I love Vanuatu – a collection of islands in the South Pacific with some of the friendliest people in the world. I have been traveling to Vanuatu for years as it is close to Australia (under 3 hours from Brisbane) and many cruise liners stop into Port Vila.
On this trip we arrive by our cruise liner, Pacific Dawn with P & O.
Vanuatu was hit by a ferocious storm and cyclone in May 2015 , cyclone Pam, that pretty much decimated the villages and much of the town. 11 people died but apparently the damage was horrendous and many businesses have failed to re-establish.
I did experience a shift in the locals compared to previous years – maybe it’s money, or maybe it’s the desperation since the cyclone. Many locals, ne-vanuatu, see the ocean liners as exploiting their natural resources, taking money for pre-arranged tours on board and not filtering it back through to the locals. And they see all tourists as rich and may try to rip you off. This has become more of an issue and even 18 months ago we had an unsavory experience with our taxi driver.
We were stopped by two locals in town to be told how we should organised our tours directly with the locals and not through the cruise ship. I understand their concerns and do agree but negotiate with everyone!
We organised a kayaking experience before leaving Australia. But it was expensive even though not booked through the cruise.
For $70 per person and $10 park entry fee, we had a pick up in town and drive to a river where we went for a kayak. I love paddling and wanted the kids to have an encounter with nature and to see the lush side of Vanuatu.
Along the banks were children playing, shy this visit but caught up in their own little worlds of play and creativity. Some mums were washing clothes and chatting happily with other women, locals loafily walking around and no stress anywhere.
After kayaking the kids had a swing on a rope into the river and for a space in time were just kids having a ball.
After a fresh coconut collected by one of the guys who climbed a near by coconut tree, we extended our tour to stop by the turtle farm at Crystal Blue Lagoon.
The turtle experience was one of the most remarkable animal encounters I have every had. I am not sure if it’s because I have been drawing turtles lately and at the moment have 4 hanging on my walls, or if I have some connection with them. I have always loved them and yesterday I got to try out my turtle whispering talents.
The mum, whose name is Juliet, is 140 years old is pictured above!
I loved lying and talking with her. I think she is missing the open sea but is happy non the less as she gets lots of attention and fresh papaya.
The sanctuary offers a $20 BBQ lunch (which is very average if you arrive late but good if you are there as it is being cooked) and that price includes the turtle experiences.
The children can pick up little turtles, see a coconut crab, see some wild boars in a pen (this captured my son’s imagination the most) and try to spot the flat head shark (muliwong) that lives in the enclosure.
I am glad I swam with the turtles before being told about the shark. It seemed quite harmless but it caught MY imgaination when it surfaced and submerged doing that shark fin thing they do. I highly recommend this whole experience.
A taxi from town should only set you back $40-50 and will wait for you while you go into the sanctuary.
The Cascade Waterfalls are beautiful tropical experience only twenty minutes from town. We visited there last time and the kids wanted to go back again but because of low waterfalls, there was not water in teh falls. It’s really sad and the locals are blaming it on el nino – because the shelves in teh natural wonder need flushing (and that is not happening at the moment), algae is building up in the rock pools.
Everyone will know whether the falls are running or not (I can only imagine this is a short lived thing) and should be a place you visit. The rainforest surrounding the falls are devine and you will often encounter the local singers along the way, which sound superb.
These pictures are from our last visit there and it is truly beautiful when the water is running. Oh yes, this is something you can do alone – you don’t need a tour as such, and again it should cost approximately $30 for a taxi to take you and wait while you spend an hour or two doing your thing. Take your time, set your own pace and check out some of the many walking tracks around the falls – they lead to villages and all sorts of surprises.