Don’t just shop in Port Vila; or sip cocktails at a beach resort with an umbrella poking you in the nose every time. Vanuatu has some of the world’s most interesting natural attractions, and they’re easy to access.
Here are the five best outdoor adventures to have on Vanuatu.
1. Visit The World’s Most Accessible Live Volcano
Fly 45 minutes south to the mystical island of Tanna. Here, many locals live in simple huts built in the jungle, existing as they have for centuries. You’ll get to see many of them as you take a 4WD tour to the world’s most accessible live volcano.
Mt Yasur has been continuously erupting for over 800 years, and you’re allowed to stand a few hundred metres from the crater as lava rocks (some the size of small cars) launch into the air around you. Stay for sunset and watch the lava-red rocks fly through the darkening sky.
2. Dive The Largest Accessible Shipwreck Site On Earth
Fly 50 minutes north to the island of Espiritu Santo and dive through the many compartments of a troop-carrying ship that sank during the Second World War. The SS President Coolidge was a luxury ship liner before being used by the US Government to fight the Japanese.
The vessel ran into a mine in 1942 and now sits under the sea just off the coast of Santo. Because the bow of the ship sits just 20 metres deep, even beginner divers can see the site. But the stern sits 65 metres below, offering experienced divers a challenging experience. You can travel through the compartments of the ship through the clearest waters in the Pacific.
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3. Watch The World’s First Bungy Jumpers
Take a short flight 190 kilometres north from Port Vila to the island of Pentecost to witness one of the world’s most death-defying rituals. For hundreds of years islanders on Pentecost have blessed the annual yam harvest by building towers from local trees to heights of 30 metres and beyond.
They then tie vines around the ankles of chosen men, who leap to the earth with their fall broken as the vines snap on descent. You’ll also get to see small children take their first dives – a rite of passage to the adult world.
On arrival, you’ll be taken to a hillside close to the tiny airstrip on Pentecost. Locals dance and clap hysterically to ready themselves for the ritual. It ends when the bravest participant jumps the greatest distance.
4. Swim In One Of The World’s Natural Wonders
There are blue holes all over Vanuatu, but the best blue holes are on the island of Espiritu Santo, which inspired the musical South Pacific. Once you leave the frontier town of Luganville, buildings make way for lush, sprawling jungle.
In the jungle, you’ll find some of the true natural wonders of the world: freshwater swimming holes so blue in colour they appear entirely unnatural. The colour is caused by freshwater coming to the surface of ancient underground volcanic mountain ranges through multiple layers of limestone.
The best blue hole on Earth – the Nanda Blue Hole – is just outside Luganville. But tourist operators can take you further afield to find holes rarely seen by outsiders.
5. Go Find A Wave No One’s Ridden
As every wave across the world gets colonized by surf-hungry travellers from across the world, it’s nice to know you can still find a totally unchartered surf environment.
Across the Pacific, the surfing merits of French Polynesia and Fiji have been well documented, but few people know Vanuatu actually has quality breaks. There’s barely a surf industry at all – although a surf association was recently formed – and outside of surf breaks 10 kilometres from Port Vila at Breakas Resort, you won’t find a single surfer in any line-up (the waves at Breakas are high-quality reef point breaks surfed by just a handful of locals and visiting surfers).
But there are 83 islands across the archipelago – some with absolutely perfect reef pass set-ups – that are yet to be surfed by anyone.