CUL­TURE CLUB IN VAN­U­ATU

The main is­land of Efate is abuzz with things to do.

Vacations & Travel - - Contents - BY SU­SAN GOUGH HENLY

The main is­land of Efate is abuzz with things to do.

I’m fol­low­ing a man in a grass skirt who is blow­ing into a conch shell. Sud­denly a posse of fierce tat­tooed war­riors leap out of the jun­gle bran­dish­ing spears and clubs. In an in­stant, all trap­pings of the mod­ern day evap­o­rate and I’m im­mersed in the tra­di­tional life of Eka­sup Cul­tural Vil­lage on the is­land of Efate in Van­u­atu.

Over the next hour, I learn how to catch garfish us­ing the web of a golden orb spi­der stretched across a y-shaped stick, how to trap wild pigs and chick­ens, pre­serve ba­nanas, how to get iron sup­ple­ments from coleus plants and, per­haps most in­ter­est­ing of all, what the feath­ers sig­nify in the men’s stun­ning head­dresses. Each feather rep­re­sents the size and colour of the pigs they own. My guide Sifo has five long curv­ing feath­ers of brown, black and cream. He’s a wealthy man, and also a fabulous sto­ry­teller and fine mu­si­cian in the string band.

“I hope this ex­pe­ri­ence helps you touch the heart of Van­u­atu,” he smiles broadly. It cer­tainly does.

What to do in Efate

Spend­ing just a few days in Efate, I man­age to squeeze in a kalei­do­scope of cul­tural, aquatic, culi­nary and other ad­ven­tures on Van­u­atu’s main is­land.

Many Aussies only know of Van­u­atu as a quick stop on a cruise ship itin­er­ary in the South Pa­cific but it is well worth com­ing to visit in its own right. With white sandy beaches, world-class div­ing and fish­ing, ex­quis­ite blue la­goons, dra­matic water­falls, ac­tive vol­canos and an an­cient cul­ture, there is so much to en­joy.

Lo­cated about 1,750 kilo­me­tres north­east of Queens­land, this 80-plus vol­canic is­land ar­chi­pel­ago is renowned as one of the hap­pi­est places on Earth. Its 250,000 Me­lane­sian res­i­dents speak both English and French (be­fore in­de­pen­dence in 1980, it was jointly ad­min­is­trated by the French and the English), as well as the colour­ful Bis­lama Pid­gin English and sev­eral tribal lan­guages.

While the re­mote is­land of Tanna is renowned for its Mount Yasur vol­cano (the world’s most ac­ces­si­ble ac­tive vol­cano) and the is­land of Espir­itu Santo for its dive sites (the Calvin Coolidge is the world’s most ac­ces­si­ble wreck dive), blue la­goons and de­serted beaches, the more de­vel­oped is­land of Efate also has a ter­rific di­ver­sity of hol­i­day of­fer­ings.

Open­ing im­age: Fierce war­riors at the Eka­sup Cul­tural Vil­lage.

Above, clock­wise from top left: Swim­ming in the Blue La­goon on Efate Is­land; Baby tur­tles at the Tran­quil­lity Is­land tur­tle rook­ery; Sun­rise over Erakor La­goon on Efate Is­land.

Next page, top right: Lololima Falls.

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