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Island name: Malekula Island

No of days: 2 days

Length km/miles: 30 km approximately

Difficulty levels: Grade 3

Steepness: 2/5

Roughness: 3/5

Seasonability: Booking can be made all year round.

Age group: 12 years and older


Shaped like a dog sitting right at the heart of the Vanuatu archipelago, Malekula is very culturally diverse. The northern part of the island, the dog’s head, is traditionally divided into the territories of two major cultural groups: the Small and Big Nambas.

Are you ready for an incredible adventure taking you from one ancient culture to another, from the North East coast to the North West of the island, all the way across the “Dog’s Head”, in the footsteps of the legendary cannibal tribes of Malekula?

The Dog’s Head Trek crosses rivers, passes through deep bush and climbs slippery ground. It is a challenging expedition in tropical weather and some prior bushwalking experience is recommended.


Day 1 – Morning: Atchin – Botco.
4.5 km – 3-hour hike approx.

At the north east corner of the island, stand on the black sand beach with your eyes on little Atchin Island. Behind your local guides, turn around and step into the inland bush of Malekula for two unforgettable days of walking and discovery.

The Dog’s Head Trek starts with an easy walk into Small Nambas territory. The "Nambas" refers to the name of the Malekula penis sheaths made with pandanus leaves. The names Small and Big Nambas relates to the size of their penis sheath. Interestingly, the Small Nambas cultural group introduced the ancient cultural practice of skull elongation of young boys. This practice is strictly restricted to this part of Vanuatu.

2 Malekula Big Nambas low

Through coconut and cocoa plantations, local gardens and bamboo forest, follow your guide until the end of the track where Botco Village appears. You will be welcomed in the village with green coconuts and homemade lemon juice.

Botco was not always located here. Until a century ago, and before the arrival of Christian missionaries, the village was upstream. The locals were given incentives to leave the mountain and follow the Christian closer to the coast, which is why seven brothers settled here with their families.

The villagers will tell you all about their story and way of life, while sharing a traditional Lap Lap meal sitting under their mango trees.

Day 1 – Afternoon: Botco – Kalele.
4.5km 1-hour hike approx.

After saying “Lukim yu” (See you next time) to the Botco community, you will start walking again for another hour on an undulating, lush tropical track, where avocado and banana trees rub shoulders with cocoa trees in the rainforest canopy which gives you glimpses of surrounding mountains.

You will have to cross a river during the hike. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear like trail shoes in quick-dry fabric or shoes that drain water. We do not recommend you change in and out of shoes before crossing a river or go bare foot.

27 Malekula River Crossing

Finally, after a short steep climb, you will arrive at Kalele village where you will stay for the night. Before sunset, you will have the opportunity to have a swim in the river and visit the village, its primary school and church.

Before dinner join the Chief of the community to taste Vanuatu’s ceremonial drink, Kava. Alongside the river under the clear night sky, it is a unique and magical experience.

Accommodation: You will spend the night in small hut made with local materials in Kalele village and experience a bucket shower.

Lunch & Dinner: Try traditional Lap Lap for lunch in Botco and island food cooked by the local Mama for dinner.

Day 2 – Morning: Kalele – Womul
3-hour hike approx.

The track for this second hiking day of the Dog’s Head Trek is very steep. Be prepared for some serious upland walking during the first hour of the morning. The track will undulate between beautiful gardens, cocoa trees, and river edge.

You will pass by a handful of small villages, some in open farmland, and some coming at you in complete surprise around a corner. After one last river and one last hill to climb, you will arrive just in time for lunch at the small village of Womul, named after the towering mountain.

Enjoy a very much deserved rest and meal under the village trees shadow with Womul’s Chief and his three wives. Listen to village stories and imagine living in such a remote environment. For example, public transport comes to Womul only once a week. Otherwise the 100 villagers have to bush walk six kilometers and then wait alongside the road, sometimes for hours, for the next bus.

Day 2 – Afternoon: Womul – Tenmaru
4-hour hike approx.

Today the Dog’s Head Trek takes you into the Big Nambas territory. The ancient tribes living here before the first Christian missionaries, were reputed to be fierce warriors and few dared to challenge them. After killing their enemies, they ate them as part of big cultural ceremonies.

It was natural for a village Chief to have several wives and for the boys to undergo circumcision ceremonies to become men. Feel no fear however, the last recorded case of cannibalism on Malekula was in the 1970’s.

Follow a single track up and down under the forest and after 35 minutes, refresh in a nice river pool. Deeper in the bush, you will arrive in the beautiful traditional village of Metkun. Take the opportunity to visit their French primary school and meet the teachers and kids.

14 Malekula Losinwei waterfall

Spend the last hour of this two-day hike slowly going down to the coastal village of Tenmaru. The trek will follow a four-wheel-drive track and finish on a steep single rocky trail.

Accommodation: You will spend the night in a charming guesthouse by the black sand beach of Tenmaru. Lunch & Dinner: Island meals cooked by the local Mamas.

Important Information

Getting there and coming back:
1 Hour daily direct flights from Port Vila, Efate to Norsup, Malekula with Air Vanuatu, except on Mondays and Sundays.

Indicative price: 13,000vt

25 Minute daily direct flights from Luganville, Santo to Norsup, Malekula with Air Vanuatu, except on Wednesdays and Fridays. Indicative price: 6,000vt
1 Hour 4WD transfer (26km) from Norsup Airport, Malekula to Atchin. Indicative price: 400vt
2 Hours truck transfer (59km) from Tenmaru (end of the Dog Head Trek) to Norsup Airport, Malekula. Indicative price: charter of 4 person maximum for 16,000vt

Note: flight schedules are subject to change. It is advisable to to check the Air Vanuatu website for current timetables.

Info about guides/operator:

Several operators specialise in expeditions to Malekula Island: Malampa Travel, Island Experiences Vanuatu, Vanuatu Ecotours, Wreck to Rainforest.

Prices will be given on request and includes tour guides, porters, all land entry fees, all meals, one night in traditional hut in Kalele village and one night in a guesthouse bungalow in Tenmaru.

Info about food:

All food during this two-day hike is included from lunch on Day One to dinner on Day Two.

You will eat very simple “island kae kae” mainly composed of rice, cabbage, tubers and fresh fruits. Your guides will prepare the meals “manbush style” and the local Mamas will cook for you when staying in their village. Most of the meals are vegetarian.

Please advise your guide upon booking if you have any special dietary regime. For more information, refers to our FAQ page.