Flights to Vanuatu: The Pacific in the raw
You'll find all the Pacific clichés – blazing white beaches, swaying palms, blue lagoons and coral reefs – on your Vanuatu holiday. But you can also meet people from a culture so far removed from yours they'll risk death for a yam. The equally brave (or mad) can cool off abseiling down a thundering jungle waterfall.
Back to nature
Lava's in the air. The coral-fringed, rugged-hearted islands of the Vanuatu archipelago are largely volcanic in origin. Many of the volcanoes that blessed us with Vanuatu are still hard at it creating and exploding. After your flight to Vanuatu get right up close and personal with these primal forces of nature on the islands of Ambrym and Tanna. If you can stand the heat, that is.
A young man throws himself into space and hurtles toward the ground, saved from certain death only by the vines tied round his ankles. Yippee, the locals say: a successful land-dive means the yams will grow. Man, you think: these guys really love yams. The men celebrate by performing a shuffle to the exhilarating beat of tam-tam drums. Avoid feeling like a voyeur in the presence of all those bare bums by joining the fun.
Meet the locals
Tanna Island villagers gather every Friday to dance. They're hoping for the long-awaited return of their deity, an American GI named John Frum. They jealously guard a holy relic: a signed photograph of their ancestor-god in his modern incarnation, better known to the rest of us as Prince Philip. And you know you’re in a kastom village – where ancient traditions have survived intact – when the men wear nothing but a penis sheath and a smile.
Where? Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands in the South Pacific. Northern Australia is some 1,750km to the south and Fiji 1,000km to the west.
Population: The Melanesians that largely make up the population are called ni-Vanuatu. They speak three languages: pidgin Bislama, English and French.
Key dates: The group of islands that comprises Vanuatu was administered by an unholy alliance of the British and French until 1980. Ni-Vanuatu celebrate getting shot of both every July 30th.
Did you know? Bungy jumping was inspired by the death-defying ritual of 'naghol', in which Pentecost Island men leap from bamboo towers with vines round their ankles to assure a bountiful yam harvest. There’s got to be an easier way.
In Vanuatu you can relax in a resort or rough it. Whether you take an oceanfront penthouse, village bungalow or budget bed on a coral atoll marine sanctuary, you'll wake each day to exotic new experiences.
From aelan kaekae (island food) to haute cuisine, you're in for a culinary treat, a surprise, or both. Fillet of rare Santo beef at Michener's? Lobster pizza at Chill? Wahoo steak at Tanna Evergreen? Oh, stop it!
Shopping in Vanuatu
Conventional shopping is a rarity in Vanuatu. Instead, expect a full-frontal sensory experience at the Vila markets, patronage of the arts at Vanuatu Bijouterie and philanthropy in action at World of Wonders.
Port Vila comes alive after dark. Try techno at Voodoo or a ni-Vanuatu string band at Worawia's feast'n'fun night. Beer and cheer at the War Horse Saloon, or relax in kava afterglow at the Crow’s Nest.
Visit Yasur volcano and feel the fear. Dive on a World War II wreck and feel the sailors' fear. Cruise the crystal-clear island waters aboard a vintage trading ketch. However you do it, make sure you get a taste of ni-Vanuatu kastom.