Vanuatu the shaky isles

The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation of the South Pacific which is located 1,750 kilometres (1,090 miles) east of Australia.   There are 83 islands in the group, about 65 of which are populated.

The Capital of Vanuatu is Port Vila, on the island of Efate.  Port Vila is a small city, having a population of about 40,000.  It is built around a magnificent harbour, which contains the islands of Irriki and Ifara.  There’s a variety of accommodation in and around Port Vila ranging from backpackers to exclusive resorts.  The city caters well for tourists, and, for its size, has a large number of restaurants and cafes which are geared to suit any budget.

The interior of the island consists of fairly dense forest, which has walk trails you can explore and waterfalls under which you can cool off.  Around the coastline there are many beaches, bays and harbours which you can get to by hiring a car, getting a taxi (negotiate the price beforehand), or you can experience the joy of the local buses.  From Port Vila it is possible to arrange for boats to take you to some of the less populated islands, or you can book short cruises which have regular itineraries.

Vanuatu has a number of active volcanoes and it is located in a very dynamic earthquake zone.   They did experience a fairly large earthquake in 2009 which measured 7.8, and there was a tsunami warning issued.  Volcanoes are an attraction for some, and those pursuing a lively encounter with volcanoes normally head to the island of Tanna to visit Tanna Yasur Volcano because it is reasonably easy to reach.  Yasur is especially interesting to see at night as it gives off a bright red glow thanks to the lava that bubbles near its surface.  It does erupt from time to time with what vulcanologists call a Strobian eruption, meaning that it throws out great big clods of lava from a central crater.  What goes up must come down, and you don’t really want to be standing under a bit of rock that has been heated to about 1200 degrees Centigrade because if it hits you will probably perish.  Volcanoes are fascinating natural phenomena, just keep in mind that no matter how spectacular they appear; volcanoes are dangerous.

Many people think that bungy jumping was invented in New Zealand.  Wrong!  The Pentecost Islanders have been leaping head first off tall towers for centuries.  Land diving occurs every Saturday from April to June on Pentecost Island, and it has now become something of a tourist attraction, although the locals do necessarily take it very seriously indeed.  The ritual, where a male leaps from a platform using only vines that are tied to his ankles to break his fall, is part of their Yam Festival, and it is also a fertility rite for men.   You can get to Pentecost Island by making your own arrangements, but there are also a number of tourist operators who can make all arrangements for you.

Australians and New Zealanders make up the bulk of international travellers who visit Vanuatu, and a couple of Australian banks operate there.  Vanuatu is a reasonably poor nation which depends on tourism for a large part of its revenue.  Prices are reasonable in Vanuatu, although it does have a number of exclusive resorts which are reasonably expensive.  There is no requirement to tip in Vanuatu.  Several Pacific-based airlines fly into Vanuatu, and you can get some really good deals through Australia and New Zealand airlines and tour operators.  Vanuatu enjoys a tropical climate, meaning that it has a wet and a dry season.  The best time to visit is from April to October for during the Southern Hemisphere summer from November through to March it can get very hot, unpleasantly humid, and you may be likely to encounter the odd cyclone or two.  Then again, that’s the time to pick up the best travel bargains.

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