Friday 23 April 2010

Vanuatu: Lelepa, in the footsteps of hungry americans

Our first non-travel day in Vanuatu we spent on the Lelepa island tour.  After a bus ride from Port Vila we spent the first few minutes in the boat circling around a school of tuna with the lines out, hoping to catch some lunch.  Despite the tuna literally jumping out of the water in front of us, we didn't catch anything.

On the way to the island our guide (one of the Solomon brothers) regaled us with stories about Survivor Vanuatu, which was filmed on the mainland beach opposite Lelepa, with 'tribal councils' and challenges held on Lelepa.  The Australian Celebrity Survivor was filmed in the same location.  Both TV series' (especially the American one), were great for local business and especially our tour guide, who got a new bus as part of the deal.

We walked over the island and got an interesting tour of the bush tucker, medicine, and other uses for the surrounding jungle plants.  We snorkelled off the beach (not bad but there was better to come), and had a lazy lunch.

After lunch we visited an amazing cave that has great significance for Ni-Vanuatu as the place where Chief Roi Mata died (and is now world heritage listed), before being buried on Hat Island (with more than 25 members of his revenue, some of whom were buried alive!!).  It looked to me like a lava tube, and was pretty impressive, but too hard to take photos of since we only had candles for light.  The locals are scared of spirits in the cave - the first tour they made the tourists go in first to see if anything bad would happen :)  The way I understood it the custom was to take people to the cave to die, where they would be left on their own.  Nasty.

After the cave we went to a marine sanctuary on the east side of the island that had amazing snorkelling.  Our friends told us that it is considered the best snorkelling on Efate, and I believe it.  The coral was better than any I have seen on the outer Barrier Reef, and the fish were similarly amazing (we fed them the scraps from lunch).  Another couple on the tour said the snorkelling was much better than at Hideaway island, which is the best known snorkelling location in the area.

After snorkelling we visited the village on Lelepa, which was great.  We chatted with our guide about his village, and met his family.  We were the only motorised boat on the water, everyone else was a local in a dugout outrigger canoe.  Awesome.  I'd highly recommend the tour to anyone visiting Vanuatu.

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