As Vanuatu is composed of 83 islands, it seems there is no limit to the pleasures you can get from visiting this realm in the South Pacific. Albeit the most famous titles have already been claimed by Port Vila, Espiritu Santo, and Tanna Islands, Vanuatu still has other places that are sure to satiate your wanderlust. Check out the other popular islands in this chain, and find out how each could contribute to your most unforgettable travel experiences.
Europeans first saw this island on Whit Sunday, thus naming it Pentecost Island. Most of the population resides along the west coast or the highland center; the people are split into three religious groups: Church of Christ in the south, Anglican in the north, and Catholic in the center. Catholicism was brought to the southern and central parts of the island by the French settlers, while the north was soon dominated by Anglicans. In 1931, the Danielite movement, named for its leader Daniel Tambe, was formed and started advocating the right of islanders to rule over Europeans by calling for the desertion of traditional customs.
Between April and June, Pentecost Island gets to enjoy more than just a few visitors owing to its world-famous ritual of land diving – Nagol (N’gol) every Saturday . With local men and young boys starting at age seven jumping from a man-made tower 20 to 30 meters off the ground with just a vine attached to them to break their fall, the ritual has served as an inspiration to Kiwi AJ Hackett in coming up with his brainchild: bungee jumping. The ground vibrates under the villagers’ dancing and stomping feet; the thrill and excitement in the air is so thick you could practically taste it; and the unease for the jumper’s safety is nerve-wracking– observing this magnificent ceremony, a fertility rite for men, is truly an experience like no other. Other activities in Pentecost Island include going on village tours, snorkeling, canoeing, hiking, and visiting historical landmarks.
The second largest island in the chain, Malekula, is known as the island of custom. The diverse culture and linguistics are some of the most interesting in the world – with amazing custom dances and more than 30 distinct spoken languages. Small and Big Nambas are the names given to the primary cultural groups, with ‘nambas’ referring to the men’s woven penis sheath. The island gained notice by the outside world during the American Civil War, when Europe’s great need for cotton made it turn to other sources. Malekula made up for the lack of supply.
Owing to the nature of the island and its people, most activities on Malekula are geared towards absorbing the culture and breathing in the wonders of nature. Malekula’s interior–which is rugged, mountainous, and forest-covered–is conducive to walking, trekking, and bird watching. Its neighboring islands, like Maskelynes and other tiny offshore islands, have great sandy beaches for you to enjoy and coral reefs for the diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. But perhaps the most unique experience you can gain from visiting this island is going on a trip to its ancient cannibal sites, hidden in the bush on north Malekula. Nothing beats the thrill that runs down your spine upon mulling over such a grisly ritual.
The world has been blessed with spectacular man-made and natural wonders, but it is safe to say that it is most grateful for having been given Vanuatu and all of its 83 awesome islands.