Vanuatu is made up of 80 islands and was first inhabited by the Melanesian people, who migrated to these islands roughly 3,500 years ago. The islands remained untouched by Europeans until 1606, when Portuguese explorers arrived to the largest island, Espiritu Sanato, followed by the British in 1774.

The islands were colonised by the British and the French and known as the New Hebrides. The islands received their independence in 1980, and became the Republic of Vanuatu. Vanuatu was a part of my trip to the south west pacific, part of which you’ll find in my blog post about New Caledonia.

Port Vila

Port Vila can be found on the island of Éfaté and is the capital of Vanuatu. There are roughly 300,000 people spread over the 80 islands (Some inhabited and some inhabited), with only 19% of the total population on Éfaté (45,000 in 2019).

Port Vila is a major stop for many cruise ships, especially those coming from Australia. Upon disembarking from the ship we were greeted by some locals performing in traditional dancing outfits.

We initially walked around the city centre looking at different shops. They have some great duty-free shops throughout the city (specifically for those that come on cruise ships) where you can find some really cheap alcohol and cigars. Weirdly, I bought some locally made cigars and I still have them today (I don’t smoke). We decided to join a tour that took us to some of the more remote sections on the island, where local communities live.

The beaches were bliss – empty and beautiful. The countries scattered throughout the pacific are amazing spots for those to visit that love lounging on the beach, with the added perk of minimal tourists crowded around you.

The local village we stopped at gave us an amazing greeting with more dances and performances by the locals.

We then met the chief of the village, who gave us a detailed history of his people, their way of life and the challenges they have faced over the centuries with the colonisation of white men. He also gave us his blessing to visit his territory which was very special.

Within the village there were several little shops for gifts, and pictures with animals. I did have a photo taken with a sea turtle, however I decided not to share it as my thinking has developed over the years, and I don’t support anything that involves the involuntary use of animals for entertainment, especially those that are harmed or drugged (This was not the case for the animals here, but does happen elsewhere).

Our next stop was to a cove where we got to go kayaking. The weather had gotten cloudy compared to the start of the day and the coral in the area were sadly not that colourful (and I only had one of the very early GoPros!), however, it was still an enjoyable experience.

My final stop for the day was to the Mele Cascade Waterfalls. There are several tours on the island that take you to different natural spots. You can hire quad bikes, buses were around 120 Vatu (AUD 1.5) and taxis can cost around 300-500 Vatu (AUD 3.5 – 6.5). Also note, that things go up in price when cruise ships are docked in town. If you are traveling to Port Vila and not part of a cruise, you may benefit by taking a taxi before or after the cruise ships disembark.

Mele Cascade Waterfalls (Evergreen Cascade Waterfall) were beautiful. They are truly picturesque, and each level has pools, giving people the opportunity to swim in the water with the larger of the waterfalls behind them.

Do be careful though, as when you walk towards the major section of the waterfall the footpath is completely covered in running water, so is slippery. Luckily there is a rail made of rope for you to hold onto.

Unfortunately I was quite rushed around Port Vila – it was only a day visit – and for those staying longer there is so much more for you to see, including:

National Museum of Vanuatu

Erakor Island

The Summit (Tropical Gardens)

Blue Lagoon

Lololima waterfalls

Outdoor Markets

Many waterfront restaurants and bars

Mystery Island

Now you might be asking, why would an island be named this, and should you be worried about visiting it? Happily the answer is no – it is not like all those Mystery Islands in movies.

This island is off the coast of Aneityum Island, and is completely uninhabited when no cruise ships are docked. You could literally walk around the island in less than an hour. Locals from Aneghowhat on Aneityum take boats and canoes to reach this small island when tourists arrive, to earn some tourist dollars.

My visit was a relatively relaxed one, where I first walked around the island (the first time ever I had walked around an entire island!). Coming from the massive island of Australia it was hard to comprehend! I then decided it was time to relax and lay on the beach. Those words very rarely come out of my mouth when I travel, but I figured this was the place to do it.

I also took the opportunity to go snorkelling with my GoPro.

Not having done this before I can’t say my photography back then was fantastic, but the experience was exciting.

Whilst on the island, there are several tours to go swimming with dolphins, ride a glass bottom boat to see sea-life nearby, as well as little stores selling locally made goods and food.

This brought an end to my pacific cruise voyage and it certainly was an enjoyable one. It really has made me want to go and visit the rest of the pacific countries and territories as they are all hidden gems with so much to offer.

Safe Travels!

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  1. These are some awesome pictures! The waterfall and pictures under the water were my favorite. Great post!

  2. Wow this is a beautiful place! That waterfall was the best! Im in awe!

  3. Great post Cai! Thanks for all the great suggestions

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