VANUATU - AN ADVENTURE SEEKER'S PARADISE
Vanuatu is not your average South Pacific paradise. Aside from idyllic beaches and warm tropical waters, it’s home to active volcanoes that put on incredible fireworks shows and tribal villages that still live according to ancient customs. That’s why it’s one of the most exciting archipelagos for adventurous travellers wanting to escape the all-inclusive holiday packages.
So rather than plonking yourself in one of the luxury resorts around the main hub of Port Vila, here are five islands that are just a short flight away that will satisfy your taste for adventure.
Tanna is one of Vanuatu’s most visited destinations after the main island of Efate…and for good reason. It’s home to the active volcano of Mount Yasur, which ignites the night skies with a brilliant lava fire show that has to be seen to be believed. Clamber up the scree slopes as the sun goes down to watch as bright red balls of lava spurt from the volcano’s heart while soaking up the spectacular views across the island. Tanna is also a fascinating place to learn about traditional Tannese culture and discover one of its most interesting cult tribes. It’s here that the Friday ritual of the Joh Frum cargo cult takes place, with believers mimicking the acts of American patriots in hope that a magical cargo owned by US WWII soldiers will be delivered.
“Looking towards the smoking summit of Mount Yasur on Tanna Island”
If you’ve ever wondered what inspired bungee jumping, then head to Pentecost Island, which is famed for its land diving rituals that are steeped in ancient tradition. Each year between April and June, the traditional Naghol festival is held to celebrate the yam harvest, with men diving off 20-30-metre-high towers in what is considered a rite of fertility. With nothing but vines tied to their ankles, they take the plunge amidst the sound of stomping feet and chanting from local villagers, with tourists welcome to watch it all unfold before their very eyes.
Situated in the far north of the archipelago, Espiritu Santo is the largest of Vanuatu’s islands and packed with adventure. Aside from being ringed by idyllic beaches, it’s home to healthy coral reefs and World War II wrecks that can be explored while diving, including the legendary SS President Coolidge. Visit the breathtakingly beautiful Blue Hole or embark on an adrenalin-pumping canyoning adventure through the jungle of Millennium Cave.
“A tropical storm rolls in across a white sandy beach on the island of Espiritu Santo”
Famed for its ancient customs and black magic, Ambryn is dominated by the twin volcanic peaks of Mount Benbow and Mount Marum. It’s a trekkers wonderland, with a six-hour trail leading through lush rainforest and ash fields to the volcanic craters, with local beliefs stating that dropping a white chicken into the crater will avoid bad luck. The island is dotted with villages that are guarded by sculpted tam-tams and are renowned for their masked Rom dance, a secretive ceremony that’s held each year.
Linguistically the most diverse island in the archipelago, Malekula is home to more than 30 different languages and is also renowned for its custom dancing. It scattered with ancient cannibal sites that can be visited on guided treks, with the friendly Small Namba and Big Namba villagers proud of their fascinating cultural heritage. Aside from the lush highlands, the island is ringed by protected marine reserves that boast exceptional snorkelling and diving.
“Ni-Vanuatu children pose for the camera on Malekula Island”