Vanuatu - first time
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Jan 22, 2013 2:58 PM Last Post By: ROB_S_NZ
Jan 12, 2013 7:39 PM
Vanuatu - first timeI'm a long time user of the LPTT and am very bummed to find the history on this branch is gone as I've become quite dependent on the TT for new destinations, so hoping there are some people out there who can assist.
I'm planning a trip to Vanuatu from Sydney and it seems a shame to only visit one island. My thought is that if I see more than one island, I can feel better ticking the country off my list and move on to see another. I'm a lover of the beach primarily, with other interests in diving, nature, photography and culture.
I was thinking of splitting two weeks primarily between Santo (diving, beach) and with 3-4 days in Efate, since flights pass through there anyway. In Efate, was thinking could explore Port Vila, take the ferry rides to Iririki &/or Erakor, Mele-matt cascades, island drive. Possibly a night or two in Nguna.
So, kind folks... is it worth a few days in Efate or does the LP guide make it sound better than it really is? I don't have much experience travelling in the South Pacific aside from Tonga but have spend heaps of time in the Caribbean.
If anyone has any suggestions for places to stay, tours of dive operations, also greatly appreciated.
Jan 13, 2013 1:24 AM
1If you're interested in volcanoes and culture I can recommend the island of Tanna. You can see Yasur volcano up (very) close, an amazing and unforgettable sight. There are some villages you can visit (guided) where the people live as they have done for ages, living of the land. The people on Tanna are lovely too. I spent a week there, on 3 different parts of the island.
Port Vila is a modern "city", with loads of cruise ships coming in and hundreds of people flocking into Vila for a couple of hours. Not that much to do there really. Nguna is a small island with mostly rather basic accommodation, at least when I was there in Oct. 2010.
I haven't been to Santo, so can't comment on that.
Beware of "island time": some things go painfully slow, like arranged transport showing up a day later (like when I wanted to go to Nguna). Also Vanuatu is not a cheap destination and ATM's are few and far between. In Vila there are ATM's, but I haven't seen any on Nguna and Tanna, although that might have changed since I was there. Anyway it is a good idea to have plenty of cash, especially if you stay in locally run accommodation.
Have fun, it is an amazing country with an interesting culture and I would love to go back there and explore some of the other islands.
Jan 13, 2013 4:29 AM
2Tanna's definitely worth a visit; possibly the highlight of the country. Not much in the way of beaches though but for hiking and culture it's wonderful.
I'd suggest taking cash with you to anywhere outside of Vila. Other things to be prepared for are lack of mains electricity (many places just have a generator running for a couple of hours every evening) and any advertised internet connections, even in Vila, can sometimes make 90s dial up internet seem quick. But it's a wonderful country, the people are very friendly, and most people love it.
On Efate, plenty to see if you're into scenery and culture and also plenty to do if you're into activities. A trip around the island shouldn't be missed, and the food in the market is good value, wholesome and tasty. From what I heard, Santo is the place for beaches.
Jan 14, 2013 1:22 AM
3I think Santo is a great choice.
It is the biggest and probably most diverse island in Vanuatu.
Tanna is also very interesting, but smaller and less diverse, also less good for beaches and coral.
If you can visit both (I did), it is great, but otherwise I'd prefer Santo.
As for Efate, I'd say a day or two at the most are enough to see Vila and its surrounds. Any more time is more rewardingly spent elsewhere.
Jan 14, 2013 2:55 AM
4Thanks for the great advice everyone. I will re-read the chapter on Tanna but if it's the volcano that is the main attraction, I may pass... I've seen a very active one in Costa Rica and ultimately prefer the beach.
Can I ask about the money? I had assumed there would be an ATM in Santo but will seek confirmation on this to be sure. When you say to carry lots of cash, do you purchase it abroad, at the airport or in Efate before moving on to other islands?
Jan 14, 2013 5:18 AM
5I withdrew enough money from ATMs in Vila to last through the outer islands.
As I spend most of my time in the country with the highest number of active volcanoes on Earth, it has always amused me how many tourists consider Tanna's volcano the island's main attraction, many flying over from Vila just to see it.
I spent a week in Tanna and didn't even bother climbing it.
Jan 15, 2013 7:25 PM
6There are ATMs in Port Vila and Luganville on Santo. If you are trying to get vatu in advance it is worth pre-ordering- many bureau de change to not carry it as a standard currency and need to order it in. Santo has better beaches than Efate. The diving is fantastic.
For me, the volcano was definitely the main highlight on Tanna (yay, flaming lava bombs!), and the kastom culture was interesting, though you can experience cultural offerings on Santo too. Not worth visiting if you're really after sun and sand. Turtle Bay Resort has a lovely beach if you do decide to go (though it's not up to Santo's best), and has decent snorkeling to the left of the beach.
If beaches are your thing, it could be worth considering the Cook Islands (especially Aitutaki) or Fiji- both have better beaches than Vanuatu and are cheaper.
Jan 20, 2013 3:06 AM
Jan 22, 2013 2:58 PM
I highly recomend Pele rather than Nguna. Have stayed on both. If U like beaches Pele has it. Recommend Sion/SIMOA bungalows with Mark and Mirriam Excellent hostes and great bungalow and food. I was there over Xmas! A lovely spot!!
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