Known for its wild interiors, former cannibalism history, exotic tribes, protected marine waters and spectacular highland trekking, the Malekula & magical Maskelyne archipelago are a frontier calling to curious travellers to get well and truly off the beaten track.
Join us for a thrilling annual event and cultural festival in the Malekula Islands of Vanuatu. A celebration of kastom dance, traditional canoe making, feasts of local kakae and the freshest seafood you have possibly ever tasted – followed of course by the ultimate outrigger canoe race. Located in the pristine islets of the Maskelynes, where you can snorkel pristine reefs, explore remote islands, sail a traditional outrigger canoe and swim with dugongs, embrace the warm hospitality of the local Ni-Van’s and discover Vanuatu’s most linguistically and culturally diverse islands.
Welcome to Vanuatu and the town of Port Vila, the country’s capital city, woven with lagoons, beaches and a unique twist of loose French influence and a growing foodie scene. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your accommodation where the remainder of the day is yours at leisure.
2 nights Mangoes Resort or similar
An early start this morning as you set off from your hotel on a scenic drive along the west coast of Efate to Emua Wharf. Board a 20-minute boat ride which will take you out to Nguna Island, a tiny island of volcanic origin with two extinct volcanoes, fringed by coral reef. Here, the indigenous people practice traditional subsistence agriculture and fishery farming.
Enjoy a three-hour moderately graded return hike to one of the volcanic rims. Hike through fruit and vegetable gardens as coconut palms tower over you and bamboo groves shade you. Sample the local ‘bush kai kai’ as you continue through verdant rainforest surrounds and take in Vanuatu’s natural wonders.
Walk through simple villages and lush gardens as you chat with the friendly villagers and play with smiling children. The spectacular views from the top of the rim stretch towards Mataso, another sharp volcanic peak and if the sky is clear, the surrounding islands of Epi, Emao, Pele and Kakula.
After you return to the shore, enjoy a beachside lunch before having the opportunity to snorkel in the Nguna Marine Conservation Area. This protected area is a local non-governmental organisation made up of sixteen communities dedicated to the conservation and protection of marine resources. This is the very first of its kind in Vanuatu and serves as a model for other island-initiated conservation efforts. The village chiefs and people of the member communities have each set aside a significant area of village-owned reef to be used for conservation. Regular reef surveys take place here with sea turtle tagging, coral planting, and other environmental awareness sessions. The total area of protected reefs, sea grass beds, mangrove forests and intertidal lagoon exceeds 3,000 hectares.
The reefs here are some of the most beautiful found anywhere in the world. Home to white tip reef sharks, green and hawksbill turtles as well as spotted eagle rays are a common site in these turquoise waters.
Transfer back to Efate by boat and you will then be dropped off at your hotel where the remainder of the evening is yours at leisure. (B,L)
This morning you will depart Port Vila for your 45-minute flight to Lamap in South Malekula. On arrival to the wild island, you will be met and transferred to a local boat transfer which will take you over to your island bungalow in the village of Peskarus. Settle in and enjoy some lunch before you set off to discover Uluveo Island on foot.
Ringed by incredible reefs teaming with colourful tropical marine life, the sapphire waters are home to a tangle of mangrove estuaries, and giant clam gardens.
On your walk, visit the three villages on the island for your introduction to the slow-paced island life and incredibly warm locals. Thatched huts, swaying palms, outrageously beautiful beaches and local fishing boats make up the idyllic scenery here. Now that you have your bearings, it is time to be welcomed the traditional way – with a tasting of freshly prepared kava.
You will be hosted by a local family in an established bungalow on the edge of the lagoon. Bungalow accommodation includes mattresses and mosquito nets, and shared ablutions. Meals will be largely sourced from local gardens and the fishermen’s catch of the day, supplemented by some supplies provided by us. (B,L,D)
3 nights in a local bungalow
Today you will have a full day to experience the Canoe Festival. Your morning starts with a canoe parade where you will see the incredible skill of the locally carved canoes and proud islands who created them. Then it is time for the canoe race!
Feeling hungry? It is time to join the local community for lunch. This intimate experience on such a significant day is sure to be one of the highlights of your journey.
Spend time in Labo Village on Fire Beach where you will really be immersed in the fascinating culture. Admire the unique masks that are on display, witness traditional custom dances of sea food harvest. You may be privileged to witness a circumcision before some tribal wars and mask dances. Locals will proudly be painting their hand carved masks with traditional colours and welcome you to join them and learn about their practices.
One of the most unique highlights is the Octopus Dance. (B,L,D)
Your day today will be filled with a combination of cultural performances from the surrounding communities showcasing their cultural identities. Be consumed in their island chants, the swish of grass skirts, the vibrating thump of their feet on the earth. Their passion for their culture is infectious. Enjoy lunch again with the performers and local community as you learn further about these fascinating traditions and remote way of life. Your afternoon is filled with further cultural performances, before enjoying the magical sunset and dinner. (B,L,D)
This morning you will have a leisurely sail in a traditional outrigger canoe. Glide effortlessly across the crystal waters as you search for dugongs, sea turtles and watch the local fisherman in action. A highlight of the day is the opportunity to see, and swim with, dugongs. The Maskelynes is a global hotspot for dugongs (often referred to as sea cows) and it was these majestic creatures that inspired the mermaid legend. The local community has restricted local hunting of dugongs and we are proud to pioneer environmentally responsible tourism to support dugong conservation in the Maskelynes.
All engagement with dugongs follows the guidelines provided by the Vanuatu Environmental Science Society and a copy of these guidelines will be provided to all guests.
After lunch, transfer to the airport for your flight to Port Vila. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your accommodation. The rest of the evening is yours at leisure. (B,L)
Overnight Mangoes Resort or similar
The day is yours until it is time to transfer to the airport for your flight to your onwards destination. (B)
Download this tour’s PDF brochure and start your planning offline!
**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.