A rich Melanesian culture mixed with striking peculiarities make Vanuatu's identity unique among the South Pacific countries: Australia to the east, Fiji to the west, and Solomon Islands in the southeast. Consisting of about 82 small islands, Vanuatu is home to oddities such as cults worshipping UK's Prince Phillip, villages with gender segregation schemes, and people collecting round-snouted pigs as a symbol of wealth. This Melanesian island republic, which has the world's highest density of vernacular speakers, was juggled between French and British hands before it attained its independence in 1980.
Previously called New Hebrides Islands, Vanuatu is divided into six autonomous provinces, which form a parliamentary democracy that is internationally famous for not charging taxes. Vanuatu's tourism and financial life revolves around Port Vila, the capital and also the largest city.
The locals, called Ni-Vanuatus, speak provincial dialects as the lingua franca, followed by Bislama, or Melanesian blended with English, as the second language. Ni-Vanuatus entertain guests in nakamals or village clubhouses, which have special areas for menstruating women. Slit gongs, rattles and idophones or drums of various sizes are played in nakamals, but reggaeton or hip-hop rapped in Spanish is the tourists' favorite. Kava (pepper root) drinks are also served, as well as steaks, which are among the country's best since animals are naturally grown without artificial feeds.
As part of the Australasia ecozone, Vanuatu has rainforests and clear dive sites. Among the things to see are a shipwrecked Titanic-like luxury liner; the world's most accessible active volcano in Tanna; Malekula's strange dances; and a giant banyan tree the size of a football field. Activities such as rappelling down a waterfall or crossing a cave of stalactites are also part of a Vanuatuan trip.
Vanuatu Traveler Advice
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