The Vanuatu Archipelago is a group of 83 islands, which are located in the South Pacific ocean. Generally mountainous and having volcanic origin, the archipelago lies in a north/south axis and stretches for over 1300 kilometres. The islands cover roughly 12,000 square kilometres, much of which is comprised of rainforest and enjoys a tropical or sub-tropical climate. The capital is Port Vila stands on the island of Efate, the third largest island in the group and is located 800 kilometres west of Fiji and approximaly 2200 kilometres east of Sydney.
The local peoples are of Melanesian descent, and are called Ni-Vanuatu, they have inhabited the islands for an estimated 4000 years. Archeological evidence indicates the first people to reach the islands were the Lapita people, who originated in Papua New-Guinea, and travelled to Vanuatu via the Soloman Islands. Over the last 3000 years sporadic immigration has occurred from many other Pacific islands. This movement of peoples, together with the nature of a widespread archipelago, has left Vanuatu with 115 distinctly different cultures and languages still thriving.
Today the total population is approximately 250,000, with 10% only living in the capital. Port Vila and Luganville are the only two towns in the whole group, with the rest of the population living in small coastal villages. The economy is very simple with 65-70% of the population being small subsistence farmers, with the remainder being involved in small scale farming, fishing, timber, tourism and offshore financial services.
The islands were first seen by the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quirios in 1605, who landed at Big Bay, and named Espiritu Santo Island. In 1774, Captain James Cook circumnavigated the area on his second epic journey, and named the whole archipelago the New Hebrides. This name was retained until 1980 when Vanuatu regained its own independence.
Due to hostile cannibalistic Melanesians, Europeans kept away from the islands until the 1825’s, when traders searching for Sandalwood trees to satisfy the demand in Chinese markets, and whalers, overcame this problem. Missionaries soon followed these traders and European settlement started later in the century, initially by English people who settled at Havana Harbour, on the north coast of Efate. The settlers grew in number, comprised predominately of English and French nationals. In the late 1800’s several European deaths highlighted the necessity for security, and in 1887 a joint naval commission of the English and French, administered greater security surveillance. In 1906 a joint agreement to rule was initiated known as a Condominium. Due to the disparity of the differing parties this quickly became known as the Pandemonium, which, for the Ni-Vanuatu people lasted until July 1980, when complete sovereignty was granted. Today, Vanuatu is an established Republic, recognized the world over as an independent nation, and known as Ripablik Blong Vanuatu, in Bislama, one of the three official languages. Bislama is a phonetic language based on English, which dates back to the original settlers and whalers. Today the three official languages are English, French and Bislama.
During the year 2005, approximately 60,000 tourists visited Vanuatu, which attracted people for its rich diverse culture, its romantic tropical landscapes, the world’s most accessible volcanoes, its turquoise blue waters, and its unparalleled scuba diving.
For your information.
Vanuatu means ‘Land Eternal’.
The international airport is only 10 minutes from Port Villa, and is called Bauerfield Airport.