Vanuatu’s outer islands are rich in culture, landscape and adventure, but before you book your flights and hop over to this tropical paradise, it’s important to get some tips to help you understand the nuance of this family of islands. Here are eight things you need to know before booking your Vanuatu escape.
Get used to island time
Make sure you don’t bring your traditional approach to time and tourism to Vanuatu. Sure, you may be told your charter flight will leave the outer island airport at 2pm, or that your driver will pick you up at 11am, but don’t be mad if nobody arrives on time. It’s not done out of spite, or laziness, there’s just no reason to rush. If you always keep a good book tucked away in your backpack, or a deck of cards, you’ll be just fine. Have a couple of buffer days at the end of your trip as well, just in case!
Tell your friends and family you’ll be back soon, you’re going off-grid
It’s so easy to romanticise going off grid – lying back under coconut palms, floating in crystal clear waters. Being disconnected from the cyber world can be both anxiety inducing and incredible freeing. However, going ‘off-grid’ in the outer islands of Vanuatu means more than just no internet. It often means no electricity either. While the capital city of Port Vila and main tourism towns have power and modern amenities, this is not the case everywhere. Unplugging is part of the charm of the remote islands of Vanuatu, but it does mean you need to be prepared. Pack some spare batteries for your camera and let your friends and family know you may be out of contact for a few days. You can get a local sim card, but they don’t work everywhere. Understand that a lack of electricity will affect your ability to have a hot shower, run a fan in the heat of the day and flush a toilet. This is a great opportunity to let it all go, soak up the sun and the culture, and sink into Vanuatu life.
Book most of your activities when you get there
I know it’s tempting to book everything before you go – to get on that plane with a clear plan and a strict itinerary. But you can’t do that for the outer islands of Vanuatu. And that’s part of the magic. It’s part of the essence of this network of islands. It’s not about how much you can jam pack into a small amount of time. It’s not about aligning things this way and that. It’s about immersing yourself into the way of life of the Vanuatu people. Your loose plans will change. You’ll learn about an activity that wasn’t listed online. If you come with a vague idea but nothing set in stone, you’ll leave yourself open to the unexpected adventures that await in Vanuatu. You’ll also see the most beautiful side of the people who love to care and share – so let them!
Get ready to dance
Often, when you have the privilege of witnessing a traditional cultural dance in an outer island village, a smiling local will drag you into the circle, teach you how to move, and encourage you to dance and sing. Embrace this! Move your hips and stomp your feet and laugh with the children. Once you allow yourself to let go, you’ll be dancing your way across the islands.
Pack your hiking boots
Vanuatu’s outer islands aren’t just isolated beaches and fresh coconuts. There are hundreds of hikes and volcanoes and waterfalls that will take your breath away. Good (waterproof) hiking boots are essential if you’re the adventurous type. Wet weather gear wouldn’t be a bad idea either– you never know when the tropical rains might hit.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, stock up on the main islands. There are few stores dotted around the outer islands, but they don’t always have the variety of snacks you may be craving – although the fruit will be unbelievably good. If you fly into Santo or Port Vila, stock up there. We recommend Aelan chocolate – it’s a social enterprise that makes the most delicious chocolate, with cocoa grown from the volcanic soil across the outer islands!
Pack your own snorkel gear
If you’re a keen diver, you’ll be overwhelmed by just how many reefs there are to explore. You won’t always be able to source gear to rent, so if you love to explore the underwater world, it’s best you bring your own snorkel and goggles. You never know who you might meet under there: a sleepy dugong, a friendly turtle or an excitable pod of dolphins.
While adventure is why we are here, drama is not. Realising that you are going into remote areas where there is very little infrastructure, adjust how you prepare your gear to suit this reality. Ensure you have a good medical first aid kit, take plenty of cash (there are no ATMs in the remote islands), insect repellents, bag liners for wet days, pack spares of necessary items (batteries), medication and so on. Grab what you need before you go.
For more information on Vanuatu’s Outer Islands www.vanuatu.travel