Nestled amongst the northern islands of Vanuatu lies Ambrym – an island dominated by its two active volcanoes Mount Marum and Mount Benbow. Lava spills regularly from the volcanoes in a spectacular display and the smell of ash blends with refreshing sea breezes. Through the centre of the island runs a 12km ash plain and black volcanic soil contrasts sharply with lush green vegetation. On the western side of the island at Sesivi, the sea is warmed by thermal springs creating a great place for a relaxing dip and a favourite bathing spot with the locals.
On Guadalcanal Island, the largest island of the Solomons, is the impressive Tenaru Falls. Situated along the Chea river, the waterfall is around 60 metres high and cascades down into a deep pool ideal for a refreshing swim. To get to the falls a truck can take you as far as Hailupa, from where you’ll have to walk the last 9km or so. When you get to the falls you’ll be asked to pay a $10 custom fee although there is some argument amongst the villages as to who owns the falls, and you may find yourself charged more than once. Be aware that there is a real danger of flash flooding.
At the tip of Vonavona Island in the Solomons lies the eerily named ‘Skull Island’. So called because of its reliquary or ‘skull house’ – a small decorated casket containing the skulls of headhunting chiefs and their warriors and some of the chiefs shell valuables. The casket is an ancestral shrine that is believed to act as a dwelling place for the spirit of the dead and for a fee of S$10 the ‘custom owners’ will remove the lid of the casket allowing you to see the skulls inside. Some are thought to be several hundred years old, others as recent as the 1920s.
By Debbie Fabb