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About Vanuatu & Vanuatu Kava

An Introduction to Vanuatu

The Republic of Vanuatu, (pop. of 221,506) formerly called New Hebrides, is a volcanic and coral island archipelago, consisting of about 82 small islands. It is situated in the south Pacific, east of Australia. The 3 official languages are English, French and Bislama (pidgin) and there are more than one hundred spoken languages. It was discovered in 1606 by the Portuguese and was later colonized in the 18th century by the British and French. It became independent on July 30th, 1980.

The 14 biggest islands of the archipelago, with more than 100 square kilometers, are Espiritu Santo, Malakula, Efate, Erromango, Ambrym, Tanna, Pentecost, Epi, Ambae (aka Aoba), Vanua Lava, Gaua, Maewo, Malo, and Anatom (aka Aneityum). The biggest towns are Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu on the island of Efate, and Luganville, on the island of Espiritu Santo, with the highest mountain, Mount Tabwemasana, rising at 1,879 meters or 6,160 ft.

There are active volcanoes in Vanuatu, and despite being a paradise with the happiest people in the world, the islands are a very active tectonic area, and is often hit by destructive tropical cyclones and earthquakes.

Vanuatu has about nine months of hot rainy weather from October to June, and three months of cool dry weather in July, August and September. The Vanuatu tropical rainforest is part of the Australasia "ecozone", that includes New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand. Vanuatu has fifteen bird species and many mammal species found nowhere else in the world. Population growth, scarce freshwater, deforestation and pollution is starting to change the face of the islands.

Kava exportation is very important in Vanuatu and many depend on kava farming to survive. Vanuatu has kava bars called Nakamals, which means place for peace. It is a place for men to gather at the end of the day and mainly socialize while drinking kava. In the old days women were not welcome in nakamals that but in the 21st century things have changed and good nakamals welcome women.

Vanuatu is said to have the best kava in the world with the most varieties. Only the noble varieties are allowed to be exported. Among the popular noble varieties there is Melomelo from Ambae, Borogu from Pentecost and Palarasul from Espiritu Santo. The noble varieties are for everyday drinking. There are as well the medicinal varieties used traditionally for medecinal purposes, the two-day varieties for effects lasting two days, and the ones that no one in Vanuatu would drink, called the Wichmannii (wild kava). The Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute has a pretty complete list that can be found at the bottom of the page at this address:

Before drinking a coconut shell of kava, people in Vanuatu say Bula!

Vanuatu kava Glossary
kae-kae: snacks
Kastam: Traditional
Nakamal : Kava Bar (place for peace)
Ni-Vanuatu : From Vanuatu


~ Map of Vanuatu ~

View Larger Map of Vanuatu




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