Vanuatu (Republic of Vanuatu)

Languages: Bislama, English, French

Currencies: VUV · Vanuatu vatu (Vt)

Capitol: Port Vila

Continents: Oceania

More useful information

Area: 12,189km2

Population: 307,150

Traffic/driving side: right

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +678

Timezones: UTC+11:00

Last updated on May 6, 2024

I have been fascinated by Vanuatu tribes since I watched a TV program years ago about these remote islands and unique bush tribes. I knew one day I would be exploring this wild archipelago, located in the South Pacific waters.

Who are Vanuatu tribes and what are the village people like? The isolated bush tribes still maintain their traditional ways of life, largely unaffected by modern civilization. My bungalows in Tanna Island was located in the middle of the most dense jungle I’ve seen across Asia and Pacific, 3 hours from a tiny Whitegrass Airport (TAH). There was no electricity, no shops around and no technology footprint. 

While you maybe sharing a bed with local dogs and giant spiders, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most magnificent landcaspes on this planet – a clear view of erupting Yasur Volcano.

Who are Vanuatu tribes – one of the world’s most remote bush people - Etapo tribe Tanna Island.

Who are Vanuatu tribes?

They say first people that came to Vanuatu 3000 years ago most likely from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. They were called Lapita People. Before them only animals were present across the islands. 

To meet the indigenous tribes you need to fly to one of the remote islands – Malekula, Espirito Santo, Tanna Island (one of the best destination for lifetime memories). 

You will be highly surprised with their friendly nature, given some Vanuatu tribes were still cannibals in late 1960s. 😉 Vanuatu is known for its diverse culture, with over 80 different ethnic groups and languages spoken throughout the islands. Traveling across the archipelago will give you a chance to explore village people customs, rituals and traditions, including unique forms of music, dance and art.

While there are no roads, you will need to attend organized trips and hikes and book with local tour operators, which in reality are original island people and often the accommodation hosts.

Who are Vanuatu tribes – one of the world’s most remote bush people - Imayo tribe Tanna Island

Where to stay in Vanuatu?

If you want to experience real Vanuatu you should stay among local people, where you have a chance to integrate with their culture, food, habits and stories, and where time has a different dimension.. 

Accommodations in Vanuatu range from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts. Some resorts offer all-inclusive packages, with meals, activities and accommodations included, however the price is very expensive and it’s definitely not the way for a real adventure.

Hiking Mount Yasur Volcano in Vanuatu – the most accessible active crater in the world.

Some bungalows were build on a tree, 20 metres above the ground, all with basic set up, given the fact every year it gets blown from a surface by a cyclon or tsunami. On the way to our stay the jeep was sinking in a muddy road and crazy rivers currents, driving through rocky sections and volcano fields. 

I highly recommend booking any wonderful village stays available across the islands.

If you want to experience something exceptional in Tanna Island, there’s only accommodation to choose Castle Tree House And Bungalow. This is the most visited bungalow (so make sure to book in advance), due to its unique location and vibe. Mike’s Bungalows are situated in the middle of a dense rainforest with a clear view of erupting Yasur Volcano. You will find other bungalows in the area but they are located near volcano entrance. You are basically sleeping with a sound of errupting volcano.

Mike along with his lovely wife and 5 beautiful kids runs the place. They will host you, feed you and provide best touring experience across the island. 

One thing you cannot miss in Tanna Island is Hiking Mount Yasur – the most accessible active volcano in the world.

Mike is picking up all his guests from the airport, as there is no other way to travel across the island. That means you will need to inform him about arriving time/date, but most likely he will text you to confirm details.

It turned out there are 4 French people and a lovely Austrian couple staying in Mike’s place. We all said the same thing – it’s people reviews that made us choose and book Mike’s place.

See the breathtaking sight of lava flying out – here you can book Mount Yasur Guided afternoon tour – truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Who are Vanuatu tribes – one of the world’s most remote bush people - Mount Yasur, Tanna Island.

Vanuatu's most remote bush villages.

Vanuatu tribes often live deep in the jungles and mountains of the island, practicing subsistence agriculture, hunting and gatherings.
While some of the tribes accepted tourists for local tours, more isolated bush tribes in Vanuatu may have limited contact with the outside world and may not be integrated into the larger society of the country. They all have their own customs, languages, and belief systems, which have been preserved for generations. 

7 top fascinating things about Vanuatu and bush tribes you probably didn’t know.

Efate Island.

One of the most accessible traditional villages is located in the heart of Efate Island (with main airport and capital city-Port Vila), which is the third largest island in Vanuatu. 

Pepeyo tribe is only 20 -30 minute drive from Port Vila. It’s a cultural and educational tour, these people might be living more civilized lifestyle but the village is to show the original habits and strong traditions of bushmen.

You will be greeted with a warm welcome from the locals. The tribe is made up of friendly and welcoming people who are happy to share their culture with visitors. 

First you can learn about all their hunting tactics and weapons. 

The village is made up of traditional thatched huts. You will have the opportunity to see how the locals live and learn about their daily routines. 

I advise taking moskito repelent, the humidity in the village is incredible – however, the chief will show you a plant, which leaves you can effectively use as moskito protection.

Food preservation is one of the most important things for villagers. Cyclones and tsunami occur regularly across all Vanuatu islands, thus it’s important to preserve food safety. 

Food is plced in a hole deep in the ground, raped in coconut and banana leaves and snached in banan to drain it. Normally food is kept for 6-7 months but it can stay up to 5 years! Of course, the leaves need to be changed and the smell of food is horrific but as the chief syas: WHEN THERE’S A DISASTER, DON’T LOOK FOR A TASTE! 

One of the highlights of visiting the Pepeyo tribe is experiencing their traditional dances and ceremonies. The tribe has a rich history of dance and music, and they have a number of different dances that are performed for different occasions. You will be amazed by the intricate movements and colorful costumes of the dancers. You may even have the opportunity to join in and learn some of the dances yourself.

Who are Vanuatu tribes – one of the world’s most remote bush people. Pepeyo tribe Efate island

Imaio Tribe in Tanna island.

Imaio tribe is an original tribe living in Tanna island. Tanna means ‘Earth’. Lots of Vanuatu tribes feel strong connection with their land and nature force. 

Once you arrive in the village they will need 5-10 minutes for preparation to perform the local dance with smoking Mount Yasur in the background. Do not think it is just a tour show, every single detail is a strong part of their culture and traditions. Perhaps they do not longer wear the grass clothes, since a comfy T-shirt has reached the shores the island, but the ceremonial dance is an integral part of their daily customs.

Latapu Tribe.

Latapu tribe is probably even more isolated Vanuatu tribe than Imaio. It was uncertain till last minute whether we will be able to visit the village. Despite heavy rain, the village people came out to greet us and perform thieir tribal dance. 

Cannibalism in Vanuatu.

Last record of cannibalism in Vanuatu occured in 1970 across Malekula island. There are still secret cannibal sites in the jungle with sculptures. 

Canniablism was proactised on newcomers, who wanted to fight Vanuatu bush tribes or take their women. Typically, men body was cut into pieces and left in hot stones to steam and cook for 4-5 hours. 

Who are Vanuatu tribes – one of the world’s most remote bush people. Imayo tribe Tanna Island

Village tribes tours.

Cannibal tour in Tanna Island is fascinating storytelling about people hunting. It is beutifully perfomed by a remote local tribe and the best thing is – you are in the middle of the action – they are literally hunting you! Here are two options for full-day highly rated tours across Tanna Island:

Full-Day Private Tour to Yakel Village, Waterfall and Mt Yasur Volcano.

Tanna Island: Full Day Tour Including Mt Yasur Volcano and the Hotspring via Tripadvisor.

Jungle treks in Vanuatu.

guided hikes through the surrounding rainforest. You will be led by a knowledgeable guide who will point out the different plants and animals that call the rainforest home. You may even have the chance to see some of the island’s native wildlife, such as the colorful birds and lizards.

Who are Vanuatu tribes – one of the world’s most remote bush people.

Small girl with very good Englis is walking along with you describing the whole hunting scene step by step. Bush tribes used to showcase different jungle leaves – which were carrying a message – ENTER or DO NOT ENTER. If you ignored the message, you were hunted! It’s so thrilling, as you are walking alone, the guide is not accompanying you. First, you need to walk through a giant tunnel of tree roots to follow a tiny jungle path.

Hiking Mount Yasur Volcano in Vanuatu – the most accessible active crater in the world.

Have a cup of Kava!

Must try KAVA drink! KAVA is a ceremonial drink made from kava plant roots. It looks like a muddy green powder.

KAVA only grows in the south Pacific Islands.  This traditional beverage plays a huge part of local culture.

Previously it was consumed mostly at night and by men only. 

Due to Kava’s narcotics properties (mild and not aggresive) it has become extremely popular business across America and other parts of the world (California governed by Arnold Schwarzenegger – is a major importer of Kava).

Kava would be banned in some regions of Australia and few European countries, including Poland. However it is mainly because the original raw kava material was spoiled with other substances, and got a bad reputation. 

Who are Vanuatu tribes – one of the world’s most remote bush people.

Ceremonial Kava drinking.

My advice wouldbe to drink Kava along with proper ceremonial ritual, at night along with local people, just as it used to be practised.

I was traveling alone in Vanuatu but on Tanna island few other people were staying in Mike’s bungalows. We all went on a day-tour visiting village tribes and the plan was to finish a day with Kava ritual drink after twilight. After a long day we stopped at a jungle hut, where Mike’s Dad prepared Kava drink for all. We sat at the fireplace, surrounded by the most dence rainforest I’ve seen across Asia and experienced the effects of this energetic drink. It’s a beautiful opportunity to sit with Vanuatu local people at night and flow with the experience.

Hiking Mount Yasur Volcano in Vanuatu – the most accessible active crater in the world. View from Tree House Bungalows

Preserving the culture.

The Vanuatu government and various organizations recognize the importance of preserving the cultural heritage and rights of these isolated Vanuatu tribes while also ensuring their well-being and protection. It’s important to approach any interactions or discussions with these tribes with respect for their way of life and a deep understanding of their traditions. 

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Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!