How do you analyse a nation’s general happiness? I’m not too sure but it appears this can be done. For a couple of years, Vanuatu has been voted Happiest Country in the World. Seriously. And on my first visit there several years ago, it wasn’t difficult to see why, even without strict scientific measures.
Throughout the entire Vanuatu archipelago (some 83 islands, 65 of them inhabited) one thing remains constant: beaming locals, often performing significant rituals, usually of a celebratory kind. Villages are abundant in mythic legends and – with no official written language but (phenomenally) 400 unofficial dialects – storytelling, singing and dancing are ubiquitous here.
Vanuatu art and culture comes in many forms and, now, many of these are being showcased through elaborate festivals, many of which are held on Vanuatu’s second largest island, Malekula. Rich in linguistic and cultural diversity, Malekula is an ideal location for adventure seekers; the wild island known for its many tribal groups, protected marine areas, amazing hiking, even ancient cannibal sites! And for those seeking an outer-island cultural extravaganza, Malekula’s various festivals are set to deliver. Here are just some of the highlights. Antonino Tati
Collar The Dog Dirt-Bike Event – North Malekula
Collar The Dog is the first dirt bike event of its kind in Vanuatu. Circuiting Malekula’s northern ‘Dog’s Head’, participants get to discover the raw beauty of the island’s coastal wilderness and its lush tropical bushland. Venturing deeper into these and you’ll discover everything from pristine coral reefs to ancient cannibal sites. The event is fully supported with accommodation, catering, backup vehicles and guides. On from May 3 to 5, 2017.
Maskelyne Canoe Race and Festival – South Malekula
The communities of the Maskelyne Islands host an annual canoe race and cultural festival each year, and offer a two-day program of custom dancing, canoe-making, kava tasting (that stuff is potent!) and of course, the exciting outrigger canoe race which finishes with an ‘Island Night’ celebration. Just don’t have too much kava before setting off on the race! On from July 28 and 29, 2017.
Nalawan Festival – South West Bay
The Labo and Lawa Villages of South West Bay stage an annual Nalawan Festival each year where the colorful local community at Firebeach and Lawa commemorate the dawn harvest of the crops. With bright, traditional masks and dancing, this year will also boast a yacht race. Surf, sun, sea and celebration. What more could you want in a holiday adventure? On August 2, 2017.
Nalint Big Nambas Cultural Arts Festival – Mae Village
Witnessing the Nalint Big Nambas tribe’s annual cultural arts festival is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Everyone in the village takes part in the ceremony – from pikinni (kids) to the abu (elderly). Learn about the Big Nambas history through cultural performances, crafts, dancing, and indulging in traditional local dishes. On August 25, 2017.
The Malekula festival line-up invites travellers to step off the beaten track and celebrate all that this magnificent island has to offer. For more information visit malampa.travel and for general information on Vanuatu visit vanuatu.travel.