Visitors to the remote beautiful Pacific Ocean archipelago of Vanuatu and its 83 islands often arrive to fulfil their dreams of the perfect tropical holiday, but there’s much more to do and see here than just sea, sand, coral reefs and sunsets. Port Vila on the island of Efate is the island nation’s capital, a cosmopolitan town offering 40 restaurants, some serving international cuisine, spas with beauty therapies, a fun nightlife, casinos, resorts and a wide choice of hotels in Port Vila. Festivals, boat trips to nearby islands, tours to traditional villages with a history of cannibalism, pristine rain forests and craggy coastlines with hidden bays and lagoons all await the visitor.
In addition to the tropical paradise activities of sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing, there are a good number of adventure activities here. Exploring the rainforests on horseback, by off-road vehicle or on foot apart, the natural beauty of the volcanic landscape hides rushing rivers perfect for whitewater rafting and glorious waterfalls with deep pools as their bases for a refreshing swim after a challenging abseil. Hand-feeding huge turtles in one of the protected bays may be unforgettable but is hardly adventurous – hand-feeding the sharks in the same bay is another story!
Offroading here with a guide is great fun, with traditional villages appearing as if by magic out of the tree cover and welcoming visitors to a meal, a tour of the village and en explanation of everything from traditional herbal medicines to the tribe’s history of cannibalism and its great warriors and ancestors. Kayaking is a great sport here, with the glass-bottomed versions giving an amazing underseascape through the crystal-clear waters to the colourful living reefs and their teeming marine life. The Mele cascades are the highest waterfalls on Efate, set a few kilometres from the city, and a great place for hiking and climbing as well as cooling off in the pools at their feet.
Air safaris by plane or helicopter are the luxury means of seeing the spectacular and the remote on Efate and its neighbouring islands. Tanna, to the south of Efate, is easily reached and is known as the Island of Fire for its active volcano Mount Yasur and its huge crater. Evening flights show the volcano in its full glory, with its red-hot magma glowing evilly and explosions sending rock and ash high into the air. A trip on a seaplane allows landings at the most remote, unspoiled beaches and other locations with lagoons – a fantasy flight with the option of stopping off anywhere there’s a stretch of calm water. Deep sea fishing is an exciting sport, well-catered for here by professionals with power boats fitted out with all necessary equipment, Game fishing charters in all weathers and sea conditions can take from half a day to longer-term live-aboard charters.
Open buggies and quad bikes can rented in Port Vila for a do-it-yourself tour around the beaches, craggy coastlines and mysterious forested interior of the island. The seacoast is dotted with fishing villages, lagoons and the hidden treasures of tiny coves with caves and white sand beaches. The Vanuatuan peoples are friendly and welcoming, and enjoy showing their cultures and traditions to incomers. Parasailing is another much-loved sport, available in the harbour, with the clear waters giving a magnificent view of the reefs and their marine life from 80m in the sky. No experience is necessary and your landing is always soft as you’re reeled back onto the host vessel at the end of your flight. Jet skiing and ocean kayaking are just two more of the many watery treats here.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Hotels in Port Vila content.