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Vanuatu

Main attractions

Yasur volcano eruption, Vanuatu
Yasur volcano eruption / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Vanuatu is beautiful and impressive country. People of Vanuatu should be praised for the preservation of the natural landscape and their traditions thus showing that there is a noble alternative to Western civilization. Highlights of this island country are:

  • Volcanoes and associated landmarks. Vanuatu contains some of the few nearly permanent lava lakes of the world, here are active submarine volcanoes, unusual lakes in volcanic craters, unique biotopes created by the volcanic acid rain.
  • Traditional landscape with unique monuments of living culture. Many people in Vanuatu still follow the traditional way of life. There still are revered burial caves with ancient paintings, according to local beliefs spirits of deceased still travel their mysterious ways, giant banyan trees still serve as the centres of old villages.

Natural landmarks

Volcanoes

  • Benbow lava lakes, Marum lava lakes and Ambrym volcano acid rain - Malampa, Ambrym island. In these closely located craters very often are observed nearly permanent, violently boiling lava lakes. Benbow crater is spectacular, very deep hole with vertical walls. Acid rain formed by the gases from craters has burned approximately 100 km² large plain in the jungle of Vanuatu. Here live specially adapted organisms - insects, orchids.
  • Kuwae submarine volcano - Shefa, sea between Epi and Tongoa islands. One of the most active volcanoes in Vanuatu. It is possible that here was a catastrophic eruption in 1452 - 1452 AD. This eruption possibly created the present day sea between Epi and Tongoa. This was the largest eruption in last 10,000 years, leaving serious impact on climate worldwide. Submarine fumaroles from this volcano stain the sea water yellow, there rise bubbles of hydrogen sulfide as well.
  • Mount Yasur - Tafea, Tanna island. One of the most active volcanos in the world, erupting at least for several centuries. Volcano represents impressive, barren cinder cone contrasting with the usual forested landscape of Vanuatu. Often several times in one hour can be observed spectacular explosions of molten lava. Volcano is 361 m high.
Lake Letas with Mount Gharat, Vanuatu
Lake Letas with Mount Gharat / , Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 2.5

Crater lakes

  • Lake Letas - Torba, Gaua island. The largest lake of the smaller Pacific Islands. 19.7 km² large crater lake, up to 360 m deep. Near Mount Garet cone the water is warm, stained with sulphur. Lake contains many taboo sites for local people and has high cultural importance. 19 endemic species of plants, several endemic animals, unusual biotopes. Temperature of lake water is 32°C and few aquatic animals (eels and shrimps) can live in this heat.
  • Lake Vui (Lake Voui) - Penama, Ambae (Aoba) island. Unusual lake in volcanic crater. Water is blue green, with a bitter taste, volcanic crater rises from it. Locals believe that spirits of dead live here. Lake formed some 360 years ago.

Hot springs and rivers

  • Nagpen River (Selva River) - Torba, southern part of Vanua Lava island. Biologically nearly sterile river from largest sulphur springs in Vanuatu. Water of river over a distance of some 10 km has very bitter taste, is very acidic. Water is dark brown, in lower reaches there forms yellowish suspension.
  • Takara Hot springs - Shefa, Efate island. Seawater hot springs close to the sea. Ground temperature here reaches up to 101°C, water temperature in springs - 74°C.
  • Thermal fields of Lake Manaro Lakua - Penama, Ambae (Aoba) island, south-east from Manaro Lakua Lake. Thermal field with hot springs and fumaroles (some sources mention also geysers). Located in pristine tropical forest with numerous endemic species including endemic orchids.

Caves

  • Blue Cave - Tafea, Tanna island. Beautiful seaside cave with opening above. Sea basin inside the cave is illuminated by the Sun.
  • Sarakata Resurgence - Sanma, Espitiru Santu island. Underwater cave in the central part of the island, explored length 1.7 km.
Siri Falls, Vanuatu
Siri Falls / , Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Waterfalls

  • Mele Cascades - Shefa, Efate island. Beautiful group of waterfalls with cascades over tufa formations and rimstone pools.
  • Siri Falls - Torba, Gaua island. Impressive, 120 m tall waterfall from Lake Letas crater lake, located in lush jungle.

Fossil finds

  • Arapus site of dwarf crocodile fossils - Shefa, Efate island. In 1999 here, in 3,000 years old human settlement were found bones of extinct dwarf crocodile Mekosuchus kolpokasi. This crocodile most likely was shorter than 2 m. It seems that this unusual reptile was eliminated by humans.
  • Meiolania damelipi find in Teouma - Shefa, Efate island. Human settlement with remnants of highly unusual, 2 m long horned turtle in garbage pile. This turtle survived on this island until the arrival of first people some 3,100 years ago. 2,800 years ago it went extinct.

Trees

  • Banyan trees of Tanna - Tafea, Tanna island. Many historical villages of Tanna island have giant banyan trees which are located in the centre of local culture - dancing place (nasara). Diameter of such trees reportedly reaches 50 m. Banyan in Lomteuheakal has approximate trunk circumference of 26 m. Banyan of Yakel village has a house built on top - this house is used for circumcision of local boys. Kaluas is considered by locals to be the largest banyan tree in the world. Tree is extremely large, unfortunately no data about its size found.
  • Happy Lands Kauri Reserve - Tafea, southern part of Erromango island. One of the last stands of kauri (Agathis macrophylla) - giant trees reaching up to 40 m height and 10 m circumference. Earlier it was considered that this is local species Agathis obtusa, but lately it is joined with other species of kauri in region. Area with high biological diversity.

Other natural landmarks

  • Matenoi Gorge - Malampa, Malakula island. Spectacular, almost inaccessible gorge.
  • Matevulu Blue Hole - Sanma, Espiritu Santu island. Beautiful spring coming out of approximately 15 m deep cave filled with blue water. The only place in the world where lives the only freshwater hermit crab in the world - Clibanarius fonticola. Nearby other blue holes such as RiRi Blue Hole, Jackie's Blue Hole.
  • Teouma Gorge - Shefa, Efate island. Spectacular, almost inaccessible gorge.

Man made landmarks

Petroglyphs and rock art

Feles Cave rock art, Vanuatu
Feles Cave rock art / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Aname petroglyphs near Port Patrick - Tafea, Aneityum island. Large group of petroglyphs on an enormous boulder in a steep slope facing the sea. These ancient drawings show fish, birds, turtle, different symbols. Petroglyphs adorn so called "Sun stone" nearby stands "Moon stone" without any engravings. There are at least 8 other petrolgyph sites on island, many include cupmarks.
  • Feles Cave rock art - Shefa, Lelepa island. Black drawings from around 900 AD. Drawings show animals (fish, birds), people.
  • Potnangai cave - Tafea, Erromango island. Important rock art site with black drawings - stick figures, geometric designs. In total more than 100 drawings. In some places black hand stencils over these drawings. Erromango island contains several more sites of ancient art.
  • Tamate stone engravings of Ureparapara - Torba, Ureparapara island. Northern part of island contains engravings - store of information for the secret society of Tamate. Current inhabitants of island still continue some of these ancient traditions.
  • Velemendi cave - Tafea, Erromango island. Important rock art site - cave in a layer of corall limestone. Ancient burial cave with bones preserved. Adorned with numerous (at least 116) hand stencils in black color and, possibly, one in red color.
  • Yalo Cave and Apialo Cave - Malampa, Malakula island. Caves of the spirits of deceased people who lived in this area. Yalo Cave (120 m long) contains some 750 rock paintings and engravings and Apialo Cave (smaller) - 1500 rock paintings and engravings. Many of these paintings are hand stencils, also drawings of faces. Initially - some 3,000 years ago - caves were inhabited. Many living traditions of local people are linked to these caves. Another important monument is stone of Navet'itiet located in another cave which also is adorned with engravings. According to the legends this stone is used by deceased ones to file off their noses.

Other cultural landmarks

  • Alawuro Cave of Vatthe - Sanma, Espiritu Santu island. Limestone cave in an impressive outcrop rising tall over the jungle of Jordan River alluvial plains. Important site of legends - local people believe that guardian of Big Bay lives in this cave and protects local area from construction and logging. Many stories about the magical activities of this spirit. Area has very high biological diversity, numerous endemic species.
  • Nowon and Votwos of northern Ureparapara - Torba, Ureparapara island. Megalithic ceremonial structures made by local pre-European culture. These structures are located on the dramatic northern slopes of Ureparapara island and made of basalt slabs and earth. Impressive feature is impressive stone brickwork. Unfortunately the upper part of these structures is lost.
  • Peter-ihi ceremonial dancing ground and Norohure ceremonial dancing ground - Vao at Malekula. Unique monument - megalithic ceremonial dancing ground with ancestral slit drums. Nearby - enormous banyan tree. At Norohure dancing ground are placed large stone sculptures - faces. There are more interesting megalithic monuments in Malekula and Vao islands.
  • Teouma burial site - Shefa, Efate. Approximately 3,000 years old burials of Lapita culture. In 2003 here were discovered some 60 headless skeletons placed in ornate ceramic pots, with heads on their chests. These were among the first discoveries of remnants of these early Polynesians.
  • Wreck of "The President Coolidge" - Sanma, Espiritu Santu island. Extremely well preserved wreck of a giant ship sunken in 1942. Largest accessible wreck of ship in the world, many dives are required to learn it all. Contains numerous exciting intact details of military equipment and luxury passenger ship interiors.

List of described attractions by provinces

Vanuatu is divided into six provinces.

Provinces of Vanuatu

Malampa
Penama
Sanma
Shefa
ArrowMele CascadesWaterfalls
Tafea
ArrowBanyan in LomteuheakalTrees
Torba

Map of Vanuatu

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