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  • Vanuatu!

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    Picturesque serenity is a good way to describe Vanuatu, but the culture offers much more, including the inspiration for bungee jumping, which remains a rite of passage for young men. Explore Vanuatu!

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Geography, Weather, & Wildlife of Vanuatu


Vanuatu Geography - Jetty

Vanuatu is made up of 13 large islands and about 70 smaller islands in the Melanesian island chain. The islands are volcanic in origin so are relatively mountainous and that also means the soil is very fertile. These mountains reach as high as 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) at Mt. Tabwemasana, the country's highest point.

Many of the mountains and the flatlands are forested, but many other areas have been cleared of trees for farming. This fertile land makes the islands good for growing crops and raising animals so can easily sustain life. Most of the islands are also surrounded by coral reefs.

The ocean currents flow from the northeast of Vanuatu to the southwest and many of the earliest settlers arrived with these ocean currents or from the nearby islands that stretch across Indonesia through the Solomon Islands to Vanuatu. However, these ocean currents aren't enough to attract regular visitors so over time the people on Vanuatu became almost completely isolated and developed a unique island culture.


Vanuatu Geography - Efate

Vanuatu's weather is hot, humid, rainy, and fairly predictable. This climate makes the country ideal for crop growth and human settlement as the rains and temperatures are somewhat steady. These rains allow the people to grow numerous foods, it gives them access to fresh water, and these conditions also allow animals to thrive, although few animals exist on the islands.

There are two basic seasons in Vanuatu: the dry season, which is a bit cooler and runs from about May to October and the wet season, which is hotter and runs from about November to April. Since the differences between "hot" and "cold" in Vanuatu are almost non-existent, the real difference in seasons is rainfall and humidity. Rainfall also varies slightly by geography as the northern islands tend to get more rain than the southern islands do year round.

During the dry season (late May-October), more specifically during the months of June to July, daily lows average about 65° F (18° C), but day time highs are around 80° F (27° C) in Port-Vila. There is less rain during this season as the average is about 4 inches (100 mm) a month in Port-Vila and the southern islands; the northern islands can get up to 8 inches (200 mm).

The rest of the year is a bit warmer as temperatures peak in December to February, when the average daily low is about 75° F (24° C), but daily highs average 88° F (31° C) in Port-Vila. This is also the rainy season as the months of December to April bring over 8 inches (200 mm) of rain in Port-Vila and the southern islands. Again the northern islands can get nearly double this. The rainy season is also cyclone season, but major cyclones are rare as they only occur every dozen years or so, although they can arrive in quick succession and small cyclones occur nearly every year.


Vanuatu Wildlife - Saltwater crocodile
Saltwater crocodile

As an island nation the number of native plants and animals in Vanuatu are severely limited. The land animals were almost completely absent and the plant life was small; only the migrating birds and sea life had any significant presence on historic Vanuatu. There were some native resources and as people, winds, birds, and oceanic currents arrived, they brought with them new seeds, plants, and animals.

Since nearly all mammals are land animals there are no native mammals to Vanuatu although a few bat species that could fly from island to island arrived thousands of years ago. Other than this, no land mammals existed on Vanuatu until the arrival of the earliest people, who came from the region of New Guinea and brought with them pigs, dogs, and rats by the 1200s.

The other historic mammals present in Vanuatu came in the sea as dolphins and whales are present in the water surrounding the islands. These waters are also filled with thousands of fish, shellfish, and other forms of sea life. In these waters you can find surgeonfish, clownfish, puffer fish, butterfly fish, grouper, barracuda, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, krill, crab, seahorses, rays, sharks, jellyfish, starfish, and sea urchins among many others.

Vanuatu Wildlife - Breadfruit tree
Breadfruit tree

Due to the overwhelming amount of water, it is not a surprise that most of the birds in Vanuatu are water fowls. The bird life includes rails, finches, pigeons, doves, white-eyes, fantails, thrushes, honeyeaters, and parrots among others.

Like the mammalian life in Vanuatu, the reptilian and amphibious life is fairly limited. The most common of these animals are those adapted to the water and swimming as sea turtles and the rarer saltwater crocodile can be found in the nearby waters. The lands are limited to a few lizard species and frogs.

The insect and other small animal life is fairly diverse as many insects can fly or float and have made their way to Vanuatu. These animals include butterflies, bees, ants, flies, snails, and worms among others.

Like the animal life, the plant life is also very limited. It is doubtful any plants originated in Vanuatu itself other than some local flowers and grasses. However the winds and water currents have taken seeds to the islands and in other cases even birds have transported seeds to the islands. Because of this many of the most common plants in Vanuatu are native to the nearby islands of New Guinea and those further west. The plants from these islands include coconuts, taro, breadfruit, bananas, yams, lemons, and sugar.

There is also a substantial presence of other, not so edible trees and plants, including orchids, ferns, mosses, mangrove trees, palm trees, and pandanus trees.

This page was last updated: November, 2013