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Malekula is one of the most culturally diverse islands in Vanuatu, riddled with secret cannibal sites, surrounded by glassy reefs and home to the gentle giant of the sea: the dugong.

There are over 30 languages spoken on the small island of Malekula. With a population of only 25,000 and different cultural practices affiliated with each language and village, Malekula is sure to delight at every turn.

Sit and listen to the stories from the village Chiefs and ask how their practices differ from their neighbouring villages. Assume nothing and greet Malekula with an open heart, you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t miss:
Dugongs – seeing these sea cows are a must!
Dancing with the Big Nambas and the Small Nambas
Swimming under the Losinwei Cascades

How to get there:
Fly in to Port Vila from Brisbane or Sydney, it’s only 2.5 to 3.5 hours away! You can get a direct flight from Port Vila to Malekula Island. The best way to get details on internal flights is to check out www.airvanuatu.com. Note there are two airports in Malekula – one in the north is closer for hikes, the waterfall and the capital which is a small town, and the one in the south is closer to the Small Nambas and Maskelyne Islands where you can see dugongs.

Useful tips:

If you’re an avid snorkeller, bring your own gear in case you can’t find any to rent. Make sure you pack clothes to cover your shoulders and knees for cultural events and ask your guide what dress is appropriate dress when visiting remote villages.

Top attractions:

Snorkelling with Dugongs
Pull on your flippers and masks, the gentle sea cows are nearby and they’re happy to share their reefs with you. Weighing up to 400kg and growing up to 3m long, these mysterious sea mammals are the only living representative of the Dugongidae family.

Dugongs are strictly herbivores, so you’re not at any risk of a nibble. Your best chances of seeing them is on the Gaspard Bay Dugong Tour. Your guides won’t rest until they find them!
If you want to learn more about these beautiful and unique animals, we suggest you visit this local site

Big Nambas
In ancient times, the Big Nambas Chiefs (differentiated from the Small Nambas by the size of their penis sheath) had several wives. They had an ongoing rivalry with the Small Nambas that lasted hundreds of years.

The Big Nambas are located in the north and accessible from the capital Lakatoro. You will need to book a tour with your host and they will be able to arrange transport. The Big Nambas will prepare a cultural experience for you including dance, magic and followed with a small ‘storian’ (discussion and chat) and refreshments.

Losinwei Waterfall
It’s a short and easy hour-and-a-half walk from the Lakatoro area alongside a river to the Losinwei Cascades, and you’ll have your jaw agape the entire time. As the light bursts forth from between the trees, the plunge pools glow every shade of blue and green, reflecting the colour of the leaves and forest undergrowth.

Your shoes will be drenched by the time you reach the cascades, so make sure you’re wearing hiking sandals or sturdy waterproof boots. Cool off under the waterfall and follow the lead of the guides joining you as they flip off different platforms with huge smiles on their faces.

Here’s a great story on Losinwei Waterfall and some more great pics.

Small Nambas
It’ll take you five hours in the back of a ute over volcanic soil and through window-deep rivers to get to the Small Nambas on Malekula Island. You’ll be dodging branches, chatting to locals as they hitch a ride from one village to another and laughing and high fiving children who try to keep up by running alongside the car.

The Small Nambas don’t participate in any cultural festivals outside their village, so you can only witness their dances and experience their culture by going there yourself. You’ll be welcomed by the village Chief who, after a series of cultural dances, will have food prepared and served in his home.

Communities of South Central Malekula are where the Small Nambas tribes can be found. Having retained their traditions for many centuries it is an opportunity not to be missed and experienced.

Nawut Bungalows
The Nawut Bungalows are located right on the waterfront of Uri Island, a short boat ride from Malekula. They’re complete with 24-hour solar electricity, flushable toilets and laundry service.

If you’re doing the Gaspard Bay Dugong Tour this is the best place to stay because you’ll be able to head straight out to dugong territory. The coastline is also home to turtles, dolphins and giant clams, so get your underwater camera ready!

Nawut is one of the rare island bungalows you can book online so check it out here.

A few other ideas:
While on Malekula, if you have the chance, make your way to the cultural centre of Lakatoro. There’s a small museum up the hill there. If you catch the staff and it’s open, you won’t be disappointed! You’ll also find the Malampa Handicraft Center next to the main market in Lakatoro. This woman’s business centre, packed with hand-woven baskets and rare island treats is a must see – you can check this link.