The stunning archipelago of Vanuatu in the southwest region of the Pacific is a holidaymaker’s paradise. Lying off New Zealand and Australia and west of Fiji, this tropical paradise is a cluster of 83 islands, dotted around the turquoise waters of the ocean. Fabulous diving and cultural experiences await visitors to Vanuatu. Travelers can experience a complete rustic and culturally breathtaking getaway on the smaller isles or a luxurious resort vacation at the more developed Santo and Efate. You could be diving to see a beautifully preserved shipwreck, soar over islands in a helicopter, posting a signed letter at the Volcano Post, visiting a cannibal village site or hike through tropical forests.
The capital city Port Vila has plenty for culture buffs who can explore the many historic buildings, museums, and parks besides fitting in some retail therapy. Luganville is the other main city in Vanuatu and a good base for diving and beach hopping.
The people of Vanuatu are a friendly community with a rich history going back centuries. Vanuatu had a known 113 different languages spoken on its shores. Bislama is a very Pacific style pidgin English that blends simplified forms of English with a smattering of French, Spanish and local tongues. English and French are also widely spoken.
Vanuatu is well located for visitors from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Direct flights connect several cities to Port Vila and Santo. There are no direct connections from the US or Europe. All international flights in and out of the archipelago arrive at Port Vila’s Bauerfield International Airport or Pekoa International Airport in Santo. Vanuatu is also a popular destination on the cruising circuit with many international cruise lines halting at Efate (Port Vila), Santo (Champagne Beach and Luganville) as well as Mystery Island in the southern side of Vanuatu. Private yachts can, with the requisite paperwork, also enter at Lenakel and Sola in addition to Port Vila and Luganville.
An abundance of wildlife both on-shore and in waters off the miles of coastline will delight nature lovers, diving enthusiasts and travelers of all manner. The coral reefs are especially recommended with snorkeling expeditions affording the opportunity to swim between beautiful reefs and explore shipwrecks, marine life and more. You can even head out into the deeper waters to see dolphins or swim with sea turtles. The blue holes, beaches and dive sites like the grand dame SS Coolidge are within easy reach of Santo which connects via direct flights to Brisbane. The Maskelynes represent rugged island beauty, offer some amazing diving and marine life sighting opportunities and are home to villages that protect traditional arts and handicrafts. Picnicking at the Ringi Te Suh Marine Conservation Area is an experience not to be missed.
Vanuatu’s most iconic dish is the starchy ‘lap-lap’. It is made by grating cassava, yam, sweet potato or plantain and then wrapping it up with coconut milk in banana leaves for roasting below some hot stones. The flavor of this lap-lap is enhanced by the inclusion of beef, pork or chicken. Adventurous eaters can experiment with local specialties like snails, ground pigeon and flying fox.
When the sun goes down, there is a choice of some fun local pubs and clubs where you can unwind and mingle with locals and travelers from the world over. For something a little more cultural, you could reserve spots at beachfront fire shows where dancers and performers regale the audience before everyone is treated to a feast featuring regional specialties and traditional cuisine.
Being in the southern hemisphere, Vanuatu’s seasons are flipped around from what most visitors from North America, Europe and Asia are accustomed to. The weather is largely humid and warm. Islands in the south tend to be slightly cooler and less humid. The temperature dips a between between June and August when winter sets in. While its tropical climate means you can visit it virtually all year round, do check for cyclone forecasts before you visit. The rains arrive in November and last all the way till March.