6 Amazing Facts About Vanuatu That You Probably Didn’t Know
Originally claimed by the United Kingdom and France in the 1880s, the archipelago was named New Hebrides and jointly managed through Anglo–French cooperation until the 1970s when an independence movement began and on 30 July 1980, the Republic of Vanuatu was founded. Celebrating 37 years of independence this week, Vanuatu has an incredible and interesting history. Aside from its previous European rule, this South Pacific nation holds some pretty amazing secrets. Here are 6 amazing facts about Vanuatu that you probably didn’t know.
1. Cannibalism was still practiced until fairly recently
The islands of Vanuatu were well known as cannibals and the first British Missionaries who arrived in 1839 were killed and eaten on the island now known as Erromango. According to anthropologists, the last recorded cannibal killing on Vanuatu was a recent as 1969. While the people of Vanuatu no longer practice cannibalism, the customary cooking practices are still passed down through generations. Apparently the standard cooking time for a human is 3 to 5 hours.
2. There’s a Tanna Island tribe that worships Prince Philip
Beginning with a visit to Vanuatu by the Queen and Duke in 1974, the Prince Philip Movement worships Prince Philip, believing his is a descendent of a spiritual ancestor from Tanna. A war canoe paddler who greeted the royal yacht Britannia in Port Vila during the 1974 visit became convinced that Prince Philip was the ‘true messiah’ and thus began the movement, which actually now has its own Facebook page. Since then, Prince Philip has actually exchanged gifts with the tribe, including a signed portrait.
3. Vanuatu invented bungee jumping
On the small Vanuatu island of Pentecost, when the yam crop begins to emerge in early April, locals build wooden towers between 20-30m high. Until the end of May, village boys and men perform the ritual known as Nanggol, diving from these rickety wooden structures with nothing but vines tied to their ankles. Considered the precursor to bungee jumping, the tradition has been documented by many TV and filmmakers, including National Geographic.
4. It’s the fourth happiest country in the world
Every summer, the Happy Planet Index ranks 140 destinations around the world on what matters most, sustainable wellbeing for all. The GDP takes a back seat and instead, this annual release judges how well nations are achieving long, happy and sustainable lives. It sounds complicated but it’s not. What it really comes down to is this – Vanuatu is ranked the fourth happiest destination in the world, behind Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia.
5. Vanuatu is home to one of the world’s most sought after dive sites
With a reputation for superior sites, Vanuatu diving is perhaps most famous for The President Coolidge, a 650ft shipwrecked luxury liner off Espiritu Santo. Also serving as a troop ship in WWII, the ship sank in 1942 after making contact with two American mines in Santo Harbour. The acclaimed wreck dive offers some of the most interesting relics to explore including chandeliers, a swimming pool, cannons, trucks and Jeeps.
6. The world’s most accessible volcano is found in Vanuatu
Located on Tanna Island, Mount Yasur is the most accessible active volcano in the world. No visit to Vanuatu is complete without experiencing this incredible natural attraction. Providing ready access to this mountain of fiery molten rock, you’ll pass through steaming, black fields of ash and hear the eerie rumble of the volcano as you near the glowing rim. The sight and smell is staggering, unlike anything you’re likely to ever see again. It’s violent beauty is a unique experience that simply cannot be missed.
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