All exchange students come to explore Australia and to immerse into the cosmopolitan world of Sydney. BUT besides this amazing city, there is a lot more to discover...and the student vacation offers a great opportunity to go for some little adventure.
Before StuVac, many seek to go to a Pacific island and most speak of Fiji, famous for honeymoons and its breathtaking beaches.
However, we thought there has to be an island which isn't on everybody's radar, and therefore, more fun to explore!
So, after a short research (thanks to Google & LP), we decided to go to VANUATU.
Why is Vanuatu so spectacular and why should you visit?
Vanuatu is a country in the Pacific Ocean, has around 270,000 habitants and is located 4 hours away from Sydney by plane. It consists of more than 80 islands but it is best if you divide it into three parts: The North, The Capital Island and The South.
The Capital Island: Efate
After arriving in Port Vila, the capital city, we were surprised how generally underdeveloped and small their biggest city is (around 45,000 people) because we read before departing that Vanuatu is the 4th country worldwide with a stock exchange solely based on blockchain-technology!
So, you expect somewhat a dynamic and technological environment but the first thing we learned is that their central market is open 24/7 as it is operated by the women of the surrounding villages. We enjoyed this part a lot as you could go for fresh food at any time and meet locals from different areas of the capital island. Besides the market, we explored the island with an ATV to circle the island within one day.
So, our highlights were the astonishing nature, especially the Cascade Waterfalls, and our nights out with locals.
Starting with nature, the Vanuatu people literally built a path into the cascades which allows you to walk up to the natural spring of the waterfalls.
The trek takes around two hours and rewards you with beautiful views and an unusual climb on your way.
After having lunch on the top, we continued our ride and arrived at the marvellous blue lagoon, a waterhole in the island with pale blue water.
In other words, a magic place to spend your afternoon!
However, the best experience on the capital for me was one night out with locals. After our day-tour, we were looking for a bar that makes their traditional beverage called Kava, which is made from a root and is supposed to have a relaxing effect on your body.
So, while looking for this bar, we found four "brothers" which offered us a seat at their table.
They advised us to drink it before having dinner as it is best on an empty stomach.
This evening, they told us, "we have time for Kava and stories".
In other words, we spent the evening talking about the differences in our cultures and experiencing the sensation of drinking Kava.
These first days in Efate were already an adventure bigger than we expected to have!
The North: Espiritu Santo
When looking for incomparable beaches and unique diving sites, this island is perfect you. Up north, there is Port Olry, a tiny village with amazing beaches called Champagne Beaches. The pale blue water goes so far into the sea that you don't believe you're in the Pacific Ocean as it seems so surreal.
If you're up for diving, I highly recommend you to visit Luganville to dive the SS President Coolidge, the world's largest diveable shipwreck. It is almost 200m long and lies so close to the coast that you will do a shore dive to get there. In addition, their second unique spot is called Million Dollar Point as the Americans dumped WWII army equipment worth more than US$ 1million! Nonetheless, if beach holiday and diving are not your likes, there is a mysterious canyon so deep in the jungle that you need a guide from one specific village to bring you there. This tour was my absolute highlight of this island. Besides walking through a 400m long cave, you canyon through the river after the cave and see astonishing nature on the whole one-day trek.
The South: Tanna
If you didn't know where the most accessible active volcano on earth is located, the answer is Mt. Yasur on Tanna! And that is honestly the only reason why you should consider going to Tanna...BUT it is absolutely worth it. After living two days in a village, we walked up Mt. Yasur to sit on the edge of the volcano. It is amazing and frightening at the same time how close they let you to the open pit where you can see lava pulsating and erupting from time to time. Sitting there, listening to as well as seeing the raw power of nature is unbelievable.
Speaking of living in a village, we had the chance to stay with Solomon, the chief of chiefs of all villages around the volcano and spent three days there.
During our stay, we learned about their customs, tasted different foods and experienced the village life in general. The best village part for me, though, was playing with the kids.
Since there is no electricity and they all live in very simple ways, you spend the whole day playing hide&seek, tag or soccer (if you're lucky and they have a football).
It is great to see how happy these kids are and that we don't need all these consumer staples we're used to.
All in all, after your first 2 months in Sydney it was really nice to get out and to immerse into a completely different world. On one hand, we enjoyed being out in nature and doing different things from diving to trekking to living in a custom village. On the other hand, it was nice to come back to this vibrant city after an adventure like this. So, if you're already adventurous enough to travel to Australia for your exchange, take the opportunity and visit this mysterious island you've probably never heard of before!
Cheers and Lukim yu,