Visitors Guide N


Every April/May, this spectacular ceremony happens on Pentecost Island. It’s not a show for tourists but an important part of custom ceremony. Up to 30 ‘outsiders’ are permitted to watch the dives on the designated days. It is part of the annual yam festival and circumcised boys and men of all ages can take part. While it is a ‘manhood’ thing, there is no shame in not participating, or indeed pulling out at the last minute. Each jumper constructs his own diving platform and selects his own liana vines. Two friends accompany the diver to the platform and secure the vines around his ankles to a frenzy of singing and dancing below.

When he’s ready to jump, he raises his hands and silence falls. He then throws some leaves to the wind, crosses his arms across his chest, says what could be his last words and dives. If the vines are too long, he risks injury or death hitting the ground. If they are too short, he will reel back into the platform with the same result. Usually, he will hit the broken earth and ‘fertilise’ the soil, bringing on a healthy yam crop.

The jumper’s male relatives release him and the watchers again break into singing and dancing. Legend says that the first jumper was a woman. She was trying to escape from her abusive husband, Tamalie, and climbed a banyan tree. He followed her and she leapt from the tree.

Tamalie was full of guilt and also leapt to his death, unaware that his wife had secured liana vines to her ankles. For some time, only women participated in the dive (every 5 years) until the male elders decided that they should dive to redress their shame (and Tamalie’s) and prove their courage. The women today chant and sing, some 20 metres from the tower, bare-breasted and wearing long skirts made from white hibiscus fibre.

Interestingly, the Vanuatu government of the day tried to sue AJ Hackett in New Zealand for stealing an idea and turning it into bungy jumping.


Amid the dimly lit, hushed atmosphere, with the melodic sounds of coughing and spitting in the background, people sit and ‘listen’ to their Kava.

Nakamal means men’s house. A nakamal is similar in meaning to the ‘shed’ for Australian men. Nakamals are kava bars. Traditionally women are not allowed to drink kava, however, today it is common to see both expatriate and ni-Vanuatu women at the nakamal for the five o’clock shell. Kava is sold in 50 vatu or 100 vatu shells, the term shell coming from half a coconut shell that it’s served in. To drink kava, take your shell and drink it down in one go. Then sit down and ‘listen’ to your kava (meditate). It has a relaxing affect; it also makes your eyes sensitive to light hence why it is drunk in the evening and why the nakamals are dimly lit. As for the taste it’s like peppered muddy water. If you don’t fancy a shell, nakamals are still worth a visit for their pleasant and peaceful environment. Ronnie’s Nakamal is once such spot popular with a lot of locals and expatriates. Wherever you see a light hanging from a tree, it means the adjacent house is selling kava. Unlike in Fiji, there is no ‘ceremony’ like hand clapping. You can take along a plastic bottle for take away if you’d like to savour the wonders of kava back at your resort, where no one can see you grimace.


(In Bislama the National Anthem is Nasonal Sing Blong Vanuatu)…

A national competition was held for the music and words of the national anthem and it was won by Françoise Vincent. The words are:

Yumi, Yumi, yumi I glad long talem se

Yumi, yumi, yumi ol man blong Vanuatu

God i givem ples ia long yumi

Yumi glad tumas long hem

Yumi strong, yumi fri long hem

Yumi brata evriwan

Yumi, Yumi, yumi I glad long talem se

Yumi, yumi, yumi ol man blong Vanuatu

Plante fasin blong bifo i stap

Plante fasin blong tede

Be yumi i olsem wan nomo

Hemia fasin blong yumi

Yumi, Yumi, yumi I glad long talem se

Yumi, yumi, yumi ol man blong Vanuatu

Yumi save plante wok i stap

Long ol aelan blong yumi

God i helpem yumi evriwan

Hemi Papa blong yumi

Yumi, Yumi, yumi I glad long talem se

Yumi, yumi, yumi ol man blong Vanuatu

Basically translated into English…

We are happy to tell all the people of Vanuatu…

God gave us this land and we thank Him

He made us strong and free

We are all brothers…

We are happy to tell all the people of Vanuatu…

There were many ways before

There are many ways today

But we are all one

Despite our many ways

We are happy to tell all the people of Vanuatu…

We work hard on our many islands

God helps us in our work

He is Our Father…


The National Council of Chiefs is made up of custom chiefs and the function of the council is to discuss all matters relating to custom and tradition and to make recommendations to Parliament for the preservation and promotion of ni-Vanuatu culture and language. The Council may also be consulted on any question, particularly in relation to tradition and custom, in connection with any proposed law being considered by Parliament.


FlagThe Vanuatu flag may look a bit like a licorice allsort but a lot of thought went into it when independence came in 1980. A competition was held and won by Kalontas Mahlon from Emau Island (Kalantos works in Vila Handprints).

The green represents the richness of the land and agriculture, the red is the blood that unites the people (and a reminder of the blood spilled at the hands of the whites), the black is the colour of the indigenous people’s skin, the yellow depicts enlightenment through Christianity, the ‘Y’ is the shape of the archipelago of 83 islands, the curled tusk of the valued pig symbolises prosperity and, inside the tusk, is the mele leaf, a symbol of peace.


It’s the teeny weeny office in the main street tucked between Pilioko and Cave du Gourmet. The National Tourism Office has everything you need to know about Vanuatu (that you can’t find here). It’s also the place to head to pick up a map so you can explore independently.


The New Hebrides sounds romantic but was just the name given to Vanuatu while it was a condominium governed by the French and the British. It was a complicated affair bringing two of everything with it, one French the other British. Recently on a trip to Thailand I discovered you could still buy (illegal) passports for the New Hebrides although these days they’re not very useful.


The only daily newspaper is the Vanuatu Daily Post (Me Harem Se column for gossip on which locals are up who and who’s not paying the rent) and you can check it out online. There is a weekly newspaper called The Independent in 3 languages. Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand papers and magazines are available from Stop Press, a day or two later depending on flights.


The top spots at the time of writing are the Waterfront Bar & Grill, the Anchor Inn, Elektrorock, Shooters, Traders, Voodoo Bar, Rumours Nightclub at Moorings Hotel and Port Vila Pub may rage until late depending on who’s there. We also have a 24 hour – yes, that’s right – 24 hour night club called Planet 107, and its actually pretty flash by small town standards. Don’t expect much action before midnight.


This is the term for the indigenous people and it literally translates as ‘of Vanuatu. The abbreviation ‘ni-Van’ is not derogatory. Expatriates are entitled to apply for ni-Vanuatu citizenship after ten years residency.


Keep your dangly bits covered thanks. Let’s face it, few us actually look good with our stomach bared let alone anything else, that means you too men and we don’t care how new and cool you think your tattoo/nipple/belly ring is. Doing nudity in Vanuatu is not appropriate. Please, keep your clothes on, unless you can find your own secluded beach.

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