Sample Geography Tour of Vanuatu
Vanuatu Geography Itinerary for Toowoomba Grammar School, June 22 to 29, 2012.
There will be 26 in the group – 23 students and three supervising adults.
Things may change, but this is the plan!
Depart Brisbane 7:00pm Air Vanuatu to arrive Port Vila 10:30pm
Air Vanuatu is a full service airline (dinner and drinks included in the fare).
There is a one-hour time difference between Queensland and Vanuatu, so flying time is two and a half hours going over.
On arrival, clear Customs and Quarantine and collect baggage. While money will not be needed today, there will be a representative from the National Bank of Vanuatu in a booth to change money and there is an ANZ ATM near the baggage collection carousel. No doubt there will be a string band playing to welcome visitors.
You will be met by your bus driver/transfer operator and transferred to your resort accommodation. The photo is of ‘Papa’ George, owner of Around Vanuatu Tours – George will be looking after most of our transfers while in Port Vila. We will be staying in apartments at Lagoon Beach Resort (about five minutes from Port Vila with pool/poolside café) – here is a link to the resort – www.LagoonBeachVanuatu.com.
After breakfast, Port Vila Amazing Race Discovery. The group will split into three teams and each have a designated bus and driver to follow clues in and around Port Vila. It is a fun way to get your bearings, find out what makes the place tick and see parts of town that most tourists don’t get to see. There will be time during the activity to change money at the best exchange rate in town (Goodies Souvenir Shop). The ‘Race’ will end at the colourful Mama’s Markets, which open 24 hours a day but close from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning.
Lunch at Chill Restaurant (pictured – upstairs, overlooking Port Vila Harbour, opposite the Mama’s Markets).
The afternoon is pretty much at leisure – to have a wander around town, or head back to the resort for swimming, beach volleyball, kayaking, fishing etc.
Late afternoon, meet up with Pascal Guillet, owner of Vanuatu Ecotours, for a quick briefing on a couple of the upcoming activities, the river kayak safari and the Lololima Cascades bushwalk.
Then hop a bus and the ferry across to Erakor Island Resort for pizza and a movie on the beach. Somewhere today we’ll find time for a casual introduction to the local pidgin language, Bislama – just the pleasantries to make the week more fun with the locals. For example, Bislama for a coconut shell bra is “basket blong titi” (available at the markets for around $5 – cheap authentic souvenir for Mum or Sis!)
After breakfast, pick up to transfer to Havannah Harbour for the full-day Coongoola cruise. Havannah Harbour was a major naval base for the US during World War II and the location for the Survivor TV series. The Coongoola takes you to one side of Moso Island (also known as Tranquility Island) to the turtle sanctuary.
We have already ‘purchased’ a 12 month old turtle to tag and release back into the ocean. Along with the turtle comes naming rights and a certificate. Anyone got a witty name for a turtle?
From here, sail or motor to the other side of Moso to Hapi Tok Beach (that’s Bislama for ‘Happy Talk’) – great snorkelling on the reef here, swimming from the beach, nearby caves and a beach BBQ. On the way back it is common for a pod of dolphins to appear and frolic off the bow of the boat. Sunday dinner and relax at the resort.
After breakfast, transfer to Mele Cascades waterfall. There may be an abseiling option for those interested in attacking the falls from the top. This would be an additional cost of around $100 and we will need to know in advance to book. For those wanting to hike up to the falls, it takes about 45 minutes. Apart from the two main falls, which are pretty spectacular, there are about six swimming holes on the way up/down and you should be able to get under the falls.
From the falls, walk via Mele Village to the wharf to Hideaway Island and have lunch at Nipper’s Beach Bar & Café – they do excellent wood-fired pizzas and curries.
The free ferry takes about five minutes across to Hideaway Island for snorkelling in the marine sanctuary – and, for those who would like to send a unique postcard home, there are waterproof ones that can be posted in the world’s only underwater post office.
There is also a post office box on the rim of the active volcano, Mt Yasur, if you would like to literally send some hotmail.
Pick up from the resort at 3:45pm for transfer to Ekasup Cultural Village (our group will be the only visitors to the village). There will be a ‘tour’ to show traditional hunting/fishing methods – how to build traps, how to use a spider’s web to catch fish etc – (Okay, someone has to volunteer to play pat the spider?!) A look at cultural traditions (marriage, death etc) and traditional medicines. There will be optional kava tasting with the village chief before a traditional Melanesian Feast and dancing/music/entertainment.
Today we split into two groups. One group will transfer to the airport and fly to Tanna island for overnight and safari to the active volcano, Mt Yasur. The second group will do this on Wednesday when the other group returns. The groups will tag team at Tanna airport and meet up again late Thursday. Group Two will have the following activities today, Group One will do this on Thursday.
Pick up 8:30am from the resort with the guides from Vanuatu Ecotours and head out to the Rentapao River for a kayak safari – explore little mangrove tributaries, find some swimming holes, get up close to birdlife and batlife. After the kayaking, lunch before heading to Lololima.
Transfer with Ecotours for a bushwalk to Lololima Cascades. Lololima is on a private property, so there won’t be tourists. There are caves, the falls and a private swimming hole (with a ‘Tarzan’ rope). To get to the falls you have to cross local cattle properties and go through Montmartre French boarding school and a Catholic seminary.
This evening, bus and ferry back over to Ertakor Island Resort for a ‘posh’ dinner – still casual, but Aqua on Erakor is a terrific restaurant.
Group Two early start to the airport for the flight to Tanna, Group One to Tanna airport.
When Group One returns, transfer to town for lunch at the Nambawan Cafe (‘nambawan’ in Bislama is ‘number one’ or ‘excellent’) and transfer to a local village school for a visit and donation of stationery items and sporting equipment. There will be time for a game of soccer or cricket with the local kids. To the resort for some leisure time – swim, kayak etc, before dinner (as per previous evening for Group 2 – at Aqua on Erakor). And here is what happens on Tanna…
4WD transfer across Tanna to Friendly Bungalows. As you can see in the photo, the accommodation is ‘rustic’ – all buildings made from local timber and the floor in the main area/restaurant is sand but there is hot water and flushing toilets – and Mary is a sensational cook!
It could be Mary’s husband, Jessel, who is your main guide this evening to the active volcano, Mt Yasur. You leave late afternoon so there is time for a stop on the ash plain before heading to the volcano’s rim in daylight. As dusk and dark comes the ‘red’ glow from within the volcano intensifies and it is not uncommon to have the embers being thrown up higher than eye level in front of you. Stay until well after dark and return to Friendly Bungalows for dinner.
Group One does the Tuesday activities of river kayaking and Lololima Cascades.
Group Two returns from Tanna and does the school visit after lunch in town.
The two groups meet up at the resort late afternoon.
Lunch is the only organised activity at this stage. We will play this by ear. Some may want to have some last snorkelling, fishing, swimming, beach volleyball, kayaking etc. Or maybe some duty free shopping or handicrafts/souvenirs for the family – after all there are still plenty of basket blong titi at the markets!
Wan gudfala taem – nambawan! (One goodfella time – number one!)
Late afternoon, time to take that tropical tan back to a Toowoomba winter!