Vanuatu is a country that consists of a chain of 13 principal and other smaller islands located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. They are about 500 miles west of Fiji and 1,100 miles east of Australia. Until their independence in 1980, they were administered by an Anglo-French condominium and the territory was called the New Hebrides.
Here are 12 facts about Vanuatu that you can read about.
1. The islands that make up Vanuatu form an irregular Y shape
The Vanuatu islands form an irregular Y shape and extend for some 400 miles or 650 kilometers. The northernmost group is the Torres Islands. Southward from them, are the main islands, Vanua Lava and Santa Maria. Then, in the Banks Islands group, there are Espiritu Santo, Aoba, Maéwo, Pentecost, Malakula, Ambrym, Épi, Éfaté, Erromango, Tanna, and Anatom.
There are also two uninhabited islands about 200 miles southeast of Anatom, called Hunter and Matthew. They are claimed by Vanuatu and France.
2. They practiced cannibalism
There are records from anthropologists that have studied the culture in Vanuatu that cannibalism took place as recently as 1969, a crazy fact about Vanuatu. Also, they have had a reputation for being cannibals for centuries.
To cook humans, they would dig up a hole in the ground and put hot stones in it. Then, they would cut the body into pieces and insert them into the hole. Using yams and taro and more hot rocks, they would steam the body. The process would take up to three or five hours and the village chief would always get to eat the head.
3. Vanuatu is the most dangerous country in the world when it comes to natural disasters
The United Nations University for Environment and Human Security concluded that Vanuatu was the most dangerous country in the world for natural disasters. In 2015, in their World Risk Report, they assigned the country 36.43% of chances of experiencing storms, earthquakes, floods, sea level rises and droughts. This placed Vanuatu in number one of a list of 173 countries.
4. Here is where Bungee jumping was invented
An interesting fact about Vanuatu is that the locals build high wooden towers that reach up to 20 or 30 meters. Men and boys dive from these with vines attached to their ankles. This is a ritual called Nanggol that they do when the yam crop emerges in April and they practice it until the end of May.
5. A tribe in Vanuatu worships Prince Phillip from England
In Vanuatu, there is something called the Prince Philip Movement. It started when Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh made a visit to the islands in 1974. Some people consider this to be a sect since they worship Prince Philip as if he were a divine being and a messiah, descendant of a Tanna spiritual ancestor.
6. Almost no one visits the Vanuatu islands
It is very hard to get to Vanuatu, which is why only around 95,000 people visit the country each year, a fun fact about Vanuatu. You can get there by plane, but, depending on where you are in the world, you will need several connections. You can also get there by cruise. There are some lines that travel through the Pacific and stop at Vila, Vanuatu’s capital.
However, even though only 95,000 visit the country each year on average for tourism, they contribute to almost 20% of the Gross Domestic Product. Additionally, Vanuatu’s economy also relies on agriculture, cattle and financial services offshore.
7. Most locals speak English, and it is the most linguistically diverse nation on Earth
In Vanuatu, almost half the population speaks English. However, you can find more than 100 different languages in this country. This makes it the most linguistically diverse nation on the planet.
8. You can go for wreck-diving
In 1942, the USS President Coolidge was carrying 5,000 men near the outpost of Luganville when it hit two American mines. This ship used to be a luxury liner but was then transformed into a troop ship during World War II. After the accident, the captain was able to ground the ship on a reef and almost all of the people inside made it out.
Today, this is one of the most acclaimed places for doing wreck-diving. The divers encounter different interesting things, such as trucks, chandeliers, cannons and even a swimming pool underwater, a fun fact about Vanuatu.
9. Vanuatuans do not like to smoke or eat junk food
Vanuatu is one of the top 10 tobacco-free countries in the world. This is according to figures from a report of 2014 published by the World Health Organization, WHO. They are also trying to ban junk food to avoid potential health problems in the population.
10. This is the world’s fourth happiest country
There is something called the annual Happy Planet Index that ranks countries according to their “happiness levels”. They measure how nations are doing regarding living a long, happy and sustainable life. Vanuatu ranked fourth in this index, right behind Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia.
11. British Captain James Cook mapped the island group
The first European contact the islands had was with the Portuguese explorer named Pedro Fernández de Quirós, in 1606. Then, the French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville arrived in 1768. Finally, James Cook, a British Captain arrived in 1774 and mapped the entire island group. It was him who named it the New Hebrides, a fun fact about Vanuatu.
After Cook’s arrival, European missionaries and traders settled in the decade of the 1840s. In 1906, an Anglo-French condominium was arranged in Vanuatu to rule the indigenous people and administer the territory.
12. Independence took place in 1977
The independence of Vanuatu occurred in 1977 and consisted of an agreement at a conference in Paris between British, French and New Hebridean representatives. After this, elections were held and a Constitution was written in 1979.
In 1980, the leader of the Na-Griamel party, Jimmy Steves, attempted to establish the independence of the island of Espiritu Santo, but he was unsuccessful.
From having practiced cannibalism to people speaking 100 different languages, Vanuatu is definitely a very interesting place. Although it is very hard to get there, many tourists arrive each year to enjoy the natural scenery and the tropical climate of the islands that are part of this Pacific country.
I hope that this article on Vanuatu facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!