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Shaped like a sitting dog, Malekula is the second largest island in Vanuatu and one of the most culturally diverse, with over 30 languages spoken. Each village is like its own unique universe, complete with kastom stories and dances you won’t see anywhere else. 

Just to the east of Malekula is Ambrym, known for its towering volcanoes, rich black sand and ancient sorcery. The island is used to unpredictability, with Mt Benbow and Mt Marum erupting a few times each century. There’s nothing to be alarmed about, the locals know their island well and know when it’s safe to explore. 

With the occasional disruption comes plenty of beauty; the ash plains are sights to behold, as is the dense forest that covers the island, growing so successfully because of the rich volcanic soil. 

Don’t Miss

  • Big Nambas and Small Nambas
  • Catching a glimpse of the dugongs 
  • Hidden cannibal sites 
  • Traditional dances 
  • Beautiful, handcrafted goods for purchase 

 

How To Get There 

There are regular flights leaving from both Santo and Port Vila that will take you to Malekula. We suggest you check out the domestic schedule here. There are two airports in Malekula, Norsup in the north (closer to the Dog's Head trail) and Lamap in the south (closer to the Maskelyne islands).  

Useful Tips

  • Like everywhere in Vanuatu, you’re at the mercy of the elements. Be prepared with wet weather gear, snacks and your own first aid kit. Make sure to adopt the laid-back approach to making plans – it’s likely you’ll need to adjust as you go if the heavens open up. 
  • Expect the unexpected. This goes for flights too, weather can disrupt schedules in the islands – so stay in touch with Air Vanuatu and be ready to adjust your plans like a local would – flexible and relaxed, island style!
  • Ask how you can be respectful when you visit each village. Different villages have different customs and traditions, so don’t be afraid to ask about the most respectful approach.
  • Talk to the locals. People in Vanuatu are proud of their history, their families and their villages. Get chatting and settle in to hear some great stories of resilience and community. 

Your Itinerary  

Day 1

MORNING

In the morning, fly into Norsup and base yourself at Lakatoro. Lakatoro is the provincial headquarters and the largest town on Malekula, and is a great place to stock up on what you need. The locals like to live simply, so you won’t find a supermarket here. You’ll always have access to the basics (and plenty of handcrafted goods at the amazing handicraft centre!), but if you’ve got specific dietary requirements (e.g. chocolate), stock up on some in Port Vila and shop here in Lakatoro. 

AFTERNOON

On your first afternoon, it’s time to head out to Rano village, the home of the Small Nambas. ‘Nambas’ are traditional woven penis sheaths, worn by the men in both the Small Nambas and the Big Nambas, found elsewhere on the island. If they hold out their hand and ask you to join in the dancing, be sure to!

While you’re in Rano, take the opportunity to head out on the Amelbati Cannibal Site and Chiefs Tour if you can. Cannibalism was practiced in Vanuatu as recently as 1969 and the locals have more than a few stories to tell about their ancestors.

Around the Norsup and Lakatoro areas, you’re never far away from a great bungalow. The Sunrise Bungalows are situated in between the two towns, giving you great access to wherever your adventure might take you. We love Lakatoro Palm Lodge as the bungalows are perched on a hill overlooking coconut fields. There’s even a restaurant with cold beers!

If you love ocean views and a breeze and don’t mind being a bit further away, check out the Nanwut Bungalows just off the coast on Uri Island. You can hop on a boat from Lakatoro to reach them. 

Day 2 

MORNING

This morning it’s time to visit the Big Nambas. While similar in name, Small Nambas and Big Nambas have two very distinct cultures. Throughout history, the two tribes have often been at odds with each other, but now they’re both proud to share their culture with any visitors, and look to live peacefully. Enjoy the traditional dances performed by the men of the Big Nambas tribe. The hypnotic demonstrations of the customs integral to their culture, will stay with you for a lifetime.

AFTERNOON

In the afternoon, take some time to relax. No matter where you choose to stay, you can always wander on down to the nearest beach for a dip. Heading to the beach at Norsup will give you the chance to see some of the elusive dugongs. If you choose to stay at the Nanwut Bungalows, take a boat trip with the owners to explore the Uri Narong Marine Park. This gives you an opportunity to snorkel and get up close with the underwater world of Vanuatu, including giant clams! 

Day 3 

MORNING

Once you’ve explored Malekula, it’s time to head east to Ambrym. You can get there by air, with flights leaving Norsup for Craig Cove a few times a week. As with everywhere in Vanuatu, there’s more than one way to get to where you need to go. A speedboat ride from Lamap (a little further south on Malekula) will get you to Craig Cove in about 90 minutes.

Basing yourself in Craig Cove is easy with Sam’s Guesthouse, only 10 minutes away from the airport. Your knowledgeable hosts are willing and able to help you access anything you might need while you’re on Ambrym. 

AFTERNOON

While you’re in the village, take some time to visit the wood carvers of Ambrym. Statues are carved out of hardwood which you can take back home as long as it’s insect free. You may also see some breadfruit trees, which are expertly hollowed out to create tamtams, which are the traditional drums of the area. These are used to communicate between villages and the craftsmanship is something to behold.

Day 4 

MORNING

This morning, hop on a boat to Fanla where you can meet your tour guide, ready to take you on a journey to watch the sacred Fanla Rom Dance and Black Magic Tour in Ranon. This is one of the most boisterous, happy cultural dances you’ll see on this network of islands, and involves snakes, sand drawings and music that you can’t help but dance to. 

AFTERNOON

If you have the time – and the energy – stick around in Fanla to hike up the volcanoes. Your hosts at Sam’s Guesthouse will be able to inform you about visibility and safety. Ambrym is well known for its volcanoes and ash plains, as well as Lonwok Lake. After a volcanic eruption in 1913, this crater lake was formed, and has become a remote kayak spot for keen adventurers. You’ll need to catch a short boat ride to get there, so make sure you talk to your driver about what’s possible. 

Prefer a night in? Sam’s Guesthouse provides you with delicious local food, home-cooked! You’re part of the family now. You can expect local fare and staples that even the fussiest of eaters will enjoy, such as spinach, eggs and poultry. 

Day 5  

MORNING

Spend the morning enjoying the hospitality at Sam’s guesthouse, exploring Craig Cove and checking out the unique black sand on Ambrym’s beaches. 

 When it’s time to say goodbye to Ambrym, hop on a flight from Craig Cove to Port Vila and make your way back to Efate.