Vanuatu is the perfect setting for a thrilling South Pacific island adventure.
White sandy beaches, daily fresh seafood, active volcanoes and authentic culture.
These are just a few of the highlights former Masterchef Australia contestant Hayden Quinn experienced on his recent trip to Vanuatu’s Port Vila and Tanna Island.
Fresh from his trip, Hayden shares his top tips on how to make the most out of your visit to Vanuatu.
Just off shore of Port Vila there is a sweet surf break where you’ll be surrounded by serene blue waters - perfect if you’re in need of some downtime after your flight.
Here, I enjoyed one of the best surfing experiences I ever had, not because the surf was incredible but because of the warm welcome from locals and watching them having the time of their lives.
Even though the water might be shallow; it is warm, clean and clear; this will truly be a special start to your visit.
There’s no better feeling than being immediately accepted by the locals of a beautiful place. The break I found was right near Breakas Beach Resort.
Watch the sunset on top of an active volcano
With magma exploding just a few metres away, visiting Mount Yasur might be one of the coolest things you’ll ever do.
Mount Yasur is an active volcano located on the south-east side of the island of Tanna and it has been erupting almost continuously for centuries.
Although the volcano may look dangerous, it is still fairly safe to access even though it erupts multiple times an hour (then again, I was late and missed the safety briefing!).
You can drive nearly all the way up the volcano and then it’s just a 10 minute walk to the top (it took me about two minutes, I was that excited!).
The best time to go is definitely at sunset, when you’ll see the sun going down while the ground slowly lights up into a vibrant red.
That, combined with the natural raw power you feel and hear along with the rumbling beneath your feet, it is truly an incredible spectacle. Ask your resort for details on tours. I stayed at Friendly Beach.
Step back in time in Yakel village
Yakel village is located on Tanna Island and is an intriguing insight into traditional Vanuatu villages, where ancient culture still thrives.
Bows and arrows are still used for hunting and the dress code is based on whatever Mother Nature has on offer.
When you arrive, I recommend presenting the villagers with a small gift, a bag of rice for example, and you can expect genuine hospitality as they show you around their homes.
This is also your chance to meet real life Oscar nominees, as the villagers recently starred in the Oscar nominated movie Tanna.
Luckily the stardom hasn’t gone to their heads and you can witness their beautiful traditional dances. Keep in mind that private visits are not recommended as it disturbs their daily activities.
Colourful feast - Port Vila market
Feast your eyes on the wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables Port Vila market has to offer, not to mention the delicious, freshly grilled fish and rice dinners.
The market, which is located in central Port Vila, is operated by friendly ni-Vans in colourful island dresses, who sell a range of produce for very reasonable prices.
The market has flexible hours, open all day except for Saturday afternoons and Sundays, and it only sells locally produced foods making it a great way to support the local community as well.
Dancing with fire
Wan Smolbag’s fire dance troupes aren’t afraid to play with fire, literally. The fire dance group which was founded in 2011 performs their shows at many resorts throughout Port Vila and were friendly enough to let me to be part of their group for a day.
I quickly discovered that dancing with fire requires some serious skills. During one of their shows, you’ll witness fire breathers surrounded by spinning fire spicks, balls and hula hoops, all performed with pumping electronic dance music.
The show is free to watch however, donations are very much appreciated. I watched the fire dancing on the beach at Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu.
The clear waters of Havannah Harbour
Discover the allure of a peaceful side of Efate Island; Havannah Harbour. Every day, Turtle Reef Cruises runs buses from Port Vila to Havannah Harbour located around 40 minutes away.
From there you can unwind on a half day cruise to some of Vanuatu’s clearest waters. Perfect for snorkelling and to discover the island’s natural underwater wonders, where schools of colourful tropical fish call home.
A tree the size of a soccer field is as surreal as it sounds. However when you go explore the jungle trails near Lowrapik Tuan on Tanna, it is quite possible you’ll come across this giant banyan tree.
In fact, the jungle here is home to the oldest female banyan tree in the world, which is not necessarily big in height but in sheer size and pretty amazing to behold.
Your best bet is to visit with a guide and be prepared for a small payment to the landowners.