative sites that you may be interested in. Also, check out our hand-picked selection of responsible Vanuatu accommodations that respoect these principles:
Shell Collecting: The collecting of dead shells on the beach is a favourite leisure activity on holidays in the tropics. Please look inside the shell in order not to be taking a hermit or young coconut crab home.
We strongly discourage live shell collecting or the purchase of shells from the local population, as it will only encourage the destruction of the reef. You could be fined on your arrival home as some shells are on the endangered list.
Vanuatu runs off a 220-280 volts, 50 Hz AC system, using 3-point plugs. Most electrical goods shops in Vila and Luganville in Santo sell adaptors that are compatible with foreign designs.
To view a list of Vanuatu embassy locations around the world, as well as foreign embassies within Vanuatu, click on this link to EmbassyWorld.com.
A haven for the traveller seeking natural beauty and simplicity. Less than a half hour from Port Vila, Epi Island is the place to escape the commercial tourism of Port Vila and reconnect with mother nature in an unspoilt tropical paradise. Flying to Epi Island, sit on the forward right side of the plane.
Apart from being one of Vanuatu's smallest inhabited islands measuring 43Km from end to end and 18Km wide (444km2) it provides a maze of coral channels, tunnels and caves; a cacophony of colourful marine life from every nook and cranny.
Towering forests of orange trunk coconut trees. Smiling villagers (population 4,800) on their way to leisurely soccer games on the grass airstrip, which also doubles as cow paddocks; or others' riding horses bareback along the pristine beaches to a game of beach volleyball.
The landscape is of rugged mountains dropping dramatically into a nature strip of lush tropical coastline, palm-fringed secluded beaches sheltering their sparkling waters and abundant marine life.
Epi has two submarine volcanoes and small neighbouring islands, Tongoa and Emae, with seven even smaller ones. Volcanic peaks rising from the ocean with dense vegetation and black sand beaches. Air flying in this area is frighteningly beautiful.
To truly experience Epi, we suggest a few days in Lamen Bay at Paradise Sunset Bungalows and a few days at Epi Guesthouse.
The volcanic explosion in Vanuatu in 1453 that split one island into the two smaller ones of Epi and Tongoa was one of the biggest eruptions in the history of mankind, equivalent to 2 million atomic bombs going off at once!
Tongoa and Epi islands once formed part of a larger island called Kuwae which was approximately 75kms long and 15kms wide. Local folklore tells of a cataclysmic eruption that destroyed this island, leaving the two smaller islands and Tongariki. The powerful eruption broke a big island in half, created a submerged crater nearly a kilometre (about half a mile) deep, and interrupted a great battle raging half a world away - the siege and fall of Constantinople. Two gigantic jets of highly pressurised magma, each perhaps two kilometres in diameter blew Kuwae island apart according to scientists.
Using clues as diverse as growth rings visible in the wood frames of British portraits and crop records from China, scientists fixed the year of 1453 as when the legendary volcanic explosion must have taken place. This colossal eruption is said to have been one of the largest in the last 10,000 years and blew about 40 cubic kilometres (10 cubic miles) of rock, earth, magma and dust which was hurled into the atmosphere and surrounding sea at a velocity of around 300 kilometres an hour. The volcanic dust circled the globe, shutting out sunlight in the Southern hemisphere and later in the Northern hemisphere. The Polar ice caps show evidence that dust continued to fall over three years after the explosion.
Such an eruption, equivalent to two million Hiroshima-type atomic bombs, would have changed the world's climate and would have been heard in Australia and other Pacific islands. Oak panels of contemporary British portraits had abnormally narrow rings in 1453-55. In Sweden, corn tithes fell to zero as the crops failed; western US bristle-cone pines show frost damage in 1453; and the growth of European and Chinese trees was stunted in 1453-57. According to the history of the Ming Dynasty in China in the spring of 1453, Non stop snow damaged wheat crops. Late that year, as the dust obscured the sunlight, several feet of snow fell in six provinces: tens of thousands of people froze to death". Early in 1454, "it snowed for 40 days south of the Yangtze River and countless died of cold and famine. Lakes and rivers were frozen, and the Yellow Sea was ice-bound out to 20 kilometres (13 miles) from shore. "The climatic change as a result of the volcanic eruption in what is now Vanuatu was probably global," said scientists in 1994.
The eruption occurred just before the siege of Constantinople in Europe, the last bastion of the once-mighty Byzantine Empire. The Ottoman Tarks, led by Sultan Muhammad II, laid siege to the city on April 5, 1453, and conquered it on May 29 of that year. Mention of the volcano's after effects are read in chronicles of the city's last days. Historians noted.
On the night of May 22, 1453, the moon, symbol of Constantinople, rose in dark eclipse, fulfiling a prophecy on the city's demise, four days later, the whole city was blotted out by a thick fog, a condition unknown in that part of the world in May. When the fog lifted that evening, "flames engulfed the dome of the Agia Sophia (Church of Santa Sophia), and lights, too, could be seen from the walls, glimmering in the distant countryside far behind the Turkish camp (to the west), "historians noted.
Residents of the city thought the strange light was due to reflection from a fire set by the Turkish attackers. Such a fire was an optical illusion due to the reflection of intensely red twilight glow by clouds of volcanic ash high in the atmosphere. The residual volcanic cloud could have made the apocalyptic June 1456 apparition of Halley's Comet look "red" with a "golden" tail, as reported by contemporary astronomers.
Archaeologists of the Vanuatu National Museum during excavations in Mangaas N. Efate in August 1996 with help from the South Pacific Cultures Fund of the Australian Government, the Australian National University in Canberra and the Sasakawa Foundation of Japan. They discovered a thick layer of volcanic ash dating from the 15th century and evidence of a large tidal wave that had occurred before the ash had fallen.
It is believed that before the massive explosion, the old island of Kuwae had a volcano caldera formation as high as 3,600 feet 1,100m). The active volcano was spewing out lava over months or years before the caldera collapsed and the ground cracked alllowing sea water into direct contact with the hot magma chamber which produced a cataclysmic reaction felt around the world. Land areas around Kuwae would have been scorched to 300 degrees. Everything would have been red volcanic earth according to Monzier in 1994.
A large area of surrounding sea would have been heavy with floating pumice and ash. The dust pall would have reddened the sky and by reflection the sea for at least three years.
Kuwae (also called Karua) nowadays is an underwater volcano with a summit caldera. Kuwae has erupted at least 12 times since 1452 with the most recent eruption in 1974.
Epi islanders numbered over 7,000 in the 1860's by the 1930's numbers plummeted to 1,000 due to black-birding; the half slavery half duping of natives to Australian Queensland sugar cane properties, and diseases brought by European settlers and missionaries. Many settlers tried their hand at cotton growing, only to end up growing coconuts. The settlers have all disappeared but the coconuts have proliferated.
Epi people are extremely friendly and generous. Laughing seems to be contagious in this island! There is a strong sense of community and work ethics. Fishing, gardening, cattle grazing, poultry and pig rearing still leaves plenty of time for fooling around or simply talking to travellers.
Santo is the common name for the island although its correct name is Espiritu Santo, Spanish for ‘Holy Spirit' named by its first discoverer, the Spanish explorer Quiros in 1606. Bougainville, the French explorer came in 1768 followed by James Cook in 1774.
Santo remained inactive until sandalwood became a trading commodity in 1853. Gold was found in 1955 further enticing foreign interest. The traders would load their ships with pigs as an exchange for sandalwood.
World War II changed Santo forever. The United States troops numbering up to 50,000 came with an enormous array of equipment. Goods the locals had never seen or imagined existed. The harbour would moor over 100 ships at any one time. Over 40 cinemas, four military hospitals, and five airfields were built. It is Vanuatu's largest island, 116 kms long, 4kms wide and the centre of beef grazing for Vanuatu.
Santo boasts the Country's northern Capital, Luganville. It is the nation's second largest city with a population of 8,000. Distinctive with WWII Quonset sheds (oval roofed corrugated metal sheds built by the US Army throughout the Pacific) scattered about in the city; some are still in use by local business.
Boris, Icon of Espiritu Santo Island
Found around the Indo-Pacific region (except the Persian Gulf), this enormous fish can grow up to 2.7 metres (9 feet) in length and weigh almost 400kg (880lb). It is the largest and most widely distributed among all groupers although it is considered rare and the population is dificult to determine.
The Giant Grouper is also the largest reef-dwelling bony fish. It tends to be solitary and is found around coral reef systems in depths from 5-90 metres (15-300ft). Large individuals are rare and usually have a wreck, ledge or cave that they frequent. They feed on a variety of marine life, including small sharks, young sea turtles, fish, octopus, spiny lobsters and crustaceans. All food is swallowed whole.
Easy to recognise, the Giant Grouper has a large mouth and lips and a rounded tail. Adults have a yellow-green-grey to grey-brown blotched colouring with faint mottling and numerous small black spots on the fins. Juveniles have irregular black and yellow markings.
The smaller-sized Giant Groupers are a popular food item around the world. In Asia, the species is also considered to confer good luck and possess medicinal value. The popularity has resulted in declining numbers and the species is listed as 'vulnerable' in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List of threatened animals. This means that the population is thought to be declining at a rate of 20% in ten years.
Vanuatu's most famous grouper was 'Boris' who frequented the famous S.S. President Coolidge wreck in Santo. Allan Power, the 'guardian of the wreck', first met Boris in 1969 when he began his dive tours and began feeding him in the mid '70s. He was 2.5M in length and weighed 200kg and waited every day to be fed. He would leave in September and return in January. In 2003 he departed earlier than usual never to return.
Getting to Santo
As for all islands in Vanuatu, it is best to fly as shipping is for the most part a hit and miss exercise and if you do manage to catch a ship, you will be sitting on deck with the cargo for the long journey.
Air Vanuatu Domestic airline, fly to Santo twice a day. Departing Port Vila daily at 7am and 4:30pm. The flight takes 55 minutes except on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday where the plane stops at other islands on the way (this is a great way to see more of the country if you can manage it - don't forget to get a window seat. Sit on the forward right of the plane). The airport is 6 kms from town.
From Santo you can fly to Ambae, Ambrym, Epi, Maewo, Malekula, Paama, Pentecost and the Banks and Torres Islands or the other side of the island of Santo to Lajmoli airfield.
Santo roads are not bad in comparison to other islands. Taxis are numerous. A taxi from the airport to town will cost 500 vatu and a bus 200 vatu. Around town, the fare is 100 vatu. 4WD open back utility taxi trucks operate around town and can take you into the country but negotiate your fare before you leave! Before 7am and after 6pm you will find it harder to find a taxi or bus. If you're walking around Santo at night, we suggest you carry a flashlight as the sidewalks have gapping holes. Some say a giant crocodile lives in the underground drainage tunnels and people who have fallen in have never been seen again! Not sure about the croc, but we have seen large mure eels.
A car can be hired from Mary Jane, owner and operator of Hotel Santo - phone +(678) 36250 or from Santo 4WD Rentals - phone +(678) 37759 or 44259 whose office is close to the National Bank.
Highlights of Santo
There really is something for everyone in Santo. Whether you would like to visit a traditional custom village, trek through beautiful rainforests, wade through caves and admire cascading waterfalls, canoe in crystal clear waters, take a refreshing dip in one of the famous Blue holes, be enthralled by World War II history and relics, or just relax on a picturesque beach.
Luganville - Markets
Open everyday, here you will be meeting villagers from all over the island selling their produce. The markets are a little run down, but fascinating and a hive of activity.
Million Dollar Point
When WWII ended, the Americans offered to sell all their surplus war material to the locals, expatriate population and the government at 10% of the current value. The people thought that the US Army could not take back all this equipment and waited to obtain it for free. One day, the Americans, not to be out smarted took everything and bulldozed it all into the sea including the bulldozer. It now rests as a testimony to the irrationality of men. Hundreds of tonnes of coral encrusted metal are at snorkelling depth.
A Pacific paradise beach little further past Lonnoc Beach. Entry fee to the two ‘kastom' land owners is 500 vatu each - they both are claiming the beach is theirs and to this day have not resolved the issue. However, the beach is worth it, bring your own lunch!
The SS President Coolidge
Known as the "wreckie divers" mecca. This giant 1930's luxury liner was transformed into a troop carrier during WWII. Capable of carrying 5,000 men. The sinking of the Coolidge makes fascinating reading ("The Lady & the President: The life and loss of the SS President Coolidge", by Peter Stone; see introduction and overview by special permission of Mr. Stone). In short, the ship hit two ‘friendly' mines whilst entering the harbour and in less than 2 hours, and sank.
The captain ran the ship into the reef, due to his quick action, managed to save all aboard except for 2 crew members trapped in the ship. To see this enormous ship one has to plan at least 4 to 5 deep dives.
Vil Vil Custom Village Tour
Visit a traditional Custom Village. Immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of the local Ni-Vanuatu people.
Your tour begins with a lazy drive through Santo's rugged countryside, where you will see and experience the many uses of native flora; be sent back in time as you explore wreckage from World War II and take a look at local cattle and coconut plantations - the backbone of the Ni-Vanuatu economy.
Once you arrive at Vil Vil Custom Village you will be welcomed by Chief Pulakon and his community with traditional song and dance passed down from generation to generation. Get caught up in the tribal atmosphere with the hypnotic banging of the tam tams and harmonic voices of these proud people.
All men, women and pikininis (children) have their place and role within the village. As you are taken through the different areas of the village, you will learn how imperative each role is to the success and survival of the village.
The Vil Vil Village people are proud to share their heritage with you, and it is their simplistic lifestyle and inherent happiness that makes this tour so rewarding.
Millennium Cave Tour
Not for the faint hearted, this full day tour involves a lengthy bush walk and requires some degree of fitness. Definitely worth the effort, you will be amazed at the stunning scenery. Your guide will lead you through narrow jungle paths, across creeks and cascades and over bamboo bridges to reach the Millennium Cave. This massive cave stretches 20m across and some 50m high. A bamboo ladder will take you from the mouth of the cave down to a crystal clear pool fed by a small cascade. From here you will journey through a magical realm of sparkling stalactites and stalagmites, with freshwater pools and thousands of tiny bats and swallows, their homes made high up in the roof of the cave. Once you've made your way through the cave to the riverside, it's time for a light lunch before you float down the fresh water river towards home. Whilst floating down the shallow quick-flowing river, take in the breathtaking scenery with its thermal falls' and towering rock faces. You can't get any closer with nature than this! The tour finishes with a walk back up to the village where the tour started and a bus trip back to your hotel.
Riri Riri River Canoe Trip
This half-day tour is a relaxing way to experience one of Santo's famous blue holes. A 30-minute bus trip from your hotel will take you to the mouth of the Riri Riri River. Your guide will paddle a local `dugout' canoe, whilst you sit back and enjoy the beautiful tropical scenery. Look out for freshwater prawns and fish, electric blue dragon flies, and remnants of an old bridge built by the Americans during World War II. As the river water becomes bluer, you'll know you're not far away from The Matavulu Blue Hole, a huge freshwater pool of iridescent blue, unique in its colour from the effect of limestone combining with freshwater. The clarity is amazing! Cool off with a refreshing swim - bring your mask and snorkel for a closer look below.
After your swim, canoe back down the river, where an awaiting bus will return you to your hotel/resort in time for lunch.
Pekoa Bay Beach Chill Out
For those just wanting a relaxing day on the beach. Just a 30-minute drive from Luganville Township to this beautiful beach setting. A picturesque bay with aquamarine waters, Pekoa Bay is the perfect place to swim and sunbake. Don't be surprised if you have the beach all to yourselves!
Golden Beach & Blue Hole Tour
Enjoy a relaxing day at beautiful Golden beach. En route to Port Orly, this beach makes a lovely picnic and swimming spot with crystal clear waters and fine powder white sand you won't want to leave. Make sure you give yourself enough time to stop off at the Blue Hole for a refreshing swim on the way home. You will be amazed at the colour and clarity of this freshwater natural swimming pool!
World War II History Tour
Santo was home to 100,000 military personnel during the Second World War, and boasted five airfields, four hospitals and many services for the armed forces that were based here. Your scenic drive will take you to Million Dollar Point. This historic point is now an excellent spot for divers & snorkellers with everything from bulldozers and trucks to ammunition and Coke bottles. History buffs will enjoy stories about Santo during the war and visit the remnants literally scattered around the island.
Santo's Famous Sights
Especially designed for those wanting a see it all, half-day tour. Designed to give a comprehensive understanding of Santo's major historical landmarks, during the tour you will visit the old French jail; the WWII petrol boat base; Million Dollar Point; see Quonset huts and an old French Church circa 1890. The tour stops at Fanafo Custom Village where you will see Jimmy Stevens' burial site (a rebel stronghold during the days of independence). Drop in to a refreshing Blue Hole and stop by the house where James A. Michener wrote `Tales of The South Pacific' when stationed in Santo during the war. A great introduction to Santo.
Vatthe Conservation Area
Vatthe Conservation Area is the largest conservation area in Vanuatu. Its 2300 hectares begin at the end of Big Bay, metres from the beach and include the mouth of the Jordon River and lowland forest. The Jordon River flows down from Vanuatu's highest mountain, Mt Tabwemasana. An absolute must for nature lovers! A range of walks available, where you can see a wide variety of indigenous trees, ferns and vines, with over 85% of Vanuatu's bird life. Learn about the many uses of the plants and trees, both for medicinal use and construction.
Check out our growing selection of hotels and resorts in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
Locally made fishing tackle. Port Vila is the home of Demon Jigs and Lures. This highly sought after range of fishing tackle is made in Vanuatu and exported around the globe. See: http://www.demonjigs.com/ and visit their factory. Ph: +678 54445 (ask for Steve.) Items include lead head jigs, assist hooks for jigs, bullet proof wahoo/mackerel/dogtooth tuna lures, arrow squid soft baits, tuna feather lures, glow in the dark poulet rigs especially made for Pacific waters and their unique hand carved fish bats.
Laplap is the country's national dish, made by pounding taro or yam roots into a paste. The mixture is placed on taro or spinach leaves and soaked in grated coconut mixed with water. Pieces of pork, beef, chicken, fish or flying fox are added, and the mixture is tied up in leaves from the laplap plant (heliconia leaves). The small packages are then cooked in an underground oven of hot rocks. You can sample fragrant laplap slabs at the markets for about 150 vatu.
Other island dishes include tuluk, a pork-filled package prepared and cooked in the same way as laplap, and nalot, a vegetable dish made from boiled or roasted taro, banana or breadfruit mixed with grated coconut and water. Not the most appetising looking dish and a little ‘starchy' for most European palates but worth the experience. For a refreshing drink, try fresh coconut juice, nature's nectar.
For a comprehensive and updated report on food in Vanuatu (with local food recipes) see what our food critic Leanne has to say on: Food and Cuisine in Vanuatu guide.
Get the inside word on restaurants in Vanuatu from our restaurant guide reviews.
Population - 217,746 people (from the Vanuatu Statistics Bureau 2005)
Total Area - 12,200 square kilometres
Capital - Port-Vila, on the island of Efate (30,000 people)
Time Zone - GMT +11 hours (1 hour ahead of Australian Eastern Standard time)
To view the current time in Port Vila, click on this link to TimeAndDate.com.
Vanuatu lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" the active volcanic zone around the rim of the Pacific tectonic plate. Most of Vanuatu's islands are the result of volcanic activity in the very recent past, a mere few million years ago which is young geologically speaking. There are some exceptional examples of volcanoes throughout the group, with five active volcanoes visible and several more in the sea. Each volcano has a character of its own, presenting a unique opportunity to witness Nature's unbridled power.
For more information on the islands, please search under the island's name.
Yasur is known as the most accessible active volcano in the world and is continuously active with frequent powerful explosions and emissions of ash. For most of the time, activity is confined within the deep crater, but on occasions, the volcano enters a more active phase and violent explosions throw up spectacular showers of lava. An interesting ash plain, mostly to the north west of the volcano, surrounded a lake that was created about 670 years ago as a result of land movement from an eruption. In 2000, the lake broke its banks and is now dry except during the monsoonal rains where a river is created cutting its path to the ocean via the John Frum Village.
Marum and Benbow, Ambrym
Marum and Benbow are separate vents within the twelve kilometre wide caldera on the island of Ambrym. These vents are also accessible, but only by a trek lasting several hours. Lakes of lava fill both craters and continuous gas emissions cause the lava to bubble constantly and throw spectacular showers of incandescent magma high in the air.
Mount Garet, Gaua Island
Mount Garet is situated in the large crater lake in which giant eels are found. Volcanic activity raises the temperature in some parts of the lake close to boiling point, though around the edges of the lake the water is cool enough for a refreshing swim.
Lopevi, Lopevi Island
Lopevi is a volcanic cone that rises dramatically out of the sea to a height of 1,400 metres. The volcano has shown little activity during the past ten years and is one of the rare volcanoes of the archipelago not to have a crater.
Lombenben volcano is enormous, rising 4,000 metres from the sea bed, 1,500 metres of which is above the sea and in its entirety is the largest volcano in Vanuatu. The volcano is now in a semi active phase, but an evacuation of part of the island in 1995 was implemented when the volcano started rumbling and threatened to erupt. There are two crater lakes, Manaro Voui, or Lake of the Spirits, and Manaro Lakua.
You will need passports and witnesses to prove your identity (each party requires a witness). Application forms from the local authorities lodged three weeks before the wedding date. Both parties need to be in Vanuatu three days prior to the wedding date. You can do it all yourself (if so, allow two months) or use the services of experts such as Connie Wells. She will co-ordinate all aspects of your wedding; and can offer you a range of exotic locations and Vanuatu resorts.
Connies Weddings & Photography
Telephone: +(678) 27830
For pure wedding photography, you have the professional services of Michael McLennan. Telephone: +(678) 45644 or +(678) 26939
Tropical Island Weddings...Vow Renewals...and Special Events
Tel: +(678) 25800
Fax: +(678) 25984
See images of Weddings in Vanuatu in our Photo Library
In order to continue developing the country's tourism industry and create further opportunities for sustainable livelihoods for its people, the Vanuatu Tourism Office in conjunction with the Vanuatu Hotels and Resorts Association and the Vanuatu Tour Operators Association have created a "Tourism Marketing Development Fund".
The Tourism Marketing Development Fund is supported by Vanuatu Hotels and member associations, including hotels, duty free stores, tour operators and the finance sector.
A Levy of AUD$1.20 (100 vatu) per room night for all arrivals since the 1st April 2008 has been added to all bookings in support of the Tourism Marketing Fund unless otherwise stated in the property details.
We thank you for your participation.
A highly respected New Economic Foundation (NEF) think-tank based in the UK has released their report, The Happy Planet Index: An index of human well-being and environmental impact, published in association with Friends of the Earth, moves beyond crude ratings of nations according to national income, measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to produce a more accurate picture of the progress of nations based on the amount of the Earth's resources they use, and the length and happiness of people's lives.
The report places Vanuatu at the No. 1 spot out of 178 countries.
The report argues that a growth in GDP implies economic activity, which in turn implies that people are spending money and improving their quality of life. "But GDP is insenstitive to the distribution of income within countries. A country with a high rate of poverty, a small but affluent elite and high exports could have a similar GDP per capita to a country with little inequality and a thriving domestic economy. GDP is also a poor indicator of welfare in key respects. Interpreting it as a standard of living measure means assuming that income is closely correlated with well being at the national level. General well being does not increase as the economy grows as has been repeatedly shown in recent years."
The new Happy Planet Index incorporates three separate indicators. Life satisfaction, life expectancy and the ecological footprint for the country.
The Ecological footprint measures how much land area is required to sustain a given population at present levels of consumption. It takes into account land available to grow food, trees and biofuels, areas of ocean used for fishing and land required to support the plant life needed to absorb Carbon Dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. The footprint of a country is a measure of its consumption and its worldwide environmental impact.
The report states "The same methodology can be used to calculate, in the same units the Earth's biocapacity - its biologically productive area. Currently the biocapacity of the earth is around 11.2 billion hectares or 1.8 global hectares per person in 2001. At the same time, humanity's demand on the biosphere - its global ecological footprint - was 13.7 billion global hectares or 2.2 global hectares per person. The report sends an alarming message stating that currently, the planet's living stocks are being depleted 23% faster than nature can regenerate them."
So why did we rate so high on the happy stakes? Our low population and large land area, our 2500 kms of exposed coastline, a life expectancy of age 69, a very rich and available land source for growing crops, unique rainforests, little logging and an excellent democracy record. We emit next to no carbon emissions.
More important is the fact that 80% of our population live happily in the rural areas with few cares and worries and ample food gardens. The community spirit in the rural villages under control of chiefs rates high towards contentment with life compared to people living under pressure in crowded cities.
Source: Vanuatu Daily Post, 2006
Welcome to Vanuatu Hotels International arrival data to Vanuatu.
The attached statistics are produced monthly by Vanuatu Hotels as a general information for the benefit of all parties interested in travelling to; investing in; or are tourism operators in the destination.
The original data is sourced from traffic movement figures provided daily on each flight by Airports Vanuatu Limited from Vanuatu's two international airports: Bauerfield (Port Vila), Pekoa (Espiritu Santo), and compiled by Vanuatu Hotels.
This is aggregated and unofficial data - official visitor statistics with more detailed information based upon passenger arrival and departure forms is available through the Vanuatu Statistics Office, email: email@example.com.
If you wish to be listed on our mailing list for monthly updates, please contact us and we will be happy to oblige.
John and Silvana Nicholls
Vanuatu's official languages are Bislama, English and French. There are 106 ‘mother tongues' in common use - the world's highest concentration of different languages per head of population; a different language for every 2,000 people! English is widely spoken, and most people speak some Bislama. Business communication is conducted in English, French or Bislama - more often in all three languages simultaneously resulting in some interesting board meetings!
Bislama is a form of pidgin practised as the ‘linking' language for all Vanuatu indigenous people. It is a mixture of phonetic English woven in a loose French sentence structure spoken with ‘local sound' producing some comical outcomes e.g., ladies brassieres or bathing top is called "Basket blong titi"; no offense intended. An excellent Bislama dictionary is available from good book shops: 'A New Bislama Dictionary,' by the late Terry Crowley. Some common Bislama words/phrases include:
- Me / you - mi / yu
- Him / her / it (neither masculine nor femenin) - this here - hem/ hemia
- Us /we / all of us - mifala / mifala evriwan
- You / you (plural) - yu / yufala
- I do not know/understand - mi no save
- See you later / ta ta - Lukim yu/ tata
- I am going now - ale (French derivation of allez) mi go
- One/ two / three - wan / tu / tri
- How much (is that) - hamas (long hem)
- Plenty or many - plenti
- Filled to capacity / overfilled - fulap / fulap tumas (too much)
- Day / evening / night - dei / sava (literally supper) / naet
- Hot / cold - hot / kol
- What / what is that - wanem / wanem ia (literally wanem here?)
- Why / why did you - frowanem (for why?)
- Please / thank you / sorry (very sorry) - plis / tangkyu / sori (sori tumas) - sorry too much
- Do you know - yu save (pronounced savee)
Vanuatu is a group of islands lying in the South-Pacific ocean, approximately one-quarter of the distance from Australia to Hawaii. To view a map of Vanuatu, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com. Or check out our own map of Vanuatu.
The Maskelyne Islands are found at the southern tip of the island of Malekula.
They are all low lying islands, consequently are affected by rising water levels. This has been more pronounced over the past 10 years. Locals estimate that the island of Uleveo is losing a metre a year and at this rate, the island could disappear within the next 200 years.
There are extensive coral reefs with giant clams although nowhere as many as 100 years ago before they were over harvested for food by the local population. The island group also has enormous mangrove forests which as we know, is the womb of the ocean; responsible for much of the marine life in these parts. Fishing and dive cruising yachts frequent the area for this reason.
There are massive conservation areas around Uleveo and Sakao islands providing exceptional snorkeling in the very clear waters.
Uleveo island is often called "the Maskelyne" island as it is the main island of the group with a good population of a couple of thousand inhabitants. It is a small island and can be crossed in 15 minutes at its narrowest part or take 1 day to walk around it.
Many of the villager's gardens are on the mainland of Malekula, hence they canoe back and forth on a daily basis; returning home with a canoe full of vegetables - a sight to behold!
Much has been written on Pentecost due to yearly death defying land jumps performed in the South of the island in order to celebrate the island's yam harvest.
The "Nagol" (or N'gol) ritual or land diving has been performed for hundreds of years. This event doubles as a male coming of age ceremony. Where men and boys to the age of seven tie to their ankles elastic vines following the wet season of January to April. The other end of these vines are tied to different levels of the tower in accordance to the height required by the jumper.
When the first yam crop is ready for harvesting, the tower is built, taking about 5 weeks. A tall tree is found as the "foundation" of the tower and hundreds of selected branches are tied in a scaffolding pattern to the base in order to reach a height of 20 to 30 metres.
Each diver selects his own vine. The thickness and length of the vine is of primary importance as if it is too long, or stretches too much on impact, the jump could be fatal.
The diver must touch the earth with his shoulder in order for the jump to be a successful fertile jump for next year's yam crop.
It is impossible to describe the ambiance as the women and children stomp the ground, dancing in rhythmic unison, encouraging the divers. You just have to be there!
The sight of families as they may witness the final hours of their father's, husband's or brother's life before jumping sends shivers throughout the limited and privileged number of spectators.
The Pentecost jump is 100% authentic and is unequalled in its life threatening factor. No other spectacle in the world matches the intensity felt by those who have witnessed it.
If you want to find something unique, off the beaten track, this is it. It is sheer stone age courage or temporary madness depending which way you want to look at it.
See our Photo Library.
The Vanuatu people are a delight to photograph, friendly, co-operative and photogenic especially the children who are simply gorgeous. Yes, they love to be photographed but please do not offer to pay to photograph local people as this will quickly discourage spontaneity and encourage commercialisation. Always ask before taking photos of local people.
In some cases, some people may be reluctant to be photographed for reasons that you may never know. It is prudent to enquire as to the fee for photographing cultural festivities as they are sometimes very high. The reasoning behind this is they put on the show, people take photos and make money selling these photos of their show - so they want to be paid accordingly (makes sense). If shooting film, have 100, 200, and 400 asa with you as you could be on the beach one minute and deep dark jungle the next. Shooting an exploding volcano at night calls for 800 asa film, a tripod is essential for digital or film photography.
January 1 - New Year's Day
February 21 - In Memory of Father of Independence
March 5 - Custom Chiefs Day
March 25 - Good Friday
March 28 - Easter Monday
May 1 - Labour Day
May 5 - Ascension Day
July 24 - Children's Day
July 30 - Independence Day
August 15 - Assumption Day
October 5 - Constitution Day
November 29 - Unity Day
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Family Day
Vanuatu religious practices are varied, although mainstream religions of Christian origins have been the forerunners after their minor earlier setbacks of ending up in the cooking pot. Other arrivals of the "Fire and Brimstone" persuasion have also entrenched themselves in more obscure locations in the outer islands.
In some occasions, NiVanuatu people (especially in the outer islands where traditional "kastom" practices are strong) have cloned western ideologies to their own. One such cult on Tanna Island is led by "Prophet Fred" who has moulded himself to Noah of the bible with an imaginable Ark. 4,000 believers deserted their homes to follow him into the jungle with the promise of eternal life. Some died and many lost their belongings. Overall, the NiVanuatu people are very tolerant and accepting of any religion.
Official religious figures are: Presbyterian (31.4%), Anglican (13.4%), Roman Catholic (13.1%), Seventh-Day Adventist (10.8%), other Christian (13.8%), Indigenous Beliefs (5.6% - (including Jon Frum cargo cult), other (9.6%), none (1%), unspecified (1.3%) - 1999 Census.
The S.S. President Coolidge
A definitive and enthrawling book has been written on the sinking of the S.S. President Coolidge, titled "The Lady and President, The Life and Loss of the S.S. President Coolidge" by Peter Stone.
On 26 October 1942, whilst the bloody Battle of Santa Cruz was raging in the Solomons, another drama was unfolding two hundred miles south. The luxury liner SS President Coolidge, under contract to the U.S. Army as a troopship, steamed toward the safe anchorage of the Segond Channel in Espiritu Santo. Two mine explosions, laid to discourage enemy attack, mortally crippled the liner. Captain Henry Nelson immediately ran the ship on shore to save as many lives as possible. Within ninety minutes, the 654 ft luxury liner slipped off the coral reef and lay on the seabed, one hundred feet below the surface. Of the 5,000 U.S. infantry and crew aboard, only two were lost. But the demise of the President Coolidge begged a number of serious questions. Did Captain Nelson receive the Special Instructions that would direct him to the safe entrance and thus avoid the deadly minefield? Why was the ship allowed to travel unescorted when it was known that a Japanese submarine was in the region? Was Admiral Halsey covering up for the Navy's mistake?
Whatever the answers, the U.S. Army lost a valuable troop carrier in the early stages of the war when it needed all the equipment and facilities possible. More critical however was the stranding of 5,000 fighting men with no equipment and not even a dry pair of shorts. They were on their way to reinforce and relieve the Marines that had taken Guadalcanal only two months previous. How many American lives were lost in the bloody battles of the Solomons because of the lack of badly needed reinforcements?
The Lady and President answers these questions and gives a dramatic account of the loss of the ship, subsequent salvage of the propellers and bunker oil, and details of recent day scuba diving on the 'world's largest accessible shipwreck'.
The President Coolidge, once the proud flagship of the Dollar Line and the American President Line, now lies on the seabed in 100 to 240 feet of water. The loss to the allies in the critical first year of the Pacific war was however to become a blessing for the economy of the New Hebrides, later to become the Republic of Vanuatu. Thousands of scuba divers from all over the world travel to "Santo" to dive "the world's most accessible shipwreck".
She lies on her port side with her bow at only 70 ft, only a short walk and a swim from shore near the town of Luganville. Deep within the ship lies The Lady, a wall fresco that would rate as the most photographed object d'art under the sea. In the past she would gaze down at the first class passengers relaxing in the Smoking Room. Now she poses for those divers sufficiently experienced to visit her. She is still magnificent (see images of the S.S. President Coolidge in our Photo Library).
The author has combined the tradegy of war with the pleasure of sucba diving in one magnificent volume. The Lady and the President covers the life and unnecessary loss of a luxury liner that once cruised the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and 'the Orient'. Requisitioned in 1941, the President Coolidge was converted to a troopship, and The Lady hid for many decades behind timber hording.
Over a half a million US military men and women passed through the huge base at Espiritu Santo during the war years. The Lady and the President covers the establishment of the base, and the construction of five major airfields that contributed to the gradual demise of the Japanese hold on the Pacific.
The loss of the destroyer USS Tucker, also to an American mine, is documented in detail.
The Military Commission held by the U.S. Navy to prosecute the civilian captain of the President Coolidge reveals surprising evidence. And, at the end of the war, the US forces dumped millions of dollars worth of perfectly good equipment into the sea, creating a monument to the futility of war; Million Dollar Point, less than half a mile from the resting place of the President Coolidge, is a fascinating dive on trucks, bulldozers and cranes. Post-war salvage of the President Coolidge is covered in some detail, with the remarkable salvage of 600 tons of bunker oil transferred to another ocean liner after thirty years in the sea. And for the modern day scuba diver, The Lady and the President describes the most popular dives on the wreck.
This is a book for the marine and military enthusiast, and the scuba diver. The author has relied heavily on archival papers, once secret military documents, and the personal recollections of over sixty people involved, in some way, with the President Coolidge. Of prime importance are the personal anecdotes and first-hand accounts of those on board the ship when she hit those fatal mines, the early post-war salvage operators, and the valuable contribution of explorer/historian Reece Discombe in Port Vila, and the inimitable Allan Power on Espiritu Santo. With over 140 photographs, six maps, and sixteen deck plans and diagrams, The Lady and The President is fascinating and controversial reading, certainly a valuable edition to any library.
Source: Peter Stone, Author
Remember to leave the coral as you found it. It breaks easily, please don't walk on it with your fins. Look for rocks or sand to stand on. Suntan oil or creams don't mix with snorkelling equipment; it is hard to remove when in the water. At low tide, you will need footwear to access the good spots. If you are a beginner or a Jean Jacques Cousteau, remember, swim with a buddy. Don't deprive yourself of this opportunity even if you can't swim - you can snorkel - so do it! Please be aware, there are sometimes rips. Beaches in Vanuatu are not supervised.
If you can carry it, purchase snorkelling equipment from your own country and bring it with you. Alternatively, you can purchase good quality snorkelling equipment in Port Vila. Often, resort equipment gets damaged by past guests, they may not have your size mask or fins, or all the equipment may be used by other guests when you want it.
The absence of, or ill fitting equipment will definitely spoil your snorkelling experience, so don't risk it, bring your own and do something really wonderful when you are finished with it.....give it (even better, ask your children to give it) to the local people as a thank you gift for their hospitality. The provision of gifts is common in the Melanesian culture as long as it is done in a dignified manner.
Kill a Bird with Two Stones by Jeremy Maclancy
Pandemonium or Paradise? by Kath & Bob Paul
Isle of Illusions by Paul Thoureaux
Tanna means "earth" in Tannese. The home of cargo cults, the most accessible volcano in the world and traditional, peaceful people.
It is an island of contrast, stark black volcanic sand and pure white coral sand beaches fusing into each other. Uncrowded surfing or ash boarding down a live volcano. Tanna has lush rainforests skirted by fragrant gingers and fat cows grazing in a pure ecological haven.
Some Tannese are gentle artists others tough pragmatic businessmen, yet all are superstitious, even the politicians, consult their sorcerers or "wise men" on important issues. With a land surface of 565 square kms and a population of 30,000, the people are scattered throughout the whole island where each metre of land is owned and cherished.
Tanna is about a million years old. In 1777, Captain Cook was attracted to Tanna upon seeing the distant glow from Yasur Volcano and anchored in the bay he called Port Resolution after his ship the HMS Resolution. It is said that he pointed downwards towards the land, and asked the local chief for the name of the island: the chief responded "Tanna", meaning earth, hence the island got its name.
Early trading was in sandalwood. As the Tannese were at war with the neighbouring island Erromango, 30 km away, the shrewd Tannese negotiated with the trading ships: "We will supply you with sandalwood and pigs in exchange for captive Erromangans you bring to us". The irony being that Erromango had much larger sandalwood forests than Tanna!
Christianity came later (1840's). The first were westerners, which were killed and eaten, then Polynesians who could not speak any of the numerous languages were sent by the religious organisations hoping they would not eat people their own colour. That didn't work either. Due to the Tannese natural distrust of foreigners, compounded by diseases introduced by the newcomers, foreigners were accused of bringing sorcery to the island. Many suffered Tanna Chief's retribution. Tanna has now a co-existence of cult followings, traditional custom and western religions.
With an average of 30°C, and little rain, Tanna is holiday friendly. Nights can be cool especially on top of Mt. Yasur Volcano where small gale winds whip up a black sand storm within minutes. Bring a wind jacket as precaution.
To really see Tanna, a minimum of 3 to 5 nights is recommended; splitting half your time on each side of the island.
Getting to Tanna
You can get to Tanna by air or sea. By air is a sure way of getting there as ships are notoriously ill maintained, often overloaded and normally make the journey every 4 to 5 weeks. Basically do not consider going by ship from Port Vila as you will be facing the south easterly winds all the way, which can make for a troubled journey.
Air Vanuatu Domestic airline flies to Tanna 7 days departing from Port Vila. On some days, there are two flights in a day. The flight to Tanna takes 45 minutes. It returns for Port Vila immediately after landing. Vanuatu Hotels is Tanna's largest inbound travel operator (see our Photo Library, we send people to Tanna every day and worked in Tanna for three years, so you're in good hands.
From Tanna you can fly to Aneityum island (landing on neighbouring Mystery Island, 30 minutes later) every Thursday, or to Aniwa island (30 minute flight) every Saturday. When flying to Tanna, remember to sit on the left of the plane (facing forward) as you will view Erromango Island on the way and Tanna island as you fly in to land, (have cameras on the ready). The right side you will see endless ocean. Tanna boasts one of the best airports in Vanuatu.
There are two main means of transportation on Tanna. 4WD ‘taxi' utilities or your legs. Accommodation providers on the island will have a ‘truck' waiting for you. If you don't suffer from back problems, take the option of sitting in the open back of the truck as it's truly an experience! Road rules hardly exists in the islands so you're in for a great ride with the highly experienced 4WD drivers who know every pot hole by name, and when it rains, it gets even better! There is one bus servicing the main road roughly every 30 to 45 minutes (well that's the general idea, don't plan your itinerary on it). Taxis are not cheap (due to expensive fuel costs and repairs due to the road conditions) so it is a good idea to group-up and hire a taxi to split the fare.
Highlights of Tanna
Mt. Yasur Volcano
About 7km under Tanna island is the Australian plate plunging under that of the Pacific plate at the same time fusing with it, generating magna that reaches the surface creating hot spots, one of them is the Yasur Volcano; a ‘young' volcano, only 100,000 years old.
Mt. Yasur is what is commonly referred to as a ‘dry' or a ‘strombolian' volcano, it explodes magna hundred of metres into the night sky, a life changing experience for anyone witnessing it. Pompei was a dry volcano; isn't that reassuring? Mt. Yasur is regarded as the most accessible dry volcano in the world because you can stand on top of the rim looking in (depending on the activity level of the day - please be very cautious). A vast reservoir of lava feeds into Yasur's eruption vents through a network of faults and large gas pockets measuring over a metre in diameter hundreds of metres under you to erupt in the crater measuring 400 to 700 metres in diameter. The journey to the volcano is just as exciting - moonscapes made of ash, rivers cutting their way through the soft limestone or even softer volcanic ash, altering the landscape in front of your eyes, cascades, breathtaking panoramic views, coffee plantations, local villages, lush forests and the road of a thousand pot holes!
You can post a letter from the only post box in the world on a live volcano. Don't ask, Vanuatu Post is into extreme post.
Yakel Custom Village
"Kastom" is a way of life in Tanna but more so in this tribe. It is said that many years ago the chief of Yakel told his people to reject everything introduced from the western world. The children do not go to school. The village dress from, and eat what the forest will provide. Visiting Yakel is a voyage back in time. Tom the guide (his western name) is the only one who speaks English. Most of the Yakel villagers don't even speak Bislama. When visiting, they are always happy to accept a bag of rice as a gift, some aspirin and bandaids, or a "bush knife". Tom will walk you through his village and the tribe will perform a few dances to welcome their visitors. Handmade carvings etc., are for sale at great value (please don't barter for a better price unless you are buying a large quantity, also don't buy shells as this only assists in destroying the reef). There is an entrance fee which will be part of your tour. Best time to visit is late morning.
Private visits are not suggested as it interrupts their daily chores. One day the chief was asked by his villagers "What have you done with all the money collected?" The chief sheepishly displayed his pride and joy - a mattress stuffed with notes. He thought it was better than sleeping on the ground at his old age. Nowadays, money collected is kept for medical emergencies, and fixing the one truck that services then and the surrounding villagers of 700 people.
There are numerous other villages where you will experience the friendliness, dancing and indigenous art for sale. Ask if they're a traditional ‘Nambas' village. The Nambas is the sole dress apparel for a ‘Kastom man'; it covers his modesty.
The Nekowiar & Toka Ceremony
The largest cultural reunion in Vanuatu is the Nekowiar (more commonly referred as the Toka). Up to 4,000 people spend up to 3 days and nights together. Celebrating the reunion of villages, organising marriages, and other important inter tribal agreements. Taking up to a year to organise. It is more often performed at two to three year intervals and held late in the year. The atmosphere and intensity of the dancing increases with every dance. The Toka is performed on the second morning and reaches climax that evening. See the Photo library in this site
On the third day after much traditional dancing, the hundred or so pigs are slaughtered and cooked. The morning killing of pigs symbolises the cleansing of all sins, following the previous night of intent "sinning" (where consenting adults are permitted to indulge in their sexual pursuits...). Much kava and lap lap is consumed in an awesome feast. It is hard to know the exact date of the Toka, so one must allow at least 2 weeks in the country to be able to jump on a plane as soon as its announced a few days prior to its start.
The next Toka to be advised. Our firends in Tanna advise us a few months before the organization of a Toka has commenced.
Tanna offers exceptional pristine coral viewing close to shore where visibility is 20 to 30 metres. Swimming over brilliantly coloured coral and sunlit black sand with turtles effortlessly swimming past you is quite a unique experience. The best snorkelling in Tanna (some say it is the best in Vanuatu) can be found in front of Tanna Evergreen Resort & Tours.
Different horse riding tours are available. Across the island to the volcano and to one of the largest trees in Vanuatu; an ancient Banyan, with a circumference of 170 metres. The tree is also accessed by 4WD truck from resorts.
Important Dates for Tanna
February 15 - Jon Frum Day
July - Tafea Agricultural and Trade Show (this is a biannual fun filled fair lasting three days with horse racing, rodeo and a lot of horsing around!. Handicraft stands - get their early; the best and original art is purchased quickly by the expatriot population. Great day to meet a large part of the population and see them really enjoy themselves).
August - Mini games for all the surrounding islands.
October - Cultural Spirit Arts and Carving Exhibition - again, great art bargains to be got by the early bird.
Nekowiar or Toka Ceremony - see The Nekowiar/Toka information.
Browse our hand-picked selection of favorite hotels in Tanna, Vanuatu
The Coat of Arms has incorporated the Vanuatu Emblem, which is the pig's tusk and the namele leaf (cycad leaf) in the background. Hon. Walter Hayde Lini (is the statue) who fought for the country to become Independent and was the first Prime Minister.
12 islands of Vanuatu on one DVD
All recently filmed, live footage (1.5 hrs), no advertising. You will be flying over Efate, Tanna, Espiritu Santo, Epi, Malekula, Ambrym, the Banks, Maewo, Pentecost, Mystery, Futuna, and Ambae islands, and many other islands to gain a bird's eye view of Vanuatu.
Listen to traditional tribal music, tam tam communication, and witness tribal dances such as the ancient Rom and the Snake dance, the awesome pyrotechnics of a exploding volcano, or the gentle art of Vanuatu's unique sand drawing, handcrafted indigenous canoe races, majestic cascades, the Pentecost land diving, the ordination of a chief, bush food preparation,Vanuatu's unique watermusic, and much more!
Warning: please be aware there is nudity in the film.
Cost: AUD $35 plus registered postage.
Visa & Matercard accepted.
Simply contact us and we will email you the order form.
Packaging, Postage & Handling
Pacific Countries: 1 DVD - AUD$10; 2 DVD's - AUD$12
Asia, Nth & Sth America, The Caribbean: 1 DVD - AUD$12; 2 DVD's - AUD$17
Europe, Africa, Russia: 1 DVD - AUD$13 ; 2 DVD's - AUD$20
Package will be registered at the Port Vila Central Post Office.
Receipt of Post Office registration will be emailed to you for your records.
The pig's tusk and the namele leaf represent Prosperity and Peace respectively.
In order to avoid unwanted attention from local men in Melanesian countries, it's probably best to say you're married when asked.
Vanuatu is a developing country and some local men see marriage to a "Westerner" woman as their ticket to a better life. Some local men are quite direct in their intentions and regrettably this produces tension between Vanuatu men and single western women.
We also suggest that sexy, skimpy or see through clothing is interpreted as intentional to attract attention from local men.
Port Vila is not a beach town, hence walking through it in a bikini or very brief clothing is not only a beacon for attention, but foolish. This warning is especially pertinent to tourists visiting the destination by Ship.
As the concept of tourism or running a business is still relatively new to some parts of the outer islands, the traveller must be patient and may sometimes find it hard to 'reason' as the local person will have a totally different understanding of the issue.
A few years back, a new 'bungalow' was built, the owner borrowed "Le Meridien's" a la carte menu. Photocopied it with a new title, and handed it to his guests. Inevitably, the guests were impressed as to the extensive selection of gastronomic delights presented to them. Bitter complaints followed after they were told "me no got!" upon the guests requesting each dish. Not one item on the menu was available! The bungalow owner was bewildered; he had a restaurant, and had been informed by a white man that the better the menu, the more his customers would be happy!
Ticket, Passport, Bags - ready to go! Not quite. There are a few other things to consider before embarking on your holiday in order to minimize avoidable travel hassles later. Here is some advice on travelling; depending on how long you are travelling for and where.
1. Research your destination
Read good travel guides such as Lonely Planet. Although sometimes out of date, (room rates have changed, restaurants have closed, etc., since the printing of the book) it is still considered to be a very reliable source of information for Vanuatu by industry and the travelling public.
Websites such as this one; or "Google" your interests.
Make sure you have at least 6 months validity on your passport or you may find yourself unable to travel.
2. Read all travel advices from your government
Early planning is essential: contact the embassy, consulate or diplomatic mission of the countries you are travelling to and through and acquire all the necessary information on issues such as visa requirements, health and medical issues, local laws, differences and cultural norms. If in doubt, do it before you leave.
If you are arriving on weekends or late night (ie., when many hotels/guesthouses will not have reservation staff on) you are making it more difficult for yourself. It is often better to book the first couple of nights as a hassle-free start to your holiday especially if the destination is out of the tourism mainstream such as an outer island. In Vanuatu, there is however a Standby Accommodation office opened for every flight at the international airport. Standby Accommodation in the country is generally cheaper than "last minute" internet bookings because once the flight has arrived, the hotel has no other business coming in, hence has no option but to offer very good "last minute" discounts! However, depending on the time of the year, no guarantee of specific accommodation can be given.
Vanuatu customs are becoming increasingly vigilant in their search for drugs and pornography (both big no no's in Vanuatu. For example "Playboy" magazine is not sold in Vanuatu). Ensure your luggage cannot be tampered with, that all parts of your luggage are lockable.
In Vanuatu, the most economical and reliable transport is by bus. Sadly, there are too many buses (last count around 520 buses for a 100 square kilometre) all burning up fuel unnecessarily, all competing for an ever decreasing portion of the business as the different government authorities issue licenses to all and sundry. As a result, you, the traveler are over serviced. Second best is by taxi, but a little on the expensive side. Mopeds, and scooters are available, but the potholes can be dangerous - ensure that your travel insurance covers this. Also, don't allow rental agencies to convince you that a helmet is not necessary, riding without one is fool hardy as some local truck and car drivers in Vanuatu are oblivious to sharing the road with others, especially the two wheel variety.
6. Plan ahead
Spare your family and friends' needless worry, stress and waste of their time.
If you can, scan or photocopy all your papers: passport, visas, bank accounts, prescription for medicine especially credit cards, medical records, identification, birth certificates (keep a copy with you and give one hard copy to someone you trust on their computer for immediate access in case you lose and need a new passport), Marriage certificates; in other words, everything you would need if you lost everything overseas (it happens; even worse, on a public holiday!). Everything you need to identify yourself, or access your financial and medical records.
Set up a variety of ways of being able to access money overseas, such as credit cards, cash (belt) etc.
Check with your bank if your ATM card will work overseas and where they have branches where you are travelling.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with your family or friends.
Establish an email address that you can access whilst travelling.
Take a mobile phone and obtain global roaming but remember that it may not work everywhere.
Contact your family or friends immediately there is a natural disaster, major accident or terrorist attack in the region; you should inform them you are OK.
Work out with your family and friends how often you will contact them whilst you are travelling.
7. Whilst Travelling
Don't carry more cash than you think you need and be aware that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras are targets for thieves.
Whenever possible, leave valuable documents such as passports, etc., in a safety deposit box or safe at your hotel.
If you must carry them, ensure you have them on your person not bags. (bag snatching on motor bikes are a specialty in Asian countries).
Lock your baggage when unattended, especially at airports, train stations and on buses.
8. Personal Safety
~ Be aware of food and drink spiking; never leave food or drinks unattended.
~ Beware of local dress codes for men and women and local cultural sensitivities especially in public places. Respect the culture you are visiting.
~ Don't hitch-hike
~ Stay away from unlit and back streets at night
~ Keep your hotel door locked and meet visitors in the hotel foyer
~ Do not give out your hotel name or room number to strangers - or say it where it can be overheard
~ Think carefully before accepting an invitation to go out alone with a stranger.
Don't be a total idiot, don't do drugs overseas. This is one thing you should be paranoid about, because it can bring you trouble you never imagined; even the death penalty.
In order to increase dramatically your chances of a worry and trouble free holiday:
~ Get smart, don't buy, take or travel with drugs (remember: there is no part of your body customs will not hesitate to search).
~ Lock your bags - ensure there are no side pockets (zipper or other) left unlocked for someone to hide their stash whilst they accompany you on your trip.
~ It goes to say that you do not ask strangers to "keep an eye" on your luggage unless you trust them.
If you must, pick a family or elderly couple.
~ Never, never carry a parcel, bag or container for someone else at anytime.
~ Make sure your prescribed medicines are not considered illegal drugs overseas (contact the country's embassy) or see their website for information. Take your doctor's prescription for proof of legality.
In the event that you are arrested on drug charges, be aware that:
~ As soon as you arrive in a country, you are subject to this country's laws (no matter how draconian they are); claiming ignorance of the country's laws is not accepted. Tough!
~ If arrested, you have the right to contact the representative of your government, but consular assistance cannot override the country's laws.
In Vanuatu, the possession of small quantities of "soft or person recreational drugs" can attract jail sentences or serious fines. Regardless, kiss your holiday goodbye!
9. Health and Safety Issues
Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover all overseas medical costs. Make sure that your insurance policy covers your whole time travelling, and all the activities that you plan to do. i.e., ride motorcycles, scooters, bicycles or scuba diving. Repatriation back to your country etc.
10. Why you need travel Insurance?
Daily hospitalization costs is very expensive (for example in Noumea, New Caledonia, you are up for AUD$1,500 a day in a general ward, AUD$3,000 in intensive care. Vila Central Hospital starts at $50 a day up to $200 a day for a bed and basic support systems.
11. Vaccinations and your health
It is wise to have a dental and general health check-up before travelling. Further information on health travel, can be found on the following sites:
World Health Organisation
Health Services Australia
Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad
Travel Clinics Australia
Traveller's Medical and Vaccination Centres
12. Further (personal) precaution
If heading "off the beaten track" it pays to be cautious. Being prepared could save you falling ill and avoid your holidays being a costly health disaster.
Before you leave:
~ Enquire as to the condition of local tap water and food. If you have doubt, then bring/carry what you will need to sustain a healthy diet. The type of diseases you may be exposed to. Throughout certain South Pacific Islands, the most common problems are:
Malaria, Dengue, and TB. Once you know, then assemble a small first aid medical kit for the situation you are most likely to be in (make sure to include Hydrogen Peroxide for coral cuts and Betadine antiseptic cream).
Take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes (most mosquitoes do not carry Malaria or Dengue - don't get paranoid, just be smart. Mosquitoes are not borne with Malaria; they have to find someone with Malaria to transfer contaminated blood. My wife and I lived 3 years in the outer islands and never took any tablets and never caught anything). Wear light coloured, loose fitting clothing. Added advantage is they are also cooler to wear. Cover your arms and legs, regularly apply insect repellent and sleep in mosquito-proof accommodation. Also burn mosquito coils at night. If you have to go to a kava bar, and if people are coughing, you may be exposing yourself to TB as it is transferred through air by coughing. If you must stay, then move upwind!
If you intend to do outdoor activities check if the weather is likely to change quickly otherwise you could find yourself stranded and/or injured without any means of communicating for help. Ensure you have advised where you will be or going, and when to expect your return, so they can raise the alarm if you do not return on time.
The most common health problem in the tropics is infected coral cuts or insect bites as coral is everywhere, (roads are built of crushed limestone/coral), and hence you don't have to be at the beach to have a cut infected.
13. Reciprocal health scheme agreements
Some countries have these in place but many do not. Ensure you know before travelling and note that these health care agreements are not a replacement for travel insurance; they will not cover you if you need to be repatriated home.
99% of people that visit our shores do not fall ill, so let's not get carried away, but ensure an enjoyable holiday by being cautious. A big part of that 99% was. As a safeguard, we are always on call on 24444.
John and Silvana
- Bring combination bottle, can opener/wine corkscrew etc
- Carry WC paper for those trekking excursions (wrapped in a plastic bag for wet weather)
- Solar rechargeable flashlight
- Bring Vatu cash in small denominations not AUD or US$
- Small combination padlock (some island bungalows do not have locking doors, but have latches for locks)
- Adaptor - French/Australian etc especially for recharging your digital gear
- For thanking locals in islands: Buy 1Kg bags of rice, colouring pencils, phone cards, lighters, metal files (for axe and bush knife sharpening). These will be highly appreciated
- Photography: Due to the high glare factor when shooting ocean and landscape photography; a polarizing filter is indispensable, as are extra camera batteries In many areas, there are no shops or no power to recharge batteries.
- Plastic ponchos (raincoat) come in tiny travel packs, are of negligible weight and are useful when caught in a tropical down pour
- Insect repellent: a few small roll-ons are more useful and take up less space than spray cans
- Mosquito coils
- Bring your own snorkel, mask, and fins
- Basic First Aid Kit - See the excellent Lonely Planet advice on this (I always carry Hydrogen Peroxide and Betadine for all those cuts, blisters, etc)
Travellers from the United Kingdom & all Commonwealth countries, Other EU Countries, USA, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea & Japan do not require visas for Vanuatu for stays up to 30 days (with the possibility of extensions of up to four months in any period of one year). Passports must be valid for a minimum of 4 months beyond date of arrival. Visitors pay entry cost of US$25.
Visitors are not permitted to engage in any business or employment. The validity of a Visitors Permit may be extended to a maximum period of four months, but under the law, cannot be extended further.
The departure tax is VT2,800 per person (except children under 2) and VT250 for outer islands except Port Vila, Santo and Tanna which charge VT200 for domestic flights. This tax is payable when purchasing your tickets at the agency's office at the airport.
Visa applications may be obtained from:
Principal Immigration Officer
Private Mail Bag 9092
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Telephone: +(678) 22354; Fax: +(678) 25492
The fee payable for the application is VT2,500.
For all information relating to Vanuatu visas, passport & entry requirements, it is advisable to check this information with your relevant embassy prior to travel.
US citizens that need to renew, add pages, change name, or just get a new US passport, can Apply for a New US Passport here.
Kava is an intoxicating liquid made from pounding or grinding pepper root mixed with water. This pungent and muddy drink is sometimes referred to as "aelan bia" (island beer), and is an evening ritual throughout Vanuatu. There are numerous kava bars in all the islands.
In ‘kastom' parts of Vanuatu, women are forbidden to drink kava. Seems it's a tradition that women are happy to comply with! If kava's not to your liking (it looks like muddy water, tastes like petrol) try the rich Tanna coffee and the real locally brewed Tusker and Vanuatu Bitter.
Source: Daily Post, Port Vila, Vanuatu