Meaning the ‘land that always existed’, Vanuatu is a Y-shaped archipelago made up of 83 islands which stretch over some 800 kilometres of South Pacific Ocean. A diverse land, Vanuatu boasts towering volcanoes, lush rainforest, coral atolls, sandy beaches, rich culture and tradition and welcoming people.
Vanuatu became an independent country in 1980. Prior to that, it was known as the New Hebrides and was jointly administered by France and England. The official languages are English, French and Bislama – a colourful blend of English, a little French and local language.
Vanuatu’s main island, Efate, is home to the country’s capital as well as several wonderful retreats, and is where visitors will certainly want to spend at least some of their time. The small capital of Port Vila is set within a magnificent harbour and undoubtedly boasts some of the Pacific’s best restaurants, taking full advantage of its pot-pourri of cultures to blend the best elements of Melanesian, English, French and Chinese tastes.
Open 24 hours a day, six days a week, the delightful market is a great place to try the local food and meet the local people with their colourful variety of flowers, fruit, vegetables, handicrafts and artefacts. Many of Efate’s properties lie within a stone’s throw of the centre of Port Vila, meaning that the markets and charming local restaurants can easily be explored.
Just a short distance from Port Vila, life remains surprisingly untouched by the modern world. Visitors can swim in pristine waterfalls, explore “towering volcanoes, lush rainforest, coral atolls, sandy beaches, rich culture and tradition”, visit ancient caves with their extraordinary paintings, attend cultural events, stroll along deserted beaches, wander through local villages and learn how the Ni-Vanuatu people tend their gardens and conduct their daily life.
The mysterious island of Tanna is just one hours flight south of Efate and is steeped in deep tradition and culture. Here, you can climb one of the world’s most accessible live volcanoes, see its wild horses and visit the custom villages which remain totally uninfluenced by Western culture.
Lying to the north, Santo is actually the largest island and is fascinating in its diversity. Great expanses of original rainforest are home to colourful butterflies, tropical birds and orchids – and natural spots of great beauty include unspoiled white sand beaches and deep, crystal clear, blue holes. Scuba divers are drawn by Santo’s world famous wrecks and spectacular marine life.
Other islands offer different experiences – from the land diving on the island of Pentecost, to magic on the island of Ambrym and the world famous complex culture and distinctive local crafts on the island of Malekula. With so much to see and experience, we recommend splitting your stay between at least two islands.
From the vibrant Melanesian culture and scenic wonders to Port Vila’s cosmopolitan restaurants, Vanuatu is a land of great contrasts. The welcoming smiles and warmth of the people (Vanuatu is described as the ‘World’s Happiest Country’) are what also make this such a fabulous place! May to October (the dry season) generally brings fine warm days whilst higher temperatures and tropical rains can be expected from November to April. Vanuatu is a one and a half hour flight from Fiji, two and a half hours from Brisbane, three hours from Auckland and three and a half hours from Sydney.