People of Vanuatu (called ni-Van) are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Add to that the fact that they live in a tropical paradise, and you can easily see why Vanuatu is a popular destination for people to visit.
Here are 10 fun facts about Vanuatu to know if you’re headed to this volcanic wonderland!
Pigs Are Important
Pigs play an important role in the culture of Vanuatu. Not only are they used like money, but also during important ceremonies. Pigs are presented as currency during negotiations, marriages, and when a woman gives birth to her first son.
The Vanuatu Flag
The flag is relatively young, adopted in 1980 along with Vanuatu’s independence. Red represents the blood that unites the people, along with the blood that was shed to gain freedom. Black represents the original Melanesian settlers. Green stands for agriculture and fertile lands. The ‘Y’ represents the shape of the 83 islands that make up Vanuatu, the curled pig tusk represents wealth, and the mele leaves inside of the tusk stand for peace.
Activity Idea: If you had to design a flag that represented you, what would it look like? Draw your personal flag and write down what each of your colors and symbols represents.
It’s Home to an Indigenous Flying Fox
The flying fox is actually a fruit bat. They are nocturnal, so you won’t see them out and about during the day. These noisy little critters eat fruit and flowers. They’ve long been a staple of the ni-Van diet, so if you’re at a restaurant in Vanuatu, you might just find a flying fox on the menu.
Would you try flying fox? What do you think it would taste like?
They Speak English, French, and Bislama
Bislama is a pidgin language, meaning it has traces of other languages in it. As a common language in Vanuatu, Bislama bridges the gap between people educated in English and people educated in French. Bislama is a fun and easy language to decipher.
Activity Idea: See if you can guess the meanings of the following words. Hint: Saying them out loud helps. (Scroll to the bottom to see the correct answers)
- Pablik Laebri
- Evri Dei
- Mi Lovem Yu
Of the 83 islands that make up the Republic of Vanuatu, many of them are volcanoes, and 9 of them are active volcanoes. That doesn’t include all of the active underwater volcanoes in the surrounding waters. Mt. Yasur on Tanna is the most accessible volcano for people to visit. Because of all the volcanic activity, Vanuatu actually rises by about 2 centimeters every year, while other Pacific island nations are slowly sinking.
Blue holes are large marine caverns and very popular with people who love to dive. Vanuatu is chock full of stunning blue holes. If you’re not into diving, you’ll also find plenty of great snorkeling in Vanuatu with incredible sea life to view, including hawksbill turtles, colorful coral, and tropical fish.
People Travel by Canoe
The ni-Van have a long history of traveling by canoe. Because the country is made up of so many islands, travel over water is essential. Traditional canoes are made from hardwood or breadfruit trees and dug out by hand. You can still see ni-Vans traveling by dugout canoe from island to island. In the interest of preserving the trees, there have been initiatives in recent decades to use fiberglass canoes.
The last reported instance of cannibalism in Vanuatu was in 1969, less than 50 years ago! Cannibalism used to be a sensitive subject in Vanuatu, but in recent years the ni-Van have opened up to talking about this part of their history. Cannibalism most often occurred in the course of tribal warfare. Eating human flesh was thought to bring magical powers!
The waters around Vanuatu are filled not only with amazing coral and other sea life but also with numerous remnants of World War II. The sunken ships are popular with divers, but some can even be reached on foot. The American ship known as the SS President Coolidge sank in 1942 after hitting a mine as it approached Espiritu Santo. This is one of the most famous wreck dives in the world.
If you see pedestrians walking around in Vanuatu carrying machetes, don’t panic! Machetes are sold in a variety of sizes at many stores. You need a machete with you when walking home from school or work means making your way along a jungle path, one that might have become overgrown overnight or during the course of your day. They also come in handy when you want to scale a tree for a fresh coconut. That said, don’t try wielding a machete yourself. This custom is best left to the locals!
Did you figure out the phrases in Bislama?
Here are the correct answers:
- Tankyu = Thank You
- Pablik Laebri = Public Library
- Evri Dei = Every Day
- Mi Lovem Yu = I Love You
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