10 Reasons to Visit Vanuatu

Vanuatu has to be one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. I only went for 10 days, and try to go somewhere new whenever I can get away, but I will definitely be back. Here’s 10 reasons I think you should go too!

1. Different Cultures

Vanuatu has done an amazing job of holding onto its extremely old and rich cultures – and there are many! It varies a lot from island to island, with every type of unique culture from various cults to black magic. There are so many interesting rituals and traditions, which are easy to see and learn about as a visitor.

For example, you can check out ‘kustom’ villages, where people still live just as their ancestors did. And if you do a little island hopping, it allows you to visit drastically different cultures in one trip. (It’s just a little expensive and/or time consuming.)

Bislama, the national language, is a mash up of phonetically spelled English words, some French, and some older Vanuatu terms when it comes to food, flora and fauna etc. It’s difficult to understand just by listening, but pretty easy to read!

2. Volcanoes!

Mt. Yasur, on the southern island of Tanna, is famous for being the most accessible active volcano in the world. It’s a quick 4WD drive and 10 minute walk to the crater, where you can stand on the brim and watch the lava spew, boil, and steam.

While Mt. Yasur is the most famous, it’s certainly not the only volcano in the country. The islands of Ambae and Ambrym are other areas where you can do some wild active volcano exploring.

Insta credit to @elo_worldlover, who I met in Vanuatu

3. There are 83 Islands to Explore

Okay, so it’s more like 10, as many of the 83 are uninhabited or inaccessible to tourists, but between Efate, Santo, Tanna, Ambrym, Pentecost, Ambae, Banks and Torres (and others if you really like to get off the beaten path), you’ve got tons of options to explore!

4. Diving/Snorkelling

Hundreds of species of vibrant fish, easily accessible shipwrecks, an underwater post office (from which mail is actually delivered!), and stunning clear blue waters, this is any snorkeller or diver’s dream. There’s even a sunken military plane – I don’t care much about war stuff, but that’s pretty rad.

5. Friendly People

Everyone. Is. Lovely. The ni-Vanuatu people are super welcoming and happy to show off their beautiful country. I found everyone to be helpful, full of smiles, and keen to chat.

Instagram: @vanuatuislands

6. Market Food

So Vanuatu was not exactly the budget backpacker destination that I was hoping for… like almost nothing about it was budget friendly… but the market food was a life saver, and so delicious! 200vt as below = $1.75 USD

7. Almost No Other Tourists

Unless you’re arriving in Vanuatu by cruise ship, you’ll be completely solo on pristine beaches, have no problem finding accom, and won’t be surrounded by tacky trinket shops and tourism offices. An absolute dream.

It’s also a little harder to meet people if you’re backpacking but definitely not impossible.

8. It’s Safe

You don’t have to worry about safety here. Before I arrived I heard that bargaining wasn’t a thing, but I didn’t find that to be true. You should still expect to barter for taxi prices (especially from the airport) or any keepsakes you buy in the markets, but that’s about it.

I am embarrassed to admit that I got scammed by a taxi driver on my first day because I believed what I read about bargaining… keep your wits about you, but pick pockets are not an issue, and hostels are very safe. I slept on the beach in a tent in Port Olry and didn’t worry for a second about my things.

I also walked alone often, got in the back of stranger’s cars, and never felt uncomfortable.

9. One of the most Beautiful, Untouched Places in the World

The world is becoming increasingly accessible for tourism, and popular destinations like Iceland, Thailand, and parts of Spain are being ruined by over tourism. Vanuatu is one of the beautiful rural corners of the world that is still relatively untouched.

Cruise ships stop in about once a week and resorts are being built which is already causing some change. I also found the price for entry to the lagoons has gone up. So unfortunately, it’s safe to say this hidden gem won’t stay hidden forever.

I suggest you enjoy it while you can!

10. N’gol, Land Diving

A once in a lifetime experience. The ritual inspired the AJ Hackett to bring Western bungee jumping to life, and is a perfect example of how the human body can handle some crazy shiz.

The N’gol only takes place on Saturdays during the yam harvest from April to June, so you’ll have to get your timing right if you want to see this unique ritual!

N’gol

Argentina: Frida & Antique Markets

We venture out to our local neighbourhood of Villa Crespo and into Palermo to find some lunch. A bright purple building with the immediately recognizable “Friends” logo, and a yellow New York taxi has drawn a swarm of people. The line is incredibly long, and reaches to the end of the block. It must be some kind of pop up bar and I assume it’s just opened or there wouldn’t be this many people. I love Friends but like, not line-up-for-hours type love. Upon rounding the corner, we find the line spans TWO whole blocks. We round the next corner, IT’S THREE. There’s probably 500 people waiting in line to sit on a mock Central Perk couch. I am in awe. Do people not work or go to school on Thursday afternoons?

Argentina: Parrillas Para Dos

I think we’re still jet lagged (can you be jet lagged when there’s only a one hour time difference?) from our 20 something hours of travel from Canada, because waking up before 10am is unnecessarily difficult. But waking up is, in fact, necessary, because we’re getting out of this shit hostel and moving into our Air BnB!

Argentina: Arriving in Buenos Aires

I’ve read that taking a taxi from the airport can be a headache and will cost us almost $50 USD. I usually allow myself the luxury of a taxi from the airport no matter what it costs, but in this case I thought we should look for alternatives. Uber is controversial everywhere, but it seems especially bad in Argentina from what I’ve read, so I think we’ll skip that for now. A quick Google search back in Canada turned up www.gettransfer.com, a service allows you to submit your desired pickup/drop off locations (anywhere in the world!) and have drivers ‘bid’ on the journey.

Vanuatu: Connecting Flights Home

The paranoia about catching my connecting flights from Santo to Port Vila and then home to Auckland has left me unable to sleep. A storm wakes me up in the middle of the night, and sparks a lucid dream where my flight is cancelled due to weather, and I’m running around the airport in a captains hat, urgently trying to charter my own plane. I have become Jeff with a J.

Vanuatu: N’gol Ritual – Pentecost

I wake up to a faint rumbling that lasts a few seconds, settle back in and just before I fall asleep, it happens again. Could it be a giant truck driving past? I’ve stayed here 3 nights now and haven’t experienced this before so it seems unlikely. At breakfast, everyone else says they felt the shaking as well so we give it a quick Google to find it was, in fact, an earthquake. A 5.2 magnitude from Tanna – maybe I did make the right choice by coming to Santo. Yikes. Google doesn’t pull up any articles about fatalities though, so fortunately I don’t think it was very serious.

Vanuatu: Jeff with a J

I caught a ride back to Luganville with the German couple from Port Olry this morning. Since arriving at 11 I’ve been pressed to find something to do, but it seems most activities start around 8:30. I’ve heard (there’s never any definitive information, everything is word of mouth) that there’s a free ferry over to Aore Island, just a quick trip from Santo. I ask at my lodge for some information or a timetable but there’s nothing – just multiple ferries per day.

Vanuatu: Million Dollar Point & Port Olry

I’ve met some nice French girls at my hostel who are hitting the blue holes today (which I’ve already done) but are kind enough to give me a ride to town. I’m kicking myself because I haven’t made any strong decisions yet. I’ve kind of been puttering about trying to figure out what I want to do, and I’m really just wasting time.

Vanuatu: Matevulu Blue Holes

Waking up at 4 is rough, why do I do this to myself?! I had spoken to the woman who runs the hostel last night and told her I planned to take a bus to the airport but she looked at me like I was crazy.

New Zealand: Glow Worms and Coastal Driving

Yesterday was mostly driving from Nelson to Greymouth along the beautiful west coast highway, making lots of stops along the way.

First we stopped to do the 1hr Braeburn track to a small waterfall, through a forest with black-mould covered trees and burnt orange leaves falling along the path.