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August 10th, 2014 

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Travel and Explore Vanuatu

Discover Vanuatu

 Beachcomber Pete



 The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation in the South Pacific, consisting of a Y-shaped string, or archipelago, of 83 islands of which 65 are inhabited. Formerly known as the New Hebrides, the islands are mainly volcanic in origin, and form part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” The island chain is located 1,750 kilometers (1,090 miles) east of northern Australia.

 Experts believe that Vanuatu has been inhabited since at least 2000BC. Europeans made first contact in the early 1600s when the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quiros arrived. The famed English explorer Captain Cook arrived in 1774 and charted the islands, giving them the name the New Hebrides, and European settlers began arriving shortly thereafter. The French and English established a Joint Administration to govern the islands, which lasted from 1887 until 1980 when Vanuatu was granted independence by both countries. Vanuatu is a now a parliamentary democracy.

 The first Christian missionaries arrived in Vanuatu in 1839, sent by the London Missionary Society, and promptly fell victim to cannibalism, which was still occasionally practiced at that time. The last recorded instance of cannibalism occurred in 1969.

 Vanuatu currently has a population of over 220,000 people, who have been ranked as some of the happiest people on Earth. The capital and largest city of Vanuatu is Port Vila. Three sites on the islands that are associated with the last paramount chief, or Roi Mata, are on the list of World Heritage Sites.

 Islanders grow a plant called kava (latin name, Piper methysticum or “intoxicating pepper”) from which a drink of the same name is made. This drink has a sedative effect and is of social and ritual importance. Lap-lap is a traditional food which is prepared using coconut milk, and manioc or taro.

 Tourism, fishing and offshore financial services bolster the local economy, but the majority of residents make their living off of farming of yam, manioc, taro, breadfruit, chickens, and pigs. Tourism has increased dramatically since 2000. This increase can be at least partially attributed to the fact that Vanuatu has hosted several popular reality-TV shows, including, Survivor: Vanuatu..

 Vanuatu is volcanically active. The volcano Yasur on the island of Tanna is known as the “Lighthouse of the Pacific” due to its frequent eruptions. Vanuatu also has several other lesser known volcanoes including several underwater ones.



Although Vanuatu is mainly a Christian nation, there are some residents who hold animist beliefs. Vanuatu also has several “Cargo Cults” in which a set of religious beliefs and practices come into existence when a tribal culture comes into sudden contact with a more technologically advanced culture. One of these cults, the John Frum Cult emerged after WWII, possibly after islanders came into contact with American military personnel. It is postulated that the name “John Frum” is a corruption of “John from America.” Adherents believe that they will receive material wealth as a reward for their devotion. Still active today, the cult celebrates “John Frum Day” every February 15, on the day that followers believe that John Frum will eventually return to Vanuatu.

 Vanuatu is the ultimate polyglot nation, having three official languages (English, French, and Bislama, a phonetic language based on English), as well as over 100 other indigenous languages that are in use in various areas.

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