|Republic of Vanuatu
Ripablik blong Vanuatu (Bislama)
République de Vanuatu (French)
|Motto: "Long God yumi stanap" (We stand with God)|
|Anthem: Yumi, Yumi, Yumi
(and largest city)
|Official language(s)||Bislama, English, French|
|-||Prime Minister||Edward Natapei|
|Independence||from France and the UK|
|-||Date||30 July 1980|
|-||Total||12,189 km2 (161st)
4,706 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2008 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2008 estimate|
|HDI (2004)||▲0.674 (medium) (120th)|
|Currency||Vanuatu vatu (
|Time zone||UTC+11 (UTC+11)|
|Drives on the||right|
Vanuatu ( /ˌvɑːnuːˈɑːtuː/ (help·info) vah-noo-AH-too or /ˌvænˈwɑːtuː/ van-WAH-too), officially the Republic of Vanuatu (French: République de Vanuatu, Bislama: Ripablik blong Vanuatu), is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 500 kilometres (310 mi) northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.
Vanuatu was first inhabited by Melanesian people. Europeans began to settle in the area in the late 18th century. In the 1880s France and the United Kingdom claimed parts of the country, and in 1906 they agreed on a framework for jointly managing the archipelago as the New Hebrides through a British-French Condominium. An independence movement arose in the 1970s, and the Republic of Vanuatu was created in 1980.
The prehistory of Vanuatu is obscure; archaeological evidence supports the commonly held theory that peoples speaking Austronesian languages first came to the islands some 4,000 years ago. Pottery fragments have been found dating back to 1300–1100 B.C.E.
The first island in the Vanuatu group discovered by Europeans was Espiritu Santo, when in 1606 the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós working for the Spanish crown, spied what he thought was a southern continent. Europeans did not return until 1768, when Louis Antoine de Bougainville rediscovered the islands. In 1774, Captain Cook named the islands the New Hebrides, a name that lasted until independence.
In 1825, trader Peter Dillon's discovery of sandalwood on the island of Erromango began a rush of immigrants that ended in 1830 after a clash between immigrant Polynesian workers and indigenous Melanesians. During the 1860s, planters in Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, and the Samoa Islands, in need of laborers, encouraged a long-term indentured labor trade called "blackbirding". At the height of the labor trade, more than one-half the adult male population of several of the Islands worked abroad. Fragmentary evidence indicates that the current population of Vanuatu is greatly reduced compared to pre-contact times.
It was in the 19th century that both Catholic and Protestant missionaries arrived on the islands. Settlers also came, looking for land on which to establish cotton plantations. When international cotton prices collapsed, planters switched to coffee, cocoa, bananas, and, most successfully, coconuts. Initially, British subjects from Australia made up the majority, but the establishment of the Caledonian Company of the New Hebrides in 1882 soon tipped the balance in favor of French subjects. By the turn of the century, the French outnumbered the British two to one.
The jumbling of French and British interests in the islands brought petitions for one or another of the two powers to annex the territory. In 1906, however, France and the United Kingdom agreed to administer the islands jointly. Called the British-French Condominium, it was a unique form of government, with separate governmental systems that came together only in a joint court. Melanesians were barred from acquiring the citizenship of either power.
Challenges to this form of government began in the early 1940s. The arrival of Americans during World War II, with their informal demeanor and relative wealth, was instrumental in the rise of nationalism in the islands. The belief in a mythical messianic figure named John Frum was the basis for an indigenous cargo cult (a movement attempting to obtain industrial goods through magic) promising Melanesian deliverance. Today, John Frum is both a religion and a political party with a member in Parliament.
The first political party was established in the early 1970s and originally was called the New Hebrides National Party. One of the founders was Father Walter Lini, who later became Prime Minister. Renamed the Vanua'aku Pati in 1974, the party pushed for independence; in 1980, amidst the brief Coconut War, the Republic of Vanuatu was created.
During the 1990s Vanuatu experienced political instability which eventually resulted in a more decentralized government. The Vanuatu Mobile Force, a paramilitary group, attempted a coup in 1996 because of a pay dispute. There were allegations of corruption in the government of Maxime Carlot Korman. New elections have been called for several times since 1997, most recently in 2004.
Despite its tropical forests, Vanuatu has a limited number of plant and animal species. There are no indigenous large mammals. The 19 species of native reptiles include the flowerpot snake, found only on Efate. There are 11 species of bats (3 unique to Vanuatu) and 61 species of land and water birds. While the small Polynesian rat is thought to be indigenous, the large species arrived with Europeans, as did domesticated hogs, dogs, and cattle.
The region is rich in sea life, with more than 4,000 species of marine mollusks. Coneshell and stonefish carry poison fatal to humans.
The giant East African land snail arrived only in the 1970s but already has spread from the Port-Vila region to Luganville.
There are 3 or possibly 4 adult saltwater crocodiles living in Vanuatu's mangroves and no current breeding population. It is unknown whether crocodiles ever had a natural breeding population (the crocodiles there today descend from one's brought to the island by colonists) but it is certainly possible given the island chain's proximity to the Solomon Islands and New Guinea (where crocodiles are very common.)
Vanuatu is an island archipelago consisting of approximately 82 relatively small, geologically newer islands of volcanic origin (65 of them inhabited), with about 800 miles (1,300 km) north to south distance between the outermost islands. Two of these islands (Matthew and Hunter) are also claimed by the French overseas department of New Caledonia. Fourteen of Vanuatu's islands have surface areas of more than 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi). From largest to smallest, these are Espiritu Santo, Malakula, Efate, Erromango, Ambrym, Tanna, Pentecost, Epi, Ambae or Aoba, Vanua Lava, Gaua, Maewo, Malo, and Anatom or Aneityum. The nation's largest towns are the capital Port Vila, situated on Efate, and Luganville on Espiritu Santo. The highest point in Vanuatu is Mount Tabwemasana, at 1,879 metres (6,165 ft), on the island of Espiritu Santo.
Vanuatu's total area is (roughly 12,274 square kilometres (4,739 sq mi)) of which its land base is very limited (roughly 4,700 square kilometres (1,800 sq mi)); most of the islands are steep, with unstable soils, and little permanent freshwater. One estimate (2005) is only 9% of land is used for agriculture (7% permanent crops, 2% arable land). The shoreline is usually rocky with fringing reefs and no continental shelf, dropping rapidly into the ocean depths. There are several active volcanoes in Vanuatu, including Lopevi, as well as several underwater ones. Volcanic activity is common with an ever-present danger of a major eruption; a recent nearby undersea eruption of 6.4 magnitude occurred in November 2008 with no casualties, and an eruption occurred in 1945. Vanuatu is recognised as a distinct terrestrial ecoregion, known as the Vanuatu rain forests. It is part of the Australasia ecozone, which includes New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand.
The climate is sub-tropical with approximately nine months of warm to hot rainy weather and the possibility of cyclones and three to four months of cooler drier weather characterized by winds from the southeast. The water temperature ranges from 72 °F (22 °C) in winter to 82 °F (28 °C) in the summer. Cool between April and September, the days become hotter and more humid starting in October. The daily temperature ranges from 68 °F (20 °C) to 90 °F (32 °C). Southeasterly trade winds occur from May to October. Vanuatu has a long rainy session, with significant rainfall usually occurring almost every month. The wettest and hottest months are December through April, which also constitute the cyclone season. The driest months are June through November. Rainfall averages about 2,360 millimetres (93 in) per year but can be as high as 4,000 millimetres (160 in) in the northern islands.
Vanuatu’s relatively fast growing population (estimated at 3.6 percent annually) is placing increased pressure on local resources for agriculture, grazing, hunting, and fishing. An alternate estimate from 2007 suggests the population growth rate is lower at 1.5 percent annually. Some 90 percent of Ni-Vanuatu households fish and consume fish, which has caused intense fishing pressure near villages and the depletion of near-shore fish species. While well vegetated, most islands also show signs of deforestation. They have been logged (particularly of higher-value timber), subjected to wide-scale slash-and-burn agriculture, converted to coconut plantations and cattle ranches, and show evidence of increased soil erosion and landslides. Freshwater is becoming increasingly scarce and many upland watersheds are being deforested and degraded. Proper waste disposal and water and air pollution are also increasingly troublesome issues around urban areas and large villages. Additionally, the lack of employment opportunities in industry and urban areas and inaccessibility to markets have combined to lock rural families into a subsistence or self-reliance mode, putting tremendous pressure on local ecosystems.
Vanuatu has been divided into six provinces since 1994. The names in English of all provinces are derived from the initial letters of their constituent islands:
Provinces are autonomous units with their own popularly elected local parliaments known officially as provincial councils. They collect local taxes and make by-laws in local matters like tourism, the provincial budget or the provision of some basic services. They are headed by a chairman elected from among the members of the local parliaments and assisted by a secretary appointed by the Public Service Commission. Their executive arm consists of a provincial government headed by an executive officer who is appointed by the Prime Minister with the advice of the minister of local government. The provincial government is usually formed by the party that has the majority in the provincial council and, like the national government, is advised in Ni-Vanuatu culture and language by the local council of chiefs. The provincial president is constitutionally a member of the electoral college that elects the President of Vanuatu.
The provinces are in turn divided into municipalities (usually consisting of an individual island) headed by a council and a mayor elected from among the members of the council.
The Republic of Vanuatu is a parliamentary democracy with a written constitution, which declares that the "head of the Republic shall be known as the President and shall symbolise the unity of the nation." The powers of the President of Vanuatu, who is elected for a 5-year term by a two-thirds majority of an electoral college, are primarily ceremonial. The electoral college consists of members of Parliament and the presidents of Regional Councils. The President may be removed by the electoral college for gross misconduct or incapacity. The Prime Minister, who is the head of government, is elected by a majority vote of a three-fourths quorum of the Parliament. The prime minister, in turn, appoints the Council of Ministers, whose number may not exceed a quarter of the number of parliamentary representatives. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers constitute the executive government.
The Parliament of Vanuatu is unicameral and has 54 members, who are elected by popular vote every four years unless earlier dissolved by a majority vote of a three-quarters quorum or by a directive from the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The national Council of Chiefs, called the Malvatu Mauri and elected by district councils of chiefs, advises the government on all matters concerning ni-Vanuatu culture and language.
Besides national authorities and figures, Vanuatu also has high-placed people at the village level. Chiefs were and are still the leading figures on village level. It has been reported that even politicians need to oblige them. One becomes such a figure by holding a number of lavish feasts (each feast allowing them a higher ceremonial grade) or alternatively through inheritance (the latter only in Polynesian-influenced villages). In northern Vanuatu, feasts are graded through the nimangki-system.
Government and society in Vanuatu tend to divide along linguistic French and English lines. Forming coalition governments, however, has proved problematic at times due to differences between English and French speakers.
The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and up to three other judges. Two or more members of this court may constitute a Court of Appeal. Magistrate courts handle most routine legal matters. The legal system is based on British common law and French civil law. The constitution also provides for the establishment of village or island courts presided over by chiefs to deal with questions of customary law.
Since 1980, Australia, the United Kingdom (UK), France, and New Zealand have provided the bulk of Vanuatu's development aid. Direct aid from the UK to Vanuatu ceased in 2005 following the decision by the UK to no longer focus on the Pacific. However, more recently new donors such as the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and the People's Republic of China have been providing increased amounts of aid funding. In 2005 the MCA announced that Vanuatu was one of the first 15 countries in the world selected to receive support—an amount of US$65 million was given for the provision and upgrading of key pieces of public infrastructure.
Vanuatu retains strong economic and cultural ties to Australia, the European Union (in particular France and UK) and New Zealand. Australia now provides the bulk of external assistance, including to the police force, which has a paramilitary wing. Vanuatu's military consist of a small, mobile, corps of 300 volunteers, the Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF), which forms part of the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF). Total military expenditures are not available.
The four mainstays of the economy are agriculture, tourism, offshore financial services, and cattle raising. There is substantial fishing activity although this industry doesn't bring in much foreign exchange. Exports include copra, kava, beef, cocoa, and timber, and imports include machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, and fuels. In contrast, mining activity is unsubstantial. While manganese mining halted in 1978, there was an agreement in 2006 to export manganese already mined but not yet exported. The country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light-industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties and a 12.5 percent VAT on goods and services. Economic development is hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports, vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances between constituent islands and from main markets.
Agriculture is used primarily for consumption as well as for export. It provides a living for 65% of the population. In particular, production of copra and kava create substantial revenue. Many farmers have been abandoning cultivation of food crops, and use earnings from kava cultivation to buy food. Kava has also been used in ceremonial exchanges between clans and villages. Cocoa is also grown for foreign exchange. In 2007, the number of households engaged in fishing was 15,758, mainly for consumption (99%), and the average number of weekly fishing trips was 3. The tropical climate enables growing of a wide range of fruits and vegetables and spices, including banana, garlic, cabbage, peanuts, pineapples, sugarcane, taro, yams, watermelons, leaf spices, carrots, radishes, eggplants, vanilla (both green and cured), pepper, cucumber, and many others. In 2007, the value (in terms of millions of vatu – the official currency of Vanuatu), for agricultural products, was estimated for different products: kava (341 million vatu), copra (195), cattle (135), crop gardens (93), cocoa (59), forestry (56), fishing (24), coffee (12).
Tourism brings in much-needed foreign exchange. Visit the official Vanuatu Tourism Office website here www.vanuatu.travel. Tourism increased 17% from 2007 to 2008 to reach 196,134 arrivals, according to one estimate. The 2008 total is a sharp increase from 2000, in which there were only 57,000 visitors (of these, 37,000 were from Australia, 8,000 from New Zealand, 6,000 from New Caledonia, 3,000 from Europe, 1,000 from North America, 1,000 from Japan. (Note: figures rounded to the nearest thousand). Tourism has been promoted, in part, by Vanuatu being the site of several reality-TV shows. The ninth season of the reality TV series Survivor was filmed on Vanuatu, entitled Survivor: Vanuatu—Islands of Fire. Two years later, Australia's Celebrity Survivor was filmed at the same location used by the U.S. version. In mid-2002, the government stepped up efforts to boost tourism.
Financial services are an important part of the economy. Vanuatu is a tax haven that until 2008 did not release account information to other governments or law-enforcement agencies. International pressure, mainly from Australia, influenced the Vanuatu government to begin adhering to international norms to improve transparency. In Vanuatu, there is no income tax, withholding tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, or exchange control. Many international ship-management companies choose to flag their ships under the Vanuatu flag, because of the tax benefits and favorable labor laws (Vanuatu is a full member of the International Maritime Organization and applies its international conventions). Several file-sharing groups, such as the providers of the KaZaA network of Sharman Networks and the developers of WinMX, have chosen to incorporate in Vanuatu to avoid regulation and legal challenges. In response to foreign concerns the government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore financial centre. Vanuatu receives foreign aid mainly from Australia and New Zealand.
Cattle raising leads to beef production for export. One estimate in 2007 for the total value of cattle heads sold was 135 million vatu; cattle were first introduced into the area from Australia by British planter James Paddon. On average, each household has 5 pigs and 16 chickens, and while cattle are the "most important livestock", pigs and chickens are important for subsistence agriculture as well as playing a significant role in ceremonies and customs (especially pigs). There are 30 commercial farms (sole proprietorships (37%), partnerships (23%), corporations (17%), with revenues of 533 million vatu and expenses of 329 million vatu in 2007.
Earthquakes can negatively affect economic activity on the island nation. A severe earthquake in November 1999, followed by a tsunami, caused extensive damage to the northern island of Pentecote, leaving thousands homeless. Another powerful earthquake in January 2002 caused extensive damage in the capital, Port Vila, and surrounding areas, and was also followed by a tsunami. Another earthquake of 7.2 struck on 2 August 2007.
The Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) released their 2007 agricultural census in 2008. According to the study, agricultural exports make up about three-quarters (73%) of all exports; 80% of the population lives in rural areas where "agriculture is the main source of their livelihood"; and of these households, almost all (99%) engaged in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Total annual household income was 1,803 millions of vatu. Of this income, agriculture grown for their own household use was valued at 683 million vatu, agriculture for sale at 561, gifts received at 38, handicrafts at 33, fisheries (for sale) at 18. The largest expenditure by households was food 300 million vatu, followed by household appliances and other necessities (79 million vatu), transportation (59), education and services (56), housing (50), alcohol and tobacco (39), clothing and footwear (17). Exports were valued at 3,038 million vatu, and included copra (485), kava (442), cocoa (221), beef (fresh and chilled) (180), timber (80), fish (live fish, aquarium, shell, button) (28). Total imports of 20,472 million vatu included industrial materials (4,261), food and drink (3,984), machinery (3,087), consumer goods (2,767), transport equipment (2,125), fuels and lubricants (187) and other imports (4,060). There are substantial numbers of crop gardens – 97,888 in 2007 – many on flat land (62%), slightly hilly slope (31%), and even on steep slopes (7%); there were 33,570 households with at least one crop garden, and of these, 10.788 households sold some of these crops over a twelve month period..
One report from the Manila-based Asian Development Bank about Vanuatu's economy gave mixed reviews. It noted the economy was "expanding", noting that the economy grew at an impressive 5.9% rate from 2003 to 2007, and lauded "positive signals regarding reform initiatives from the government in some areas" but described certain binding constraints such as "poor infrastructure services". Since a private monopoly generates power, "electricity costs are among the highest in the Pacific" among developing countries. The report also cited "weak governance and intrusive interventions by the State" which reduced productivity.
Mobile phone service in the islands is provided only by Digicel. A government network is under construction, to provide email, telephone, internet and video conferencing facilities to government offices throughout the country.
Vanuatu has a population of 221,506. Males outnumber females; in 1999, according to the Vanuatu Statistics Office, there were 95,682 males and 90,996 females. Infant mortality has declined precipitously during the last half of the twentieth century, from 123 deaths per 100,000 population in 1967 to only 25 per 100,000 in 1999. The population is predominantly rural, although Port Vila and Luganville have populations in the tens of thousands. The inhabitants of Vanuatu, or Ni-Vanuatu, are in the majority (98.5%) of Melanesian descent, with the remainder made up of a mix of Europeans, Asians and other Pacific islanders. Three islands were historically colonized by Polynesians. About 2,000 Ni-Vanuatu live and work in New Caledonia. In 2006 the New Economics Foundation and Friends of the Earth environmentalist group published the Happy Planet Index which analysed data on levels of reported happiness, life expectancy and Ecological Footprint and estimated Vanuatu to be the most ecologically efficient country in the world in achieving high well-being.
Bislama is a pidgin language, and now a creole in urban areas, which essentially combines a typically Melanesian grammar with a mostly English vocabulary. It is the only language that can be understood and spoken by the majority of Vanuatu's population as a second language. In addition 113 indigenous languages are still actively spoken in Vanuatu. The density of languages, per capita, is the highest of any nation in the world with an average of only 2,000 speakers per language. All of these vernacular languages belong to the Oceanic branch of the Austronesian family.
Christianity is the predominant religion in Vanuatu, consisting of several denominations. The Presbyterian Church, adhered to by about one third of the population, is the largest of them. Roman Catholic and Anglican are other common denominations, each claiming about 15% of the population. Others are the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, Neil Thomas Ministries (NTM), as well as many other religious sects and denominations. Because of the modernities that the military in World War II brought with them when they came to the islands, several cargo cults developed. Many died out, but the John Frum cult on Tanna is still large, and has adherents in the parliament. Also on Tanna is the Prince Philip Movement, which reveres the United Kingdom's Prince Philip. Villagers of the Yaohnanen tribe believed in an ancient story about the pale-skinned son of a mountain spirit venturing across the seas to look for a powerful woman to marry. Prince Philip, having visited the island with his new wife Queen Elizabeth, fit the description exactly and is therefore revered and even held as a god around the isle of Tanna.
Vanuatu culture retains a strong diversity through local regional variations and through foreign influence. Vanuatu may be divided into three major cultural regions. In the north, wealth is established by how much one can give away. Pigs, particularly those with rounded tusks, are considered a symbol of wealth throughout Vanuatu. In the centre, more traditional Melanesian cultural systems dominate. In the south, a system involving grants of title with associated privileges has developed.
Most villages have a nakamal or village clubhouse which serves as a meeting point for men and as a place to drink kava. Villages also have male and female-only sections. These sections are situated all over the villages; in nakamals, special spaces are provided for females when they are in their menstruation period.
The traditional music of Vanuatu is still thriving in the rural areas of Vanuatu. Musical instruments consist mostly of idiophones: drums of various shape and size, slit gongs, as well as rattles, among others. Another musical genre that has become widely popular during the 20th century in all areas of Vanuatu, is known as string band music. It combines guitars, ukulele, and popular songs.
More recently the music of Vanuatu, as an industry, grew rapidly in the 1990s and several bands have forged a distinctive ni-Vanuatu identity. Popular genres of modern commercial music, which are currently being played in town include zouk music and reggaeton. Reggaeton, a variation of hip-hop rapped in Spanish language, played alongside its own distinctive beat, is especially played in the local nightclubs of Vanuatu with, mostly, an audience of Westerners and tourists.
Cricket is very popular in Vanuatu, with its own national team. There are 8000 registered cricketers. There is also some rugby union played in Vanuatu. Sport varies depending on the gender of those involved. Volleyball is considered a 'girls' sport' and males play soccer.
The cuisine of Vanuatu (aelan kakae) incorporates fish, root vegetables such as taro and yams, fruits, and vegetables. Most island families grow food in their gardens, and food shortages are rare. Papayas, pineapples, mangoes, plantains, and sweet potatoes are abundant through much of the year. Coconut milk and cream are used to flavor many dishes. Most food is cooked using hot stones or through boiling and steaming; very little food is fried.
A 2006 New Economics Foundation study designated Vanuatu the world's happiest nation, with Costa Rica at second place, based on a study which looked at consumption levels, life expectancy, and happiness. But a reporter reading this report wrote "the World’s Happiness measure was meant to raise awareness that excessive consumption doesn’t deliver happiness" and wondered whether the designation was biased. He visited the island nation in 2009 and noted, along with good points, significant problems, including a food riot which had happened earlier that year, vacant land with litter, a trend towards deforestation, polluted rivers and streams, extensive foreign ownership of prime land in the capital city, land speculation, overdevelopment, and poverty.
In Port Vila, and three other centres, are locations of the University of the South Pacific, an educational institution co-owned by twelve Pacific countries. The campus in Port Vila, known as the Emalus Campus, houses the University's law school.
Several moderate to major earthquakes affected the vicinity of Vanuatu and also of Santa Cruz Islands between October 7 and 8 2009. The first earthquake struck at 2203 UTC on October 7 2009 and measured 7.6 Mw. A tsunami warning was issued for 11 countries throughout the region although this was canceled within two hours after only a minor tsunami formed.
The Vanuatu earthquakes occurred on (or near) the boundary of the Australia Plate and the Pacific Plate, and occurred mostly at a depth of 35 kilometers (22 miles). This boundary region is among the most seismically active areas in the world.
The initial earthquake was re-designated as a foreshock because it was followed by a shock of 7.8 magnitude 15 minutes later in the same area. Moderate aftershocks occurred and those with magnitude 6.0 or higher are listed below (there were a dozen ranging from 5.0 to 5.8 within the 12 hours following the initial event). Shocks with magnitude 7.0 or higher are highlighted in light blue and the main shock of 7.8 is highlighted in dark blue.
|2009-10-07||22:03:15||13.052° S||166.187° W||35 km (22 mi)||7.6 (Mw)|||
|2009-10-07||22:18:26||12.554° S||166.320° W||35 km (22 mi)||7.8 (Mw)|||
|2009-10-07||23:13:49||13.145° S||166.297° W||33 km (21 mi)||7.3 (Mw)|||
|2009-10-08||02:12:39||11.650° S||166.170° W||35 km (22 mi)||6.6 (Mw)|||
|2009-10-08||08:28:49||13.298° S||165.951° W||35 km (22 mi)||6.8 (Mw)|||
|2009-10-08||08:34:38||12.276° S||166.448° W||35 km (22 mi)||6.5 (Mw)|||
|2009-10-08||21:16:12||12.879° S||166.200° W||11 km (7 mi)||6.2 (Mw)|||
|Population||196,178 (July 2002 est.)|
|Language||English, French, creole (known as Bislama or Bichelama) official; plus 100+ local languages|
|Religion||Presbyterian 36.7%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 15%, indigenous beliefs 7.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6.2%, Church of Christ 3.8%, other 15.7% (including Jon Frum Cargo cult)|
The islands of Vanuatu are grouped into six geographic provinces, the names formed by combining the first syllables or letters of the major islands in each. Roughly north to south:
The British and French who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980. European settlers released several saltwater crocodiles on the island, although today's population on the island officially stands at 2 or 3 medium-sized individuals on the Banks Islands and no breeding has been observed. Despite its proximity to Papua New Guinea, crocodiles do not naturally occur on Vanuatu.
With such a large north-south area, Vanuatu has all the tropical variances possible. From hot and humid in the north, to mild and dry in the south. The Capital Port Vila on Efate can expect 27°C in July to 30°C in January. Nights can drop to 12°C. Humidity from December to February is around 82% and 70% around July.
Rainfall from January to April is around 300mm per month - for the rest of the year around 200mm per month. The Banks Islands in the top North can receive above 4,000mm of rain in a year, yet the southern islands may receive less than 2,000mm.
Cyclones are a natural phenomena to understand and respect. Mainstream tourism facilities are solidly built and experienced in cyclone management. Cyclones appear (in varying degrees with plenty of warning) on an average every couple of years from December to March. By following instructions given by the local authorities, you will be in no danger.
Tourism peaks in the months of July to December. The months of January to June are the quietest. Experienced travellers take advantage of these tourism troughs to travel, as airlines, accommodation providers and other tourism related businesses discount heavily during this period.
The months of January to June are a little more humid, but cooled by the occasional tropical down pour. The added bonus is that in this period, tourism numbers are low. You have more opportunities to mingle with locals and carelessly do your own thing instead of being rushed by the crowd (except when cruise ships are in Port).
A long list of countries are exempted from visas , which includes all Commonwealth and European Economic Community Member countries. All visitors must have a passport valid for a further 4 months and an onward ticket. On arrival, you will be allowed an initial stay of up to 30 days, extended one month at a time for up to 4 months.
Subsequent 11 night cruises explore the Banks Islands, then the isolated islands of central Vanuatu, depart from Port Vila via Tanna island to New Caledonia on 19 Oct.
The main international airport is in Port-Vila with flights to and from:
There are a few charter airlines, these are Unity Airlines, Sea Air and Air Safaries, however the national airline Air Vanuatu operates the domestic network.
Within Vanuatu, several companies provide boating service between the islands. These include Fresh Cargo, Ifira Shipping Agencies and Toara Coastal Shipping.
In Port Vila the buses are mini vans seating about 10 people, which largely traverse the main road and go and stop where you would like them to go. Wave at them to stop one heading in the direction you want to go. They are plentiful within the city and outside the city you can usually arrange for a bus to meet you at a particular time. If one looks full, just wait for the next one. The buses are used by locals, but are very friendly, cheap, and easy to use by tourists. Fare is usually calculated per person. The cost is usually 150 vatu per person anywhere around Port Vila. If you are travelling a longer distance, the fare may rise to 300 - 500 vatu per person.
Taxis are plentiful within Port Vila. Fare is calculated per taxi.
There are three official languages: English, French and Bislama. Bislama is a pidgin language – and now a creole in urban areas – which essentially combines a typically Melanesian grammar with a mostly English vocabulary. It is the only language that can be understood and spoken by the whole population of Vanuatu, generally as a second language.
It is a mixture of phonetic English woven in a loose French sentence structure spoken with ‘local sound' producing some comical outcomes e.g., ladies brassieres or bathing top is called "Basket blong titi"; no offense intended. An excellent Bislama dictionary is available from good book shops: 'A New Bislama Dictionary,' by the late Terry Crowley. Some common Bislama words/phrases include:
- Me / you - mi / yu - Him / her / it (neither masculine nor femenin) - this here - hem/ hemia - Us /we / all of us - mifala / mifala evriwan - You / you (plural) - yu / yufala - I do not know/understand - mi no save - See you later / ta ta - Lukim yu/ tata - I am going now - ale (French derivation of allez) mi go - One/ two / three - wan / tu / tri - How much (is that) - hamas (long hem) - Plenty or many - plenti - Filled to capacity / overfilled - fulap / fulap tumas (too much) - Day / evening / night - dei / sava (literally supper) / naet - Hot / cold - hot / kol - What / what is that - wanem / wanem ia (literally wanem here?) - Why / why did you - frowanem (for why?) - Please / thank you / sorry (very sorry) - plis / tangkyu / sori (sori tumas) - sorry too much - Do you know - yu save (pronounced savee)
In addition, 113 indigenous languages are still actively spoken in Vanuatu. The density of languages per capita is the highest of any nation in the world, with an average of only 2000 speakers per language. All of these vernacular languages belong to the Oceanic branch of the Austronesian family.
The Vanuatu people are a delight to photograph, friendly, co-operative and photogenic especially the children who are simply gorgeous. Yes, they love to be photographed but please do not offer to pay to photograph local people as this will quickly discourage spontaneity and encourage commercialisation. Always ask before taking photos of local people.
In some cases, some people may be reluctant to be photographed for reasons that you may never know. It is prudent to enquire as to the fee for photographing cultural festivities as they are sometimes very high. The reasoning behind this is they put on the show, people take photos and make money selling these photos of their show - so they want to be paid accordingly (makes sense). Shooting an exploding volcano at night calls for min 800 asa setting and a tripod is essential for good images.
The local currency is the Vatu (VT). (It's ISO 4217 Code is VUV.) As of August 2009, 100VT is worth approximately 1USD, 1.20AUD, 1.50NZD or 0.70EUR . There are notes for 200 VT, 500 VT, 1000 VT, and 5000 VT, while coins include 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 VT pieces.
Credit and debit cards on the major networks (Cirrus, Maestro, etc) are accepted by many businesses in town.
ATMs are available in Port Vila, and include the Australian banks ANZ and Westpac. The National Bank of Vanuatu has a branch at the airport and is open for all flight arrivals. Otherwise, banking hours are from 8:30AM to 3PM.
Tipping is not expected in Vanuatu, nor is haggling or bargaining. It is not expected nor the custom to tip, and only encourages a "master-servant" relationship. However gifts are very appreciated and the exchange of gifts for services rendered fits well into the local traditions (western governments have a hard time coming to terms with this practice as it is interpreted as bribery and corruption. But in the Melanesian culture, this practice is a normal way to do business...well the White Man introduced that "Cash" stuff).
A bag of rice to a village chief may be received with gratitude and dignity, but to offer triple the value in cash may be regarded as patronising, plus it will artificially inflate the price for the next traveller; set wrong expectation, and rapidly destroy the genuine spontaneous friendship so easily given to you.
A nice gesture is to give phone cards or a T-shirt, or school pads, pens etc., for the children. Plenty of kids here! We naturally don't recommend lollies and the like as it only encourages junk food dependency plus giving cash to local men may often be spent at the Kava bar and of no benefit to his family. If you have to give cash, ensure it is given to women, preferably mothers who generally control the family budget. The introduction of Poker machines has certainly not helped the situation considering these places are for the most part frequented by local people (mostly men) who can ill afford to waste their small wages in this way.
There are two market areas along the foreshore in Port Vila. The main market sells mostly food, and you can find all kinds of local produce there. Further north, near the beach, there is a row of grass-roofed market stalls that sell clothing, bags, sarongs, and other items.
The woven grass bags and mats are widely available and very attractive.
There are many restaurants and eateries in Port Vila, ranging from up-market places catering to tourists and expats, to more low-key establishments. The approximate cost of lunch would be around the 1000-1500 vatu range, depending on where and what you eat. Some examples of prices:
The traditional dish which you will most likely be offered once during your stay is a root vegetable cake called lap lap. Essentially this either manioc (kasava), sweet potato, taro or yam shaved into the middle of a banana leaf with island cabbage and sometimes a chicken wing on top. This is all wrapped up into a flat package and then cooked in hot stones underground till it all melts together into a cake. The best place to pick up some of this is at the food market in the town centre and should cost you about 100 vatu.
This is a variation of lap lap with the the cake rolled into a cylinder with meat in the middle. It tastes a lot like a sausage roll. You can find these again in the market (usually from mele village people) but they will be served from foam boxes to keep them warm.
Vanuatu's meat is renowned in the region. At the airports you will see signs reminding you to pack the 25kg of meat permitted to other nearby island nations. The reason the meat's so good is that it's all naturally grown, with no feedlots or other problems of westernised mass production. The result of this is that the steaks are very good indeed.
Kava is a local drink, made from the roots of the plant Piper methysticum, a type of pepper. Kava is intoxicating, but not like alcohol. Its effects are sedative. Some travellers have experienced a hangover from its consumption.
Kava is consumed in private homes and in local venues called Nakamal. Some of the resorts also offer kava on occasion for travellers to try.
Kava is served in a "shell" or small bowl. Drink the whole shell-ful down steadily, then spit. It's handy to have a soft drink on hand to rinse with afterwards, as the taste of kava is strong and not very pleasant.
Alcoholic beverages are also widely available. Resorts, bars, and restaurants serving tourists have a wide range of drinks available. The local beers are called "Tusker" and "Vanuatu Bitter".
There is a choice of all levels of accommodation.
When visiting other islands or villages outside of the cities, there are many small guest houses that charge around 2000 VT per night and offer full service (meals, laundry, etc).
Many of the motels in Port Vila and Luganville also fall into the budget category, with prices around 2000 VT per night. There are a number of websites which list such motels.
There are many charitable organisations and NGOs operating in Vanuatu, and a strong community of volunteers in the area. If you are interested in volunteering in Vanuatu, the following organisations place volunteers there:
Many people from overseas work in Vanuatu, either running their own businesses or employed by others.
Generally speaking, work permits are only available for positions where there are not enough ni-Vanuatu to meet demand.
Port Vila is, on the whole, a very safe and friendly environment. You are unlikely to encounter any trouble unless you do something extremely provocative.
There are no seriously poisonous snakes, spiders, or insects on Vanuatu, however there are various poisonous aquatic animals that you should beware of if you are swimming, snorkeling, or diving in the area. The most dangerous of these is the stonefish. Saltwater crocodiles are present, but the likelihood of an attack is minimal.
It is advisable to be immunised against Hepatitis A and B and typhoid fever before visiting Vanuatu.
Malaria is endemic within some areas of Vanuatu, but not Port-Vila. If you are venturing outside the resort areas, check with your doctor before you travel.
Tap water in Port Vila is clean and potable, but is best avoided elsewhere. Doctors used to treating common traveller problems are available in Port-Vila. Any more serious problems may require some form of medical evacuation.
Be careful of any small cuts, scratches, or other sores you receive while travelling in Vanuatu. As in most tropical areas, small sores can easily become infected if you don't practice proper hygiene. Most of these things require common sense.
Throughout Vanuatu, and especially outside of Port Vila in the villages, life is strongly influenced by "kastom" -- a set of traditional customs and taboos that apply to all kinds of matters. Be aware of this, and respect locals' requests with regard to "kastom".
When visiting villages, women should dress modestly, wearing clothes that cover the shoulders and knees.
Christian religion is very strong. It seems common to invite and welcome visitors to attend local church services on a Sunday
Revealing and sexy clothing (especially wearing beach wear in the capital) is not advisable, as over 100 years of missionary work has had its effect on the perception of what is considered as respectable attire in the islands. Regardless, it's considered disrespectful to the local people and can be interpreted by some indigenous inhabitants as an invitation for sex.
As Vanuatu is not a ‘fashion conscious' place no-one will notice or care if you were wearing the latest from 'the Paris Collection' or not. We do suggest that you bring all year round: Easy to hand wash, practical tropical wardrobe such as light cotton summer clothes; a ‘sloppy joe' pullover; light weight waterproof wind jacket. If planning to go to the outer islands, bring a good torch (with spare batteries, you will use them!), lightweight, walking shoes, sandals for wet weather or good thongs (flip flops/croks) and old clothes
Tip: When exploring the outer islands take all the older clothes you can carry, wear them and give them away to the islanders when you are finished wearing them. You and your children will be aptly rewarded in other ways. Instead of dumping your worn clothes in a charity collection bin at your local shopping centre and never knowing who really receives these (if they ever do...), your children will interact with the very people who would be the recipients of those clothes (most NiVanuatu people buy these second hand clothes from shops in Port Vila).
Sharing and giving is a natural course of daily life in Vanuatu. The T-shirt you give to one person will be worn by all his friends as well. Three T-shirts on top of each other will be their winter outfit.... You will provide them things that are hard for them to obtain, save them the expense of buying clothes (basic wages are quite low in Vanuatu) and you will depart with priceless memories, plus have more in your luggage for purchased local arts and crafts
Communicating With NiVanuatu people:
"How long it takes to get there?" would be a better question...however, refer to the previous point for instructions.
The international country code for Vanuatu is +678. To dial overseas from within Vanuatu dial 00 followed by the relevant country code and phone number.
Emergency phone numbers: Ambulance (22-100); Fire (22-333); and Police (22-222).
Vanuatu has GSM mobile coverage in Port-Vila and most GSM mobile phones roam seamlessly. You can buy special visitor SIM cards from TVI , which offer considerable discounts over roaming charges. Available at any post office.
International Roaming from New Zealand and Australia is available. Telecom Vanuatu has a package called ‘Smile Visitor' which consists of a sim card with a pre-purchased credit. This can be purchased at the Vanuatu Telecom Office in town. Telephone: +(678) 081111. Email: email@example.com
Or with the new player's Digicel, giving Telecom some overdue competition. Digicel have made themselves very visible, and can be found everywhere. They have a bunch of different cheap plans for you.
Internet cafes can be found in Luganville & Port-Vila. You may also find that some post offices will also provide some kind of Internet facilities, and can be found on the main streets in Port-Vila and Luganville as well as on Espiritu Santo.
Postal services to mainland Europe can take up to 7 days. You can send letters and postcards from mailboxes in the streets, however the incoming postal service can be patchy, especially for parcels, so don't rely on people sending you things while you're staying in Vanuatu.
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Declension of Vanuatu (type valo)