Efate and Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Vanuatu is pretty much what you would expect from a South Pacific destination, but for Natalie Gruzlewski, the friendliness of its people sets it apart. It was awarded the tag "Happiest Place on Earth" a few years ago and that says it all.
Most holidays start in Port Vila on the island of Efate, the gateway to Vanuatu's 83 islands. Natalie recommends renting a car, but be warned, driving is pretty relaxed and there doesn't seem to be many road rules, so go slowly.
About 15 minutes from Vila you will find Mele Cascades, a beautiful site with stunning waterfalls and swimming holes. Take an easy walk up a track winding through lush tropical rainforest and be rewarded with a dip in one of the plunge pools. Stop for a picnic beside a creek and join locals for a swim.
After spending time in Vila, most tourists take the 45-minute flight to Tanna Island. Culture and custom are very strong on the island and many villages have turned their backs on modern ways for the traditional. They treat their "kastom" (pidgin English for traditional culture) very seriously and visitors are required to travel with a local guide.
On the hour's drive from the airport to the eastern side of the island you will start to see ash plains and villagers brave enough to live in the shadow of Mt Yasur, the world's most accessible active volcano.
Vanuatu is sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire and has nine active volcanoes but Mt Yasur is the star attraction. Natalie and her guide played the waiting game as they heard the earth rumbling and smelt sulphur before rocks began to fly. Guides estimate levels, and if the volcano looks as though it's going to reach volcanic alert level five, it's time to leave in a hurry.
Famous for its setting over the palm-fringed Erakor Lagoon, Vila Chaumieres specialises in local seafood and Vanuatu's excellent beef, prepared by chef Samson whose skills are known throughout Port Vila. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and bar service is available all day. Dinner on the thatched-roof deck by the floodlit lagoon is wonderfully romantic.
Thatched bures with balcony in tropical gardens on the tranquil lagoon's edge are available for stays of three or more days.
Efate and Tanna Island in Vanuatu.
Talpacific Holidays has five-night Vanuatu packages including accommodation, breakfast and airport transfers starting at $325 per person twin share.
Mele Cascades entry costs around $12 for adults and $6 for children.
Mt Yasar volcano tours are around $118. Transport to and from the volcano, entry fees, all weather jackets and professional guide are included. They run between 3pm until 8pm. They are run by Evergreen Tours.
Pacific Blue has flights to Port Vila.
- Brisbane $249
- Sydney $269
- Melbourne $339
- Canberra $349
- Perth $459
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at August 6, 2009 and are subject to change.
Air Vanuatu connections to Tanna Island are available. They start at $280 return.
Prices correct at August 6, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
Mele Cascades Waterfall Tour
Ph: +678 23050
Fax: +678 23045
Mt Yasur Volcano Tours
Tanna Evergreen Resort & Tours
Ph: +678 23050
Fax: +678 23045
PO Box 3003
Ph: +678 22 866
Fax: +678 24 238
Visas: Australians do not require a visa to stay in Vanuatu for up to 30 days. An extension of up to four months in a one-year period is possible.
Electricity: 220-280V at 50Hz using Australian-style plugs.
Time zone: GMT +11.
Currency: The vatu.
International dialling code: +678.
It is recommended travellers to Vanuatu see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo or www.smartraveller.gov.au.