Take a quick flight South of Port Vila and you will find yourself on Tanna Island. Tanna is 40km long and 19km wide, with a total area of 550k and a population of approximately 20,000. Tanna is populated almost entirely by Melanesians and they follow a more traditional lifestyle than many other islands. Some of the villages are known as Kastom villages, where modern inventions are restricted, the inhabitants wear penis sheaths and grass skirts and live in hatched huts, and the children do not go to public schools. This island is the centre of the John Frum Cargo Cult which worships an American World War 11 soldier as their god. The tourism industry has been slow to grow in Tanna, with Mt Yasur, the live volcano being the main attraction.
Geography of Tanna Island
Protected by coral reefs and black sandy beaches, Tanna Island is a combination of thick untouched tropical rain forest, ash plains and rugged mountains. The north-west, in the rain shadow of the central ranges, is covered with grassland and scrub. The garden area in the centre of the island is very fertile, producing kava, coconut, coffee, fruit and vegetables in quantities large enough to export. Travel inland to breathtaking waterfalls, underwater caves and crystal clear blue swimming holes.
Tanna Island Travel Story
Our party of 4 arrived at Bauerfield Domestic Airport 1 hr prior to departure as directed, for our 8am flight to Tanna Island. Only to discover that we were to travel in groups of two on two separate flights, the first leaving in 10 minutes. After a quick weigh in (yes the light aircraft has a weight policy) and payment of our 200vt departure tax, we were walking across the tarmac to board our small aircraft. No toilets or lunch service on this 45 minute flight. We watched with interest as supplies including livestock, fresh produce and a digital Tv were loaded aboard. A quick detour to Erromango Island found us landing on a short grass strip runway to the applause and cheers of the local Ni Vanuatu. After a quick unload and reload we were on our way to Tanna Island. Our flight was uneventful, and the view from above spectacular. Who would have thought that water could be so clear! The next day we discovered another flight had encountered a delay at Erromango when the aircrafts wheels became bogged and had to be dug out with sticks, shovels and bare hands. That’s Vanuatu for you, no two days are ever the same.
Tanna Island Facilities
Picnic spots and public BBQ’s, there are no council parks or picnic areas in Tanna, you simply pack a picnic, portable BBQ, grab a blanket and set off to find your own private piece of paradise. The General store located in Lenakel are basic but are well stocked. Selling everything from fruit, toiletries, bread, household products and gas bottle refills. It is a good idea to check used by dates. Resorts stock very small supplies of toiletries, sunblock and first aid supplies.
Lenakel public hospital is a small 40 bed facility that serves over 20000 people from the 6 surrounding islands, with a female ward, a male ward, a labour/delivery ward, a pediatric ward, and TB ward. There are also a few small one room “Bush clinics” scattered throughout the villages. Public Toilets are not provided in Tanna.
Tanna Island Transportation
There is no public transport system in Tanna. Your resort will organise a transfer from the airport and once you are in Tanna, you will need pre-arranged transfers as there are no taxi’s or cars for hire.
Tanna Island Services
Call rates, internet rates and phone line rentals are high in Vanuatu, local and international call rates are high and mobile rates higher. It is not uncommon to encounter telephone or internet disruptions. Once again patience is required.
Vatu (Vt or VUV) is the local currency and Foreign currency exchange in Lenakel is available at the local banks. It is a good idea to exchange your foreign money in Port Vila and to bring enough Vatu with you for your visit. You will be able to pay for your accommodation and meals and tours booked through your resort in Vatu and by credit card. Credit card use incurs a fee anywhere from 3-6.5%.