Things to see and do in Vanuatu
Attractions in Vanuatu
Bathe beneath the waterfalls
Whether you take an organised tour or catch the local bus, the Mele Cascade waterfall is only 15 minutes from Port Vila. The best views are directly below, so pack bathers and enjoy the swimming around the plunge pools. Following cyclone Pam and the subsequent closure of Edge Adventure, visitors cannot currently abseil down the falls.
Dare to look at the lava, Yasur
Drive to the summit of the world's most accessible active volcano, Yasur, on Tanna Island. Peer into the crater at a seething mass of bubbling lava. You can also learn about the John Frum cargo cult; it began with the arrival of an American soldier in WWII, and believers now wait for him to return to the island with great riches.
Drive a dune buggy on an off-road tour
Adventure operators run tours from Port Vila, so jump in a dune buggy and get off-road and dirty. Follow the leader in convoy as you power along a black sand beach, through forest tracks by way of some local villages. The most adventurous should tackle this tour if there has been some rain. Embrace it – you will get very muddy.
Gasp at the Naghol
Every Saturday from April to June, Pentecost Island holds the world famous Naghol ("land dive"). The forerunner to bungee jumping, this traditional festival involves men diving from 100m-high (328ft) towers with only vines tied around their ankles. The Naghol is a celebration of the yam harvest and is a fertility rite for men.
Go wreck diving at Espiritu Santo Island
Discover James A Michener's inspiration for South Pacific, Espiritu Santo Island. Here, scuba divers can see the liner President Coolidge and the destroyer USS Tucker rest on the seabed, and explore Million Dollar Point where military equipment was dumped at the end of the war. The snorkelling is also excellent at one of Vanuatu's most scenic islands.
Haul a catch with deep-sea fishing
With marlin, wahoo, swordfish and tuna, Vanuatu offers some of the best deep-sea fishing in the South Pacific, and game fishing tournaments are held throughout the year. For smaller catches reef fishing is also available and boats for both depart from Port Vila Harbour. Take to Espiritu Santo for the best in-shore fishing trips.
Seek out Hideaway Island Marine Sanctuary
Located just off Mele Bay, Hideaway Island is a resort that features excellent offshore snorkelling, a fine restaurant and the world's only underwater post office – complete with waterproof postcards. Day-trippers are welcome to this marine sanctuary to enjoy the snorkel safari and scuba dives.
Spot dolphins from your sailboat
Set sail in search of dolphins aboard the Coongoola. The lovely timber ketch departs from Havannah Harbour and takes passengers to the turtle sanctuary on Tranquillity Island (Moso) for a beach barbecue and spot of snorkelling. If the wind is favourable you return under sail and there is a good chance of being joined by dolphins off the bow.
Try the national dish at the Mama's Market
Seek out the harbour-front markets in Port Vila where a wonderful array of fruit, vegetables and flowers await. Mama's Market is run by local women and is the best place on the island to sample the national dish, lap lap (cooked yam roots with coconut cream and meat). Further along the handicraft market sells carvings, sarongs and other items of clothing, ideal for souvenirs.
Understand local traditions at Ekasup Cultural Village
Ekasup Cultural Village is 10 minutes from Port Vila and it explains Vanuatu's traditional village life, medicines, food, dancing and hunting methods (like how to catch fish with a spider's web). Local men, women and children participate, so the traditional culture is passed through the generations. Tours run twice a day (except Sundays) and Friday night is Melanesian Feast night.
Understand the cultures of each island
The Vanuatu Museum & Cultural Centre is opposite Parliament house, near the Chief's Nakamal (meeting place). There are permanent displays of traditional artefacts, pottery, fossils, masks and slit-gongs on show to reflect the diversity of culture and history on the various islands. As well as daily video screenings, the centre hosts vibrant temporary exhibits and performances (sand-drawing, bamboo flute, traditional dance and story-telling).
Unearth history at The Secret Garden
Located in Mele, The Secret Garden offers the chance to learn about the local flora and fauna, explore thatched huts from the various islands and see iguanas, pythons and flying foxes. It presents a quirky look at Vanuatu's history including missionaries, cannibalism and traditional customs, as well as the more serious subjects of blackbirding and WWII.
View Vanuatu from a helicopter above
See the serene South Pacific islands from above with a seaplane or helicopter flight. Both operate on the island with a number of flights available from short scenic flyovers, trips to a private island for a Robinson Crusoe-esque picnic or to one of the out-of-town restaurants for lunch. The helicopter is also great for aerial photography opportunities.
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