Excellent sailing, kayaking, fishing, diving, snorkelling, trekking – everything, actually – will call you, even extreme sports such as abseiling and parasailing. Golf courses and tennis courts are only in or near Port Vila and Luganville. The only squash courts are in Port Vila.
Vanuatu’s scuba sites include several world-class dives. Port Vila has a great range of underwater topography and a Corsair WWII fighter-plane wreck near Pele, amid fan corals and healthy reefs, while Santo’s offerings include the wreck of USS President Coolidge. The Lady and the President by Peter Stone covers the tragedy of war and delights of scuba diving.
World-standard game fishing is easy to organise here. Boats range from 9m to 42m, most equipped with the latest and highest quality gear. Light tackle fishing, reef fishing, river fishing – it’s all waiting to lure you onto the water, where the dogtooth or yellowfin tuna and wahoo abound. The catch will be tagged and released or given to villagers.
You can generally hire a canoe on the outer islands, or pay a villager to take you out in a speedboat. Go spear-fishing with the locals for green jobfish, or dive for crayfish, but bring an underwater torch and enough batteries for everyone.
There are prawns and eels in the rivers. Several islands, especially Efate, Aneityum, Santo, Erromango and Malekula, have fast-flowing creeks and broad estuaries that provide good catches. Gaua and Ambae boast large crater lakes where prawns and eels are the main attraction.
Always check who owns the water and the fish in it before casting your line. Fishing gear is available in Port Vila and Luganville, but it’s best to go prepared in other areas.
The cooler months of July and August are perfect for hiking and trekking. Vanuatu has many fine walks, including strenuous two- to five-day hikes on Erromango, Ambrym, Santo, Pentecost, Vanua Lava, Gaua and Malekula. You can organise walks yourself (guides cost between 1000VT and 3000VT per day), through your host or a tour operator. Don’t set out alone with a map – all roads change dramatically during cyclones and mud slides or disappear under a 1m-high layer of vine. Without a local guide you’ll quickly be up you-know-where.
Always carry plenty of drinking water. Cotton trousers and long-sleeved shirts will protect you from sunburn, mosquitoes and the dreaded nanggalat plant, whose large, purple-veined leaves produce painful weals that hurt for a week (islanders use the sap from the plant’s roots as an antidote). Warm clothing and rain jackets are appropriate in many areas, particularly at high altitudes.
Solid walking boots are essential. Wet, slippery conditions are common, as are sharp volcanic rock paths, and tree roots to trip you. A tent is necessary for treks in unpopulated areas, but you can often hire one. Make sure your food is always secure from cockroaches and rats.
There are stacks of places where you can walk out from the shore and see brilliant, pristine coral: Hideaway Island, Nguna, Tanna, Bokissa, Vanua Lava, Mystery Island, it’s a long list. There are also boat tours for snorkellers, or you can join a scuba group.
If you’re travelling to outer islands, take your own snorkel gear and ask villagers for permission to use their beach.
Some beaches have stunning fine white sand, azure diamond-clear water, fringes of palms and little reefs of coral a few steps out from shore. Some are several kilometres long. Others are tiny windswept breaks between cliffs, with driftwood and rocks. Many beaches in Vanuatu have black sand, while others are based on dead coral and black volcanic rock. Sharks and strong currents are a major risk at many island beaches, so seek local advice before plunging in.
Visiting Archaeological Sites
Almost all islands have relics, including the sites of ancient villages, ceremonial grounds and burial places. Stone foundations and dry-stone walls are common – the stone monoliths that mark old dancing grounds are widespread in northern areas, particularly Gaua.
Aneityum has interesting ancient irrigation systems and prehistoric petroglyphs (rock carvings) representing the sun, moon and animals. North Pentecost and Maewo also have petroglyph sites.
Every archaeological site has a traditional owner; you must ask permission to see it and possibly pay a small entry fee.
The islands’ wildlife is a highlight when you swim near a coral reef or among the turtles or dugongs. Apart from marine fauna, however, you’ll only see birds and small lizards. Great areas for bird enthusiasts include the lake on Gaua, which has a large population of ducks; the cloud forests of Santo, home to the endemic mountain starling; Emae, for its peregrine falcons; and tiny Laika, off Epi, which has a colony of shearwaters (mutton birds). In forested areas there are parrots and pigeons – you may not see them, but you’ll certainly hear them.
Charter a cruising trimaran with skipper and crew: