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Ravenga Surfing Expedition showing potential for water

Boy surfing ravenga                                                                                               Caption: VSA Surfer, Randy Kalotiti surfing waves at Pakea Island, Vanua Lava.

Media Release - Port Vila, 18 November 2022: A dream that has been brewing for some time has finally become more concrete for the local communities of Vanua Lava and surrounding islands. The dream, according to Alphonse Yemen, a well-known turtle monitor, is to see more tourists visit their homes, and villages to come and surf their waves and explore their province.

Mr. Yemen, who also owns a Bungalow in Panglap village says, “We’ve had a few surfers visit and stayed with us over the years and have gifted us with surfboards that my children now also use.”

“Needless to say, it has given us a new passion to see this sport further develop and bring people to our province to surf our coastlines and at the same time also experience the friendliness of our locals, the beauty of our islands, listen to our stories and be immersed in our cultures,” says Mr.Yemen.

The Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) and Department of Tourism (DoT) team have undertaken a round of community consultations in Vanua Lava. They were later joined by the three surfers representing the Vanuatu Surfing Association (VSA), who trialed the waves along Ravenga island, Pakea island and Vanua Lava’s iconic coastlines last week.

The adventurous tourism officials were on ground on 02nd November and carried-out the consultations with government agencies, accommodation providers and chiefs on Sola then to the outer-lying communities of Panglap, Lalnetak, Pakea and high chief of the areas surrounding Ravenga. The consultation was successful with excellent feedback received from all present in the Sola meeting.

The Chairman of Torba Tourism Council who is also a VTO Board Director, Mr. Reginald Simeon, opened the meeting by explaining the importance of building new tourism product experiences for Torba Province.

Outlining the different roles that the Department of Tourism and the Vanuatu Tourism Office delivers in the Province for developing and marketing such experiences, he said, “New adventure tourism experiences are needed to attract the international visitors to our islands and Vanua Lava Island boasts some stunning locations where surfing tourism can be developed further and promoted for surfers around the country and region to travel and experience. The expedition is to develop and trial the new product so that VTO is able to create content, collect information and stories to be used to market such surfing events and the island of Vanua Lava as a tourism destination in Vanuatu”.

In support, the Torba Tourism Product Development Officer, Mr. John Ahnmat explained, that surfing is a new sports tourism concept that the Torba Tourism Office will now focus to develop further as their role is to ensure that the product is developed and is market ready for all visitors to experience. This shows the implementation of activities in the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Strategy for diversifying and creating new tourism product experiences for Vanuatu.

The owner of Eliezer Botanical Garden Lodge, Mr. Abraham Eldads, who was the first Ni- Vanuatu Principal of Matevulu College went back to say that,“First of all, we’d like to thank the government through the team at VTO and DoT for coming to us to discuss the possibility of this surfing expedition. We’ll do our best to be ready, however, work on our businesses are on hold until the surveying work is completed, as advised by the Provincial Government.”

“Secondly, we agree that such expeditions and events are to benefit our people and Province as they learn more about us and how special we are, so if there are any differences and misunderstandings then this must be set aside first so that we can develop our islands and serve our visitors better”,  says Mr. Eldads.

In response, Torba Provincial Planner, Mr. Nehemiah stated, “This surfing expedition could not be more timely, as we also have a group of surveyors coming and will be completing the surveying work of the residential land throughout Torba for the next 28 days. This means that after December, upgrading work can now continue for operators who are equipped with a better understanding of their land boundaries and this will assist with new developments such as in the tourism sector.”

People smiling ravenga

Caption: PTAC members, accommodation providers,Chairman Torba Tourism Council, Tourism Officials and Sola chiefs after the consultation storian held in Sola, Vanua Lava.

Lalnetak has been identified as a key point of interest for the surfing event. Being the closest area, many activities are available such as a hike up to the yellow sulfuric volcano, seeing the blue water atop, visiting the hot springs or a trip to see the famous silver river home to Vanua Lava’s resident crocodiles and surfing at the breaks on Ravenga island. This is definitely an adventure package not to be missed.

The community, especially the women spoke about their eagerness for this expedition to take place and that they too are looking forward to building their own bungalows, growing more food, getting creative with food preparations and preparing themselves not just for the expedition but also for the other months when more people come to visit Sola and their communities.

“The Island of Gaua has Lake Letas and Siri Waterfall, Rah Island has the Rock of Rah and the sleeping mountain, we too have so much to offer and can’t wait to welcome everyone to our home as we have so much to offer to any visitors also. It is very important that we make sure we carry out our own meeting with the rest of the people here so that the importance of any tourism activities like surfing is informed to all, ” says one of the mamas at Lalnetak.

In partnership with the Vanuatu Surfing Association (VSA) the surfers confirmed the expedition was successful and that information gathered gave a thorough overview of the type of waves, the strength of the waves, the area for surfing and overall the opportunity for surfing events to be created, hosted and promoted. The VSA was able to donate some surfboards to the communities at Vanua Lava to encourage the love of this water based sport.

Torba Province will now be able to further develop surfing tourism as one of its unique product offerings and with the support from the VSA and the tourism offices, it can be further promoted for a surfing event to be held in 2023 for attracting both domestic and international surfers to the Islands of Vanualava.

“The Vanuatu Tourism Office is excited to host this surfing expedition with the Vanuatu Surfer Association in scoping out the potential for further surfing tourism events that can be developed in Vanua Lava. Such events are part of the Sports Tourism Program and the public relations and media strategy that we use to increase awareness of the adventure experiences Vanuatu strongly boasts as its strengths. The expedition provided meaningful feedback on the development of this product and the collaboration with various stakeholders to plan, prepare and deliver such unique experiences for Torba Province. The VTO will continue to work with the Torba Tourism Office to ensure that the surfing event will be created as an event for both domestic and international tourism for the 2023 period and future”, says Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Adela Issachar Aru.

People standing ravenga

Caption: The Chairman of Torba Tourism Council and same time VTO Board Director, Mr. Reginald Simeon giving opening remarks to Mattan Community, Vanua Lava.