10 Facts about Vanuatu you won’t find in any tourism brochure

Vanuatu is often described as a ‘honeymoon destination’ due to it’s romance inspiring natural beauty and luxury resorts. And yes it is true that spending your honeymoon here would provide you with an endless supply of envy-inducing holiday snaps. The kind filled with sunset beach walks hand-in-hand and champagne fueled dinners on the deck of some brand new 5 star village sized resort. However, after living here for nearly 3 years I can tell you that it is so much more than that.

I work as a volunteer for the Vanuatu Tourism Office on a large island called Espiritu Santo, or Santo for short. My job is the marketing officer for one of the call centres that helps tourists to organise and book their holidays. Volunteering has its rewards as I get to help locals in rural areas enter the tourism industry and market their products internationally. It’s been hard at times, however, and learning to navigate a new culture, communicating in a different language and dealing with the kind of resource poverty you find here has all been fairly challenging.

But I ask myself: how can I help Vanuatu shake off its tired cliche?

First of all, I wholeheartedly encourage anyone looking for the ‘Robinson Crusoe’, deserted island, Castaway inspired adventure to book your flights right now. You won’t find anywhere as ideally located yet remote, as uncrowded yet communal, and as awe-inspiring yet down-to-earth as this beautiful island I have been so lucky to call my home. It really does look like the postcards.

Secondly, if you are an adventurer at heart and wish to go somewhere without any do-not-cross signs then Vanuatu is a place you should definitely cross off your bucket list. Ever dreamed of standing on the edge of a thunderous volcano? Or canoeing down a jungle-enclosed river to a freshwater blue hole like something out of Jurassic Park? How about a hike through remote villages, tropical forests and dark caves? If these sound like the experiences you crave then you won’t be disappointed coming here.

Lastly, Vanuatu offers you an endless supply of culture and mystique. Known as Kastom to the locals, you won’t tire of hearing all the ancient mythologies and legends of the previous tribes of Vanuatu. On a trip to a remote village off the main island of Efate, you can visit the mass burial site of chief Roi Mata and his 25 wives and up to 300 followers who were all buried alive. On the island of Pentecost you can witness the ritual of land diving, the precursor to bungee jumping, where men jump off wooden towers around 30 metres high with a few vines wrapped around their ankles. The origin of which involves an elaborate tale of a wife who tricked her husband into falling to his death. For those even more curious, you can visit the cannibal site on Malekula where hundreds of human skulls remain today.

Vanuatu has so much more to offer than a romantic post-wedding getaway. So here’s a list of the things you won’t hear about in any tourism brochure:

  1. Black magic is used more now than at times in the past

  2. You can dive the world’s largest ship wreck with no previous diving experience

  3. You can learn a new language in just 2 weeks

  4. Kava is more easily accessible than beer, and it’s the strongest in the world

  5. There are cannibals alive today who actually ate missionaries (non-practicing of course)

  6. There’s a tribe who worship the Queen’s husband as their GOD

  7. Free range, ethical meat production is possible