VANUATU, formerly called the New Hebrides during its colonial period, is an archipelago of 13 large volcanic islands and about 60 small islets in the southwest Pacific Ocean, the largest being Espiritu Santo, Malekula, Efate, Erromango, Ambrym and Tanna. The archipelago is located some 1,750 km east of Australia, 500 km north-east of New Caledonia, west of Fiji and south of the Solomon Islands.
Vanuatu is a unique blend of intact tribal communities, resorts, beaches and geography ranging from accessible volcanoes to pristine underwater environments. Most of the islands are of volcanic origin, rugged and mountainous, and contain extensive rainforests with cultivated narrow strips of land along the coasts.
Some other islands are of coral atoll formation or almost atoll types. Left alone by the Europeans for longer than other parts of the Pacific, Vanuatu leapt into the modern age quickly, while remaining a place where the rich Melanesian culture is kept very much alive. It is the chance to experience a little of this fascinating culture that brings most superyachts to this country which has been endowed with less cruising attractions than its neighbours.
With the exception of the northern islands, the number of natural harbours is rather limited, with the notable exception of the main island Efate which has several attractive bays. One of the greatest attractions of the islands is a visit to the live volcano on Tanna or Ambrym, where one can ascend into the crater, the closest you can get to an active volcano safely anywhere in the world. The outer islands have an increasing number of stores and shops, stocked with basic items. However nothing will compare with the facilities available in Port Vila or Luganville.
Many small island resorts are extremely helpful to superyachts and provisions can be arranged as well as guides and tours through the local village chief. Many villages receive little or no contact with the outside world other than through visiting yachts. Trading goods for local carvings and fresh produce is a major source of clothing, school supplies and currency for these villagers, so it is to be encouraged as a benefit to all.
Captain’s log: Cruising the Islands of Vanuatu