Places to Go in Rural Vanuatu (Part 3):

Tanna and Aneityum

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12. The Port Resolution Yacht Club on the east coast of Tanna Island. Port Resolution is named for Captain Cook's ship, in which he visited Tanna in 1774. The Club was built after I left Vanuatu, but I am told it looks like a nice place. It is in a rural village (probably Ireupuow) past Yasur Volcano (where all the tourists go), so it is in a bit of a backwater. It is on or near the site of an old Presbyterian missionary church; the old cemetery with graves of the missionary's children is nearby. These graveyards mark all of the places in Vanuatu where the old European missionaries worked. (Despite the missionary's work and personal sacrifices, the village now adheres to the Seventh Day Adventist denomination.)

13. Adjacent to the Club is the place where a dugong (manatee, or "kowfis" in Bislama) comes when called. Local kids charge a fee and splash around until he comes. I jumped in and swam with him in 1989 and had to work hard to get near enough to touch him. A friend went in with him a few months later, and he manhandled her severely, throwing her out of the water by butting her, and scratching her badly. A couple of years later, I got in with him again, and kept him away from me by straight-arming his head. I hear the kids won't swim with him anymore. His mother used to come with him, but someone killed and ate her. (Conservation is not Vanuatu's strong suit - a neighbour once told us that they knew that certain species were disappearing, but would probably keep killing them anyway.) In any case, it's a good chance to see a dugong close up and safely from shore.

Me in the water reaching out to touch a dugong's nose.

Close encounter with the Port Resolution dugong. Photo ©H. Morgan, 1990.

14. Yasur Volcano is a few km from Ireupuow back towards the airport side of Tanna. There is a charge (was CAN$15 or so each a few years ago) to see it, but it is worth it. You can drive to within a couple of hundred metres of the top and then walk to the edge of the crater and look straight down into the vent. You are standing on loose ash and the drop is straight down, so this is heart-stopping if heights bother you as much as me. If you slip in, you aren't coming out. The vent is especially spectacular after dark, if there isn't too much smoke and steam (Time your arrival for dusk and bring a flashlight to find your way back to your taxi). This is a popular day-trip from Port Vila, but because only small planes (20 seats or so) fly to Tanna, there isn't really a crowd there.

Volcano with peak obscured by volumns of smoke.

Yasur Volcano billowing smoke. Large amounts of ash can seriously disrupt both subsistence and commercial agriculture on Tanna Island. Photo ©S. Combs, 1990.

15. At the base of Yasur, on the other side from Port Resolution, is Sulphur Bay, the Jon Frum Cargo Cult village. I could write couple of pages about it, but I'll just say the people are friendly, and it is an interesting place. (See the Jon Frum Home Page for more information on cargo cults Tannese and Western.) Observe, but don't try to join into their ceremonies, which involve flying the American flag and marching; an American was deported by the central government (in 1991, I believe) for accompanying on the fife.

Large bush-materials building with tattered American flags flying from poles out front.

American flags flying at Sulphur Bay Village. The villagers await the day when Jon Frum will return and give them the material goods presently being selfishly diverted from the heavens, where they are made, by Westerners. Photo ©S. Combs, 1990.

To get to Port Resolution/Yasur/Sulphur Bay, you fly from Port Vila to Lenekel and take a bus or taxi across the island. Tanna is full of ways to separate tourists from their money by charging large amounts for tours to Yasur, the "custom village", the waterfall (tabu to outsiders until it was discovered that they would pay CAN$10), etc. I don't know the cheapest way to get across the island to the Yasur area, but I would try to find a public minibus of some type. I don't know if the Port Resolution Yacht Club has a phone, or how you contact it. You might ask Tour Vanuatu about contacting PRYC, but remember that TV has a stake in selling you a more expensive place or package.

16. A more upscale, but expensive, place to stay on Tanna is the Tanna Beach Resort, which is rustic, but run by expats. It has a nice bar/restaurant where I ate once when the former owner had just sold the hotel and was giving away the bar inventory on his last night of ownership.

17. About as far south as you can get in Vanuatu (except for Matthew and Hunter Islands, two rocks whose ownership is disputed by Vanuatu and France) is Anelghowat, on south Aneityum Island. I stayed at a Local Government rest house here in 1990 while visiting a government pine plantation. (True to the best development tradition, no economic analysis was done until planting was finished, when it was calculated that it would be much cheaper to just import pine lumber from Fiji.) The airstrip is just offshore on Inyeug Island. Now a day-stop for cruise ships (popular with locals, too: Aneityum is dry at all other times, but everyone can buy beer on the beach with the tourists), Inyeug Island became the site of Vanuatu's first long-term contact with the West when a whaling station was established there in the early 19th century. Besides stripping the south Pacific of whales, Westerners stripped Aneityum of sandalwood, kauri timber, and fertility; the island was nearly depopulated as a result of venereal diseases introduced by the whalers. Much of the south of the island is now the aforementioned pine plantation; I hiked through some of it and traveled by speedboat to Port Patrick on the north coast, but I can't say much about the major part of Aneityum. Anelghowat itself has many remnants of the whaling industry, such as large whale bones. There are also the stone walls of an old missionary church, complete with associated graveyard of English infants and children.

Come along on one of my more interesting trips to an isolated village. Return to Other Places to Go In Rural Vanuatu:

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©Stan Combs, 1996.