Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Malakula Island, Vanuatu


Malakula is the second largest island and the most diverse, culturally and linguistically, with over thirty distinct languages spoken, and some of the best custom dances come from the island. The names given to the primary cultural groups are Small Nambas and Big Nambas.

The interior of Malekula is mountainous, rugged and forest-covered with good walking and bird watching. There are old cannibal sites hidden in the bush on north Malekula and an estimated population of about 25,000 on the coastal areas and around 1,500 in the rugged interior. The villagers are exceptionally friendly and enjoy sharing their proud cultural heritage with visitors.

Neighboring islands such as Maskelynes and other small offshore islands along the east coast of Malekula have sand beaches and coral reefs with good snorkelling and diving.

The towns

Norsup's and Lakatoro are the most important towns in Malekula. Lakatoro has more stores, a market house, a National Bank of Vanuatu branch, an Air Vanuatu office, the main wharf and it's the administrative centre for MALAMPA province. Norsup has the provincial hospital. Both Norsup and Lakatoro have telephones and 24 hour electricity. Lamap is located south Malekula with a post office, medical clinic and a National Bank of Vanuatu branch.

With two airstrips, roads and regular transport, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to tour east and north Malekula starting at Lamap and finishing at Lakatoro or vice versa.

Starting from the south, you can visit the Maskelynes and do Maskelyne Eco Adventure then travel north to Lakatoro. From Lakatoro you can visit Uri and Uripiv islands or continue north along the east coast to Sanwir and Vao.

Yachting is popular also, when travelling up to Malekula, especially around various festivals period

Accommodation

Accommodations in Malekula are simple traditional bungalows to standard budget guesthouses, which are clean and comfortable. Rose Bay bungalow is located on the mainland of Wala, north East Malekula with private facilities for couple rooms while dormitory has shared showers and bathrooms showers. Tours can be arranged by Peter from adventure trips, cultural, snorkeling, site visits to carnival sites, canoe, sailing and many more. 

The Maskelyne islands also has several beautiful bungalows with stunning views located along the coast, looking out to Malekula. Click here and view list.

Getting there

Air Transport
There are airports on Malekula at Norsup, Lamap and Southwest Bay. Air Vanuatu flies to Malekula on every day of the week. Visit the Air Vanuatu website to check the latest Air Vanuatu domestic timetable to plan routes and connections. Tourists holding a return Air Vanuatu international ticket are entitled to a 20% discount on these fares.

Sea Transport
A comfortable passenger-only boat servicing Malekula (Lislits, near Lakatoro) weekly is Fresh Cargo which is a fast catamaran seating around 60 passengers. Contact Fresh Cargo on telephone +678 22660 for more information. Another company that ships cargo and passengers between Vila and Luganville via Malekula is Compagnie Transport Maritime’s MV Havannah. This is undoubtedly the best ship around but its infrequently in Vanuatu.

Getting Around

Road Transport
As usual on the islands, trucks come to town in the mornings and return to the villages in the afternoons, where you'll find many people waiting for transport on weekdays at the Lakatoro Trading Centre, departing especially for the north. Quite a number of trucks are found along the northeast coast as far as Vao with departures as late as 1600H, but there are fewer trucks servicing the south.

The road around Port Sandwich is rough and may be closed if there has been a cyclone and/or heavy rain, so it is cheaper and quicker to take a speedboat across Port Sandwich.

Things to do

Activities and tours on Malekula are eco and cultural orientated due to the nature of the island and people.  You can hike a distance of 72 km from Lamap Village to Lembinwen Village in Southwest Bay, with Malekula Hiking. There is also a 42 km route across the center of the island linking the villages of Unua on the east and Lawa village in Southwest Bay.  Both of these hikes are strenuous and should only be attempted by those with proper fitness and outdoor preparation. 

Marine protected areas and forest conservations are highlighted on tours, as well as visits to historical cannibal sites, and caves.


Visit Vanuatu Tourism for more information

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