Vanuatu has been a relatively unknown and an underground surf destination for a few years now. The island is rich in culture and history, has beautiful sandy beaches, lush jungles and mountains as well as some really good surf breaks!
It’s the perfect destination to take a non-surfing partner or family with a variety of activities and surf breaks to keep everyone entertained.
Comprising of 83 islands, with the capital of Port Villa being on the main island its only 3 hours flying time from Auckland.
The best way to take advantage of Vanuatu’s surf is to base yourself at one of the islands resorts and explore the surf spots around the island by rental car. Alternatively you could paddle out to the main breaks off the south coast.
This is also a great destination for the more adventurous if you’re up to it! The outer islands offer amazing snorkelling, pristine beaches, live volcanoes and - if you search for them - some epic uncrowded (and possibly) un-named surf breaks....
INFORMATION + MAP (click to open/close)
The local currency is the "Vatu" although the Australian and New Zealand dollar is widely accepted. Banks include Westpac and the ANZ and normal banking hours are: 9:00am to 3:30pm (Monday to Friday) and from 8:30 to 11:30am on Saturdays.
No visa is necessary for stays less than 30 days as long as the traveller has a valid (travelling on NZ passports) passport and onward ticket.
During the winter months of May to October (the Dry Season) you can expect clear, warm days with an average temperature of 24°C (75°F). June through to September the the water temperature drops to 22+°C and the air is cooler. Summer (The wet season) brings warmer weather of 28°C (82°F) but it can be unpleasantly steamy, with the heaviest rains in January, which is also cyclone season.
However, major cyclones usually only occur every 10-15 years. The cooling south east tradewinds blow during the winter months making for very pleasant days and refreshingly cool nights. Outside this season the winds are light variable but generally from the north east.
Vanuatu's long stretch of islands means the climate varies considerably between the tropical north (over 4000mm/157in of rainfall a year) and the subtropical south. But whenever you come you're pretty much guaranteed pleasant weather.
There are three official languages: English, French, and Bislama. Bislama is a pidgin language — and now a creole in urban areas — which essentially combines a typically Melanesian grammar with a mostly English vocabulary. It is the only language that can be understood and spoken by the whole population of Vanuatu as a second language. In addition 113 indigenous languages are still actively spoken in Vanuatu. The density of languages, per capita, is the highest of any nation in the world with an average of only 2000 speakers per language.
HISTORY & POLITICAL
Vanuatu was first inhabited by Melanesian people. Europeans began to settle in the area in the late 18th century and in 1906 Britain and France officially claimed the country, jointly managing it through a British-French Condominium as the New Hebrides. An independence movement was established in the 1970s, and the Republic of Vanuatu was created in 1980. Some of the islands have been populated continuously for thousands of years and others are still uninhabited today. The earliest known settlement was on Malo Island, where pottery at least 4000 years old has been unearthed, but in fact the Vanuatuan islands were probably settled a thousand years before that. Explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quiros laid eyes on the islands in 1606, naming the first one he sighted Nuestra Señora de Austrialia del Espiritu Santo, known today simply as Santo. By far the greatest misery inflicted on the islanders was 'blackbirding', the South Seas' own version of slavery that continued into the early years of the 20th century. Thousands of ni-Vanuatu were brought by persuasion or out-and-out kidnapping to work on the sugar and cotton plantations of Queensland and Fiji, and many never returned.
WWII brought a massive influx of US military personnel to Efate and Santo, which became crucial bases in the Pacific War. The country was awash with American know-how and dollars, and many ni-Vanuatu earned real wages for the first time in their lives. More importantly, the islanders observed black Americans enjoying the material benefits and luxuries afforded the whites, and this played no small part in their agitation for independence. In the late 1960s the Nagriamel movement began to attract thousands of followers, mostly in the northern islands. Its leader was Chief President Moses (Jimmy Tupou Patuntun Stevens), and it was originally confined to obtaining rights to the 'dark bush', the land Europeans had never claimed or settled. Nagriamel became increasingly politicised, however, and petitioned the United Nations in 1971 for an 'act of free choice' over the archipelago's independence. Independence was set for mid-1980, but amid widespread secessions the Condominium fractured over its inability to agree on much more than the height to fly their standards. Anglo-French troops could not halt the violence and looting that broke out even in the larger towns, and the local government finally called in troops from PNG to restore order and declared independence on 30 July 1980. The 1990s have seen bouts of instability in government- however the last few years have seen a stable living within the islands.
Christianity is the predominant religion in Vanuatu, consisting of several denominations. The Presbyterian Church, adhered to by about one third of the population, is the largest of them. Roman Catholic and Anglican are other common denominations, each claiming about 15% of the population. Others are the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, Neil Thomas Ministries (NTM), as well as many other religious sects and denominations.
Travellers are advised to be immunised against hepatitis before coming to Tonga. Take care to prevent the usual kinds of infection from contaminated food and water and coral cuts, which can turn nasty quickly.
Medical facilities are limited, although there are hospitals in Nuku'alofa and Neiofu that have emergency and outpatients rooms. There are also some private doctors.
Although the water is treated and of good quality in Nuku'alofa and other centres where piped water is available, it's always wise to check if it is treated. Water should be be boiled or bottled water drunk in rural areas.