Essential Vanuatu

By | Category: Travel destinations

Vanuatu

This is the name of a book that new arrivals to this South Pacific country can get when they arrive. To most of us, Vanuatu may be just a name. To older readers they might remember the pre 1980 name – New Hebrides. Cruise passengers might name the capital, Port Vila which is a frequent stopping point for Pacific cruises and scuba divers will know the area as one of the best to explore the coral reeves.
But travellers from the UK and Ireland – and indeed most of Europe apart from the French – are few in number. Being in the south Pacific about a thousand miles north east of Australia, you can understand its popularity for Australian, New Zealanders and people from South East Asia but the UK, like France, had a strong link to the country. The French holiday there, why don’t we?
The length of time to get there may be one reason. The lack of indirect flights may be another but passengers from France face the same issue and it doesn’t stop them. The national airline, Air Vanuatu, connects the country to main airports in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia, the link for a lot of French visitors
Vanuatu is an archipelago of more than eighty islands in the Coral Sea. During WWII it was the second largest base in the south Pacific for allied troops. As the New Hebrides it didn’t attract many tourists but cruise ships were regular visitors. After independence and the name change in 1980, visitors began to increase but it has really only been in the last fifteen years of so that numbers have sharply risen. Or at least sharply risen compared to the past. Compared to the figures that might go to the British Museum, they still only receive about a fifth so crowded it is not.
So what does The Essential Vanuatu a whopping 167 page book highlight the visitor should do when they arrive? The beaches, the clear Pacific Ocean and the sea life are the main attractions. Think of a Caribbean island but with more to do for the outdoors person. Just off the largest island, Espiritu Santo, is the wreck of the SS President Coolidge which has created an artificial reef which draws large shoals of fish and their predators. Off Million Dollar Point, tons and tons of unwanted WWII material was dumped into the sea. More artificial reeves. That’s the appeal for divers.
For those who prefer trekking then parts of Vanuatu offer a last, largely unvisited area. The highest point is Mount Tabwemasana which is over 6,000 feet high. It is surrounded by tropical rainforest yet – according to Wikipedia – fewer than six people a year climb the difficult peak. According to visitors CD-Traveller has spoken to nobody knows how many go there but there are tourist trails and necessary guides through the forests.
Just before Christmas, additional development money from the EU and the Asian Development Bank was given to the South Pacific Tourism Organisation to boost tourism and some of this will find its way to Vanuatu. Some will improve the ports for cruise ships to dock. More will go to promote its culture for Vanuatu boosts over a hundred languages and dialects. Today the different traditions and customs are what also attract the travellers, some of which can’t be found anywhere else in the Pacific.
Still relatively unknown, as more money flows in, Vanuatu might change. But with beaches, marine life, rainforests, waterfalls and culture, the attraction to visitors is strong. The challenge will be to improve the opportunities for the people but maintaining the attractiveness as it now is.

For more information about Vanuatu, click here

Image © Vanuatu Tourism Office

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