Efate Is

Overview

Introduction

This island, in the center of the archipelago, is where the capital, Port Vila, is located. The city has a strong French flavor: Croissants and baguettes are delivered fresh to the supermarkets and cafes twice a day. It may well be the prettiest capital in the South Pacific. Most of Port Vila's shops, banks and some hotels (not the resorts) are on or near the street that runs along the picturesque harbor. The imposing, red-roofed Parliament building stands on a hill above the town. Behind Parliament are the ornate Chief's Nakamal, a national ceremonial center and the Culture Center, which exhibits masks, clubs, spears and other artifacts.

Visitors can also explore the area around Klem's Hill (and climb to the top for the view), browse in the arts-and-crafts stores or go out on Pango Road to visit the Michoutouchkine and Pilioko Art Gallery. We enjoyed visiting the big central market and taking one of the harbor/reef cruises.

Ekasup Cultural Village is 3 mi/5 km outside of Port Vila in the Erakor woods. Built by former residents of Futuna Island, in Vanuatu's deep south, the people of Futuna are part Polynesian and part Melanesian (phone 678-24217 for more details). Iarofa is another cultural village. Also a short drive from Port Vila (6 mi/10 km), this village emphasizes Melanesian culture (phone Nafounu Tours, 678-24382 for additional information).

Palm-lined beaches start a few miles/kilometers from town. Mele Beach is the closest to Port Vila, and it's known for good snorkeling. On the southeast side of the island you'll find fine beaches at Banana Bay, Eton and Manuro Point. Port Vila is the best base for diving trips.

The nearby island of Moso, off the northwestern tip of Efate, is also well worth a visit. Moso is an island formed from uplifted coral, over a volcanic lava base. Around the island is a string of quintessential south-sea white-sand beaches, and just offshore you find a whole gallery of fish. The SS Coongoola (South Pacific Cruises Limited, P.O. Box 991, Port Vila, phone 678-25020) sails to Laonmeten Bay on Moso Island Tuesday-Sunday. Efate Island is 200 mi/320 km south of Espiritu Santo.

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