Vanuatu had quite an impact on us. We have enjoyed every island group we have visited in the South Pacific but Vanuatu stands out at the place where we discovered the tropical paradise of our dreams.
The people of Vanuatu have slowly and carefully adapted to the modern world by embracing western religions and economic ways but they have retained their culture and beliefs. They combine the often divergent views in wonderful ways. The official language of Vanuatu is Bislama which is a derivative of the island language based on English known as Pigeon English. Bislama has been documented and standardized to a point and is very widely spoken amongst the islanders. There are over 100 local languages spoken in Vanuatu, many spoken in only 1 or 2 villages. Many Ni-Vanuatuans, or Ni-Vans as the natives refer to themselves, also speak English to some degree. French is also spoken to a lesser extent. This means that almost every Ni-Vanuatu speaks 2 languages with many speaking 3 and some 4.
It is the retention of their culture, not lost with the introduction of Christianity as in so many other island groups, that makes Vanuatu such a special place. Vanuatu gained independence from a joint custodial government under France and England. It was an ugly arrangement which had little concern for the locals and, with its departure in 1980, left the country backward and poor. With independence and little else the Ni-Vans have made considerable progress and they now enjoy stable government and reasonable prosperity. Outside the larger towns life is simple with no electricity and poor or non-existent roads. The essentials are covered with schools within walking distance of almost every village and basic medical care available within reach of most villages. The Ni-Vans don't need a lot to be happy and almost everyone we met was very happy.
Vanuatu has a lot to offer the cruiser and the traveler as you will see in the following pages.