Republic of Vanuatu 


The Republic of Vanuatu is an island archipelago situated in the southern Pacific Ocean, between latitudes 13 degrees and 21 degrees South and longitudes 166 degrees East and 171 degrees East.

Vanuatu is a Y shaped archipelago comprising 83 volcanic origin islands with a landmass area of approximately 4,700 square kilometers (1,800 square miles)). In geographical terms, the islands of Vanuatu are considered small, and only 14 of them have a surface area of more than 100 square kilometers.

The two biggest cities are Port Vila the capital of Vanuatu on the island of Efate, and Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo. Port Vila sports a population of approximately 52,000 persons and Luganville has a population of approximately 15,000.

All the islands in Vanuatu are of volcanic origin and there are several active surface volcanoes, as well as active underwater volcanoes. The highest mountain is Mount Tabwemasana which stands at 6,165 feet (1,879 meters).

Vanuatu is home to lush tropical rainforest and Vanuatu is recognized as a distinct terrestrial    eco-region, named the “Vanuatu rainforest eco-region”. This eco-region includes the islands of Vanuatu, the Santa Cruz Islands and the Solomon Islands.

Vanuatu Map


The predominant religion in Vanuatu is Christianity. The denominations include Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Neil Thomas Ministries (MTM) Seventh-day Adventist, the Church of Christ, and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Islam. Presbyterian is the predominant denomination and includes approximately 15% of the population.

Vanuatu is also home to a religion called the Cargo Cult. Basically during WW 2 the Cargo Cults revered the American soldiers as gods because of the “cargo” they bought with them and dispersed among the local population.

Most “cults” have ceased to be, but on the island of Tanna two interesting cults still exist and these are the John Frum cult and the Prince Philip Movement. The John Frum cult believes in a man/god who visits the island and brings with him wealth and prosperity for all his worshipers. John Frum is often depicted as a pale skinned American WW 2 serviceman.

According to an ancient island legend, the son of a powerful mountain spirit travelled overseas and married a powerful woman. The couple would then return to Vanuatu bringing with them prosperity and wellbeing.

It is believed the Prince Philip Movement “Cargo Cult” came into existence in the 1950’s, then in 1974 when the royal couple visited Vanuatu, the cult was further legitimized. The cult members witnessed the respect accorded to Queen Elizabeth, and concluded the foreigners were worshiping Prince Philip.

Fauna & Flora


Studies conducted by World Conservation Monitoring Centre have identified 108 separate species of animals inhabiting Vanuatu. These include amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds.

Vanuatu is in many ways a unique fauna microcosm. There is not a wide diversity of fauna, but instead, there is a relatively small selection of unique fauna, (a tropical microcosm) that has adapted to the coastal and tropical forest environment.

Take for example the Vanuatu flying fox (Pteropus anetianus) .which is indigenous to Vanuatu. The flying fox or “fruit bat”, eats fruit, pollen, and nectar. They also play an important role in regenerating the forest through spreading seeds and pollination.

Researchers have identified 11 separate species of bats that inhabit the forests of Vanuatu with three of these being unique to Vanuatu and not found anywhere else in the world.

Vanuatu is also home to 19 species of reptiles which are unique to Vanuatu. Take for example the “Flower Pot” snake which can only be found on the island of Efate.



Vanuatu is renowned the world over for its lush tropical and subtropical broadleaf rainforests. In fact almost 75% of the total land mass of Vanuatu is covered by forest.

These rain forests are tremendously important not only for the people of Vanuatu but also for people of the world, in the fight against global warming.

The tribal people of Vanuatu have a close connection to the forests and their very existence is intrinsically tied to that of the forest. The forest provides a source of lumber and therefore cash, medicines, and a wide range of products used to support their subsistence lifestyle.


There is a wide range of tropical plants on display in Vanuatu some of which are indigenous to Vanuatu and unique to this eco-region. In botanical terms Vanuatu is a treasure trove, and even though the islands are comparatively small, the rainforests are thick and lush and it is commonly believed there may be undiscovered species of plants growing in the forests.

Some of the unusual plants found in the forests of Vanuatu include Polynesian chestnut tree, the Wonga Wonga vine which is a creeper that produces beautiful, deeply colored flowers, and the Merbau which is mainly found growing in mangrove swamps.

Fauna & Flora links

Medicinal plant use in Vanuatu: A comparative ethnobotanical study of three islands - ScienceDirect
A guide to the common trees of Vanuatu with lists of their traditional uses & ni-Vanuatu names. ( 


It is genuinely believed that Vanuatu was first inhabited by mankind approximately 3,000 years ago between 1,100 BC and 700 BC. These people were Melanesian seafarers of the “Lapita Culture”, a “Prehistoric Austronesian” race.

The Lapita culture was part of the Austronesian Eastern migration which is believed to have started in Taiwan approximately 5 to 6 thousand years ago. Using dugout canoes some of the Austronesian travelers reached as far East as Easter Island and as far West as Madagascar. The East bound voyagers travelled through the Philippines and the Marianas Islands, ending up as far away as New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawaii.

Lapita Female

A recreation of a Lapita culture woman in the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan. This reconstruction depicts the woman as having straight hair thick lips and wide nose.

The Colonial Era

The Colonial Era began approximately in 1906 and continued until independence in1980. The two major countries concerned were France and England, who in 1887 formed the joint naval commission. The purpose of this commission was to safeguard the interests of France and Britain but it had no control over native affairs.    

Land disputes between the native population and Europeans soon broke out, and these were made worse by the fact that Vanuatu natives were officially stateless and could never be recognized as either French or English citizens.

This situation was worsened by the lack of education, labor abuses, and lack of healthcare for the native population. All of these basic services and rights were left to the missionaries, which again would result in inevitable disputes and hostilities.

World War 2 heralded a period of rapid change. In an attempt to combat the Japanese advance, Australia established a military base at Malakula with 2,000 troops. Then in 1942, this was accompanied by the American forces who constructed military bases, a network of roads and airstrips for Allied planes.  

At one stage there were 50,000 American military personnel stationed in Vanuatu and they outnumbered the Vanuatu natives. The American forces helped establish the 200 strong (New Hebrides Defense Force) and engaged thousands more in building and maintenance work.

A WWII American Airstrip in Vanuatu

The French and English Condominium Government


From 1945 through to 1980 and independence The New Hebrides experienced rapid change. In the 1950’s the French and English Condominium Government initiated a “modernization and economic development” program. This included medical training, building up of the healthcare system, immunization campaigns, reconstruction of the education system and increased oversight of employee exploitation and increased for native laborers.

A new agricultural base was established in the form of cattle farming, commercial fishing and manganese mines were established. This was accompanied by more natives being moved into more authoritative positions.  

The new found power represented definite steps towards empowerment of the native population but the British and French still dominated political circles.  

1966 Flag of the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides


The New Hebrides declared independence on 30 July 1980. The countries name was changed from New Hebrides to Vanuatu and distinct political parties composed of Vanuatu natives, were formed.

Since independence the political landscape has been turbulent with parties regularly exercising the no confidence vote to oust the party in power, but despite this the democratic process remains intact as does the Republic of Vanuatu.

The flag of Vanuatu is symbolic of the country and what it has become. The black represents the Melanesian people, the red is for bloodshed, and green represents the tropical jungle and farm lands. The gold emblem symbolizes prosperity.  

The flag of Vanuatu


The history of Vanuatu is rich and varied with the country being subject to a wide range of influences. African, Melanesian and Polynesian, through to Asian and European, have all influenced Vanuatu. Other influences include the typography and climate and all of these factors have combined to create a unique culture quite unlike anywhere else in the world.   

In terms of culture, Vanuatu can be divided into three distinct parts, the North, Center and South. In the North the concept of wealth is philanthropic and an individuals’ wealth is measured by his generosity, or how much he can afford to give away.  Giving things of value away is structured, and anthropologists refer to this structure as, “Grade-Taking”.  

The concept is that the individual gains access to societal levels, (or grades) through giving things away. Typically the most valuable item given away will be a pig. Ordinarily individuals will receive a named rank and insignia with each “grade” achieved.

 The advantages of this system are numerous, but most importantly, it ensures wealth dispersal throughout the society and societies longevity.

 The tribal people of Vanuatu still engage in various “coming of age” ceremonies. For the men this will usually include circumcision and tests of courage.

 Most tribal cultures in the South Pacific will have a meeting place which is frequented by males and so it is in Vanuatu with the “nakamai” or what we would call a village clubhouse. 


Like most of the countries in the South Pacific the cuisine of Vanuatu is based around fish, root vegetables such as taro and yams, tropical fruits and vegetables.

Food shortages are comparatively rare because most families grow their own vegetables and tropical fruits are found in abundance through at least 9 months of every year.

Coconut milk and cream are used extensively and most food is cooked using hot stones (similar to the New Zealand Hangi) or by boiling or steaming.

Laplap the national dish of Vanuatu. Laplap is made by mashing a root vegetable into a dough then it is cooked in an uma (an underground oven) together with wild spinach leaves, coconut cream and meat.


Don’t worry be happy!

In the year 2006 the ‘New Economics Foundation’ together with ‘Friends of the Earth’ published the results of a survey named the, “Happy Planet Index”. This index studied data on levels of happiness, life expectancy and Ecological Footprint. The surveyors collated the information and concluded that the populace of Vanuatu was the worlds’ “most ecologically efficient country in achieving high wellbeing”. 

Experience Vanuatu (Tourism)

 Vanuatu is a tropical paradise and so much more.

 Here are some things to do when visiting wonderful Vanuatu.

 Vanuatu abounds with natural attractions from sparkling tropical beaches and luxurious accommodation, through to crystal clear lagoons, active volcanoes, and a wide range of outdoor activities. Whether it’s simple relaxation in a tropical paradise, exciting outdoor adventures, or exploring a wonderful underwater world, Vanuatu has something for everyone.

 Blue Holes

 "Blue Holes” is the name given to fresh water lagoons that are commonly found on the islands of Vanuatu. Some of these lagoons are easily accessible while others you have to trek through the jungle to get to. The “Blue Holes” are beautiful destinations where you can dive and swim while surrounded by tropical jungle vegetation. 

Millennium Cave

 Millennium Cave is the largest cave in all of Vanuatu, offering breathtaking, unparalleled scenery. Millennium Cave is comparatively isolated and difficult to get to but the end result is definitely worth the effort.

 The cave is on the island of Espiritu Santo and organized cave tours can be booked in the city of Luganville. From Luganville you travel to a village named Funaspef and from there it’s a 90 minute hike along jungle trails to reach the cave. This is not an easy trek but the experience is made more than worthwhile, upon reaching your destination.  

 Upon arrival you can explore the ancient cave and then enjoy a relaxing swim in the crystal clear fresh water lagoon. A trip to Millennium Cave is your classic jungle adventure and a definite ‘must do’ for visitors to Vanuatu.    


 Back in the eighties there was a popular saying, “life’s a beach” and this saying is nowhere more apt, than in Vanuatu. Here in Vanuatu you will find idyllic sparkling white sand beaches together with golden sand beaches and long, isolated, black sand beaches pounded by rolling breakers of the Pacific.

 Vanuatu is one of the few countries in the world where you can find beautiful pristine beaches with no crowds, and white, golden and black sand.

Champagne Beach Vanuatu

Volcano Viewing

For most people visiting and viewing an active volcano is a once in a lifetime, bucket list experience. Here in Vanuatu we can help you experience the ultimate active volcano viewing.

 The best known and most accessible active volcano is Mount Yasur on the island of Tanna. A visit to Mount Yasur involves driving up to one of the volcanoes highest parts then a ten minute hike to the best viewing spots.

 There are a number of companies that offer Mount Yasur tours and these include expert guides who will show you the best and safest viewing spots.

 A second option is to enjoy a scenic flight over Mount Yasur and surrounding environment. These are helicopter flights and they offer truly spectacular views of this active volcano.

A Wonderful Underwater World -- Diving Vanuatu

Vanuatu is without a doubt one of the worlds’ very best diving locations. Spectacular reef diving teeming with pristine coral and fish, mysterious wreck diving, majestic underwater volcanoes, ocean walking, or just leisurely snorkeling, Vanuatu offers it all.  

Tourism in Vanuatu
THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Vanuatu - 2021 (with Photos) - Tripadvisor