Visitors Guide M
A ribbon shaped island north of Pentecost with Vanuatu’s highest rainfall so, naturally, waterfalls, rivers and streams abound. The locals follow traditional custom dances, sand drawing and sorcery.
Malakula (sometimes spelt Malekula) is the second largest island and is steeped in custom and tradition.
Over 30 different languages are spoken although the two tribes that are most identified with the island are the Big Nambas from the north and the Small Nambas from the south (the ‘big’ and ‘small’ refers to the size of the relative penis sheathes).
Some of the country’s finest art comes from here – clay heads, puppets, tall head-dresses, masks and sand drawings. Copra is produced from coconut plantations.
Malaria tablets aren’t necessary for a Port Vila/Efate type holiday. Mossies are not travellers and, from birth to death, don’t migrate much further than the area of a small room. Tablets can make you nauseous, especially if you combine them with diving or drinking. If travelling to the outer islands, however, they should be taken as a precaution.
The mango is a delicious and healthy fruit, rich in vitamins A and C, high in fibre and an excellent source of potassium. Fragrance is the best test of ripeness and quality. If there is no hint of aroma the mango will probably be tasteless. Ripen them at room temperature and then move to the fridge where they will keep for a few days. Delicious on their own they also make excellent chutneys and can be shredded into salads. Mangos are popular with the ni-Vanuatu, but a bumper crop traditionally means that a cyclone will come that season. They say it is to do with spreading the seeds around. Somehow the tree knows a cyclone is coming and to spread the seeds it produces an abundance of flowers and fruit. It may be coincidence but it seems to hold true.
Mangoes is an adults only resort with individual, well appointed bungalows set high on a ridge looking down to the Holiday Inn and the lagoon. Mangoes was one of the first resorts to adopt a ‘no children policy’ when it opened.
The accommodation includes tastefully appointed, detached bungalows as well as villas with their own plunge pools. There are several swimming pools and a charming restaurant. Couples may also choose to dine in their bungalow or on their balcony and in-house massages can be arranged.
It is a walk or a short bus ride to Vila town and there’s a tour desk offering tours and activities. The resort often has excellent Stay Pay specials.
Conact us regarding Mangoes Resort
Mariner Apartments consist of eleven serviced apartments all with modern conveniences and facilities.
They are “motel style” and only a short walk up the hill from the town centre. They are fully serviced and air conditioned, equipped with linen and cooking utensils.
All apartments have a small balcony overlooking Iririki Island and Port Villa Harbour and make a great base for travellers wanting value, location and independence.
Contact us regarding Mariner Apartments
Port Vila’s market place is situated on the sea wall next to Downtown Bon Marche and across the road from General Store and Island Chicken. It is a colourful, noisy and vibrant place where you can see and buy local produce and artefacts. The produce is fresh, organic, and cheap and it tastes just like fruit used to taste when you were a kid. It’s also the place to try Lap-Lap and other colourful local dishes. There are also stalls selling beaded necklaces, Vanuatu souvenirs, and woodcarvings further along the waterfront near the Nambawan Cafe. The market is open from Monday to Saturday (24 hours).
The Arts and Craft Market (Hebrida) is off the Centrepoint car park and sells a variety of shirts, sarongs, handmade clothing and crafts.
Marriages in Vanuatu are recognised in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and most other countries.
Unlike Fiji, couples do not have to attend the registry office in person so documentation can be mostly organised prior to departure. Couples do have to be in Vanuatu for three days prior to the ceremony however (unless arriving on a cruise ship to marry). Final documentation will take place during this time and it is also handy for the bride and groom to meet the wedding coordinator and choose a location.
Three weeks prior to the ceremony, the following must be faxed to the Municipality:
- Copies of both passports
- Copies of both birth certificates
- If divorced, the relevant papers
- A completed Certificate of Intended Marriage
- Completed Witness Forms – 2 witnesses are required but the wedding coordinator can organise witnesses if couples don’t have guests with them. Witness details needed include names, dates of birth, where born, parents’ names, place of residence and occupation.
If you are planning on going to Vanuatu to get married (see our Weddings Vanuatu site), as a general rule wedding bookings are not accepted on a Sunday, religious or national holidays, but there can be exceptions. Some resorts stipulate documentation must arrive 8 weeks prior to the ceremony but that is more for their own coordination than any legal reason. For more information also visit ourResort Weddings web site.
“Yes please, harder, harder.” Massage is a great way to wind down. Both the large resorts, Warwick Le Lagon and Holiday Inn Resorts have an onsite masseuse. Iririki Island has Spa Frangipani where massage is available. Erakor Island Resort also has the Essence of Erakor Day Spa for Swedish, Aromatherapy and Hot Rock massage. There is an excellent mobile masseur, Kalman, who has his own table for de-stressing (Thai/acu-pressure). There are several private businesses in town including a chiropractor (Gerard Sariani – he’s very good!) and Lotus Health & Beauty (we get great feedback)- Lotus is in a beautiful tranquil setting and has a rather lovely tea house – it is up the hill behind town. There is a new Thai Massage place opposite The Grand – very good and reasonably priced! Holistic services are also available such as reiki, shiatsu, ACMOS, and reflexology.
There are no dangerous animals or insects in Vanuatu and no vaccinations are required although anti-malarial precautions are recommended for visits to outer islands. Hospital and ambulance facilities exist in Port Vila and there are a number of good doctors, dentists, physiotherapists and chemists. If you need emergency medical assistance, call ProMedical (mobile paramedic) on 25566.
The big resorts like Le Lagon, Iririki Island Resort (Tuesdays), Erakor Island Resort (Thursdays), Le Lagon (Wednesdays) and Holiday Inn (Thursdays) have Melanesian Feast nights, the Secret Garden has them occasionally, as does Ekasup Cultural Village on Fridays (very good). If your holiday doesn’t coincide with one at your resort, ring around – you’re sure to find one happening at another resort. Beware of feasts being advertised by locals on the street. These feasts are legitimate but you might get ‘traditional’ dancers wearing Billabong boardies and an upset tummy.
The Melanesian (formerly The Windsor) is up the hill leaving town towards Le Lagon. It’s comfortable with a pool, poolside bar, restaurant and has regular kava tastings and local music poolside. It’s a good value property close to town and is therefore popular with people visiting for business but is also a good base for couples and families, especially if they are overnighting before heading to another island.
Port Vila’s largest village, Mele is situated just past the turn off to Hideaway Island. Mele Village is a thriving mini-metropolis. It is well worth a visit on your way to Hideaway Island or the Cascades.
MILLION DOLLAR POINT
Million Dollar Point in Santo is an amazing dive site full of army equipment, fish and coral… but try to imagine yourself as a ni-Vanuatu witnessing this. The US army sets up a military operations base on the island during World War 2. Planes fly out, planes fly in with troops, equipment and supplies. Japanese soldiers captured in the Solomon Islands sometimes pass through on their way to POW camps in Australia. Entertainers like Bob Hope and Arty Shaw arrive to keep the troops amused and then, the war’s over, and someone has to make a decision about what to do with all the equipment (tanks, jeeps, guns, trucks etc). ‘Of course!’ someone decides, ‘let’s just push the lot into the sea!’. And that’s what happened – so it’s also Million Dollar What Was The Point and is now a fantastic dive site.
Mostly the milk you’ll find is long-life in cartons. There is ‘short life’ normal milk available most of the time from Centrepoint, but it’s not as creamy or as consistent as Australian and New Zealand milk. If you get a few white specks on the top of your tea or coffee, it’s not milk going off, it will be bits of calcium from the water, which will do you no harm at all.
The first two missionaries arrived in Vanuatu in 1839 and were promptly killed and eaten. This actually resulted in the London Missionary Society sending Polynesian missionaries to spread the Good Word as they had a similar skin colour and perhaps were considered more expendable than white missionaries. Excuse me for seeming a little anti-missionary here but, apart from the Bible, the missionaries also brought measles, dysentery, smallpox, influenza, pneumonia, scarlet fever, mumps, whooping cough and the common cold – all of which had a devastating impact on the population.
Sometimes these introduced diseases had an adverse effect on the missionaries as well. If a disease decimated a community, occasionally the local people saw that as a result of an evil religion, which resulted in the missionaries appearing on a menu.
The Catholic missionaries were greeted more warmly than the others as they were prepared for local custom (on the whole) to be kept in a parallel arrangement with Christianity. I guess my gripe is not totally with missionaries per se, but more the colonial attitude that the natives were savages. If the visitors weren’t as blinkered, they would have discovered that the locals already had an inner peace and sense of how they fitted with nature that many never find through religion.
In favour of the missionaries – they did get rid of some nasty practices including cannibalism, infanticide and widow strangling. John Geddie (on Aneityum from 1848 to 1861) put a stop to widow strangling as well as dancing, smoking, drinking kava and taking part in ceremonial traditions. This straight-laced, Scottish-Canadian Presbyterian converted 3000 people to Christianity. How? By inventing the written word. He learnt the main language on the island, translated the Bible into it, had it printed and set up schools to teach it.
Mobile telephony is now in Vanuatu, although you may find your own mobile number won’t work over here (depending on your provider and ‘roaming’ service).
GSM mobile phones work in Port Vila, Luganville, and Norsup, Malekula. The two mobile phone operators are Digicel and TVL. Visit www.digicelvanuatu.com or www.tvl.vu to see if your phone and system are compatible.
You can pick up a pre-paid SIM card and it can be refilled with credits (500, 1,000 and 2,000) at participating outlets around town (post office, 7/11 store – look for the sign ‘Rifil’, which means re-fill).
Vatu is the currency. Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 vatu. Notes come in 200, 500, 1000 and 5000 vatu. For quick conversion to Aussie dollars add a decimal point – therefore notes come in $2, $5, $10 and $50.
Moorings is a fairly recent addition to accommodation options in Port Vila. On the harbour and a short walk to town it offers quality accommodation at a good price and has a pool, restaurant, bar and nightclub nearby.
MOTHER HUBBARD DRESSES
Visitors to Port Vila will probably notice local women wearing ‘Mother Hubbard’ dresses. These are loose-fitting ‘mission gowns’ that have their origins in the late 19th century when moralistic missionaries found the shape of the female body was a little too exciting to ignore and they designed a dress that would remove all temptation.
Unlike the Fijian women’s loose-fitting dresses, though, the ni-Vanuatu decorate theirs with ribbons, lace and colourful patterns. There is a tradition between ‘hausgels’ and leaving expatriates to have a Mother Hubbard made and given to the departing woman. Somehow can’t see it being part of Toorak fashion.
Not-too-powerful motorcycles can be hired for half or full days. They are an efficient way of getting about but not much cheaper than a small car. As there is no steering wheel reference to remind you which side of the traffic, remember to stick to the right and take it easy on unsealed roads.
MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDING
Bicycle riding in Vanuatu can be dangerous – if you ride on the town roads! But get out in the bush and it’s a different story. Pascal Guillet is a charming, experienced guide and his Vanuatu Ecotours has a choice of 30 off-road biking experiences from one hour to a full day for all levels of fitness.
MT YASUR VOLCANO
MUSEUM & CULTURAL CENTRE
Haos Blong Holem Teat Kastem Blong Vanuatu (house that holds tight to custom, which belongs to Vanuatu). The Hon. Sethy J Regenvanu officially opened Port Vila’s Museum and Cultural Centre in 1995. It is situated opposite parliament house, and is filled with Vanuatu’s history, artifacts and photographs. It is worth a visit and there is a small entry fee. On the same sight is the building for women’s affairs and the Chiefs Nakamal.
Bob Marley – you’ll be hearing a lot of him. As well as Bob you also won’t be able to miss string bands consisting of a guitarist, a ukulele and a box sitter thingy.
Also known as Aneityum and Anatom, ‘Mystery Island’ is the most southern island in the archipelago. ‘Mystery Island’ seemed to have more pulling power for to cruise ship passengers.
It’s mountainous and ringed by white, sandy beaches and a coral reef for excellent snorkelling/diving. Once the island supported a thriving sandalwood and kauri logging industry and had the largest missionary church in the southern hemisphere, seating 500 people. It’s now in ruins.
There are also many species of orchids. There are some photos on Moon guide author David Stanley’s site.