By Patrick Vuraboravoi, VTO Santo Officer: I received a letter of invitation from the chiefs, local tourism authorities and communities of Vao for a visit. The date was confirmed and scheduled for 27th & 28th April, 2013. The communities on Vao heard about Glenn Russell creativity in tourism activity on Sanma province - Millennium Cave, the Lysepsep Park, Riri River, Port Olry and many more…invited him be part of the team.
Our routes started from Luganville to Naonepan Malo landing and taxi boat across to Malo Island then travel across to the East side of Malo on public transport and another boat across the Bougainville strait to Vao island. It’s a two hours ride across Bougainville strait.
On approach from distance, the island has big banyan trees and coconut palms along the coast. The surrounding crystal deep blue sea right on to shore and beautiful white sandy beach to the south east side dotted with canoes along the shoreline is just a perfect postcard.
After a short briefing by the local community on arrival, we took a hike along the Tourist Path around the island that was constructed by the community as a first sign of tourism development some years back. Then everything went to a dead end even through the little island has 3 MPs in National Parliament and few councillors in the provincial authorities.
Unlike other places where events are past and long gone, Vao is still maintaining the old traditional cultural practices to this present day. Most events are annually during the soft yam harvest (March – May) and Strong yam (August – January). Other events will depend very much on preparation from one to two years. One of the recently cultural event was the ‘Matean’ that happened early this year where an elderly person performed certain ceremony/ ritual to his uncles while still alive. In most places, this is done after death. The nearby cultural dance group attended the ceremony as far as Wala and Rano island.
We walked the Tourist Path that Vao community has created past various interesting sites from wood carvings, rock carving, some taboo restricted areas and finally the seven (7) cultural sites on the island as the main highlights. Some of these sites extend to around 100m long with countless standing rocks about 3m high that marked past ceremonies some 200 years old. Vao has been part of the olden trading system connected with Malo, Aese island, Ambae, Pentecost and Ambrym. See details of trade at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre library.
This is a truly cultural destination that we have to develop and promote to the world. I have been to the Big Nambas and Smol Nambas various sites but Vao has something that is real and alive (see images below).
During this short visit, Glenn Russell and I put our ideas together and create a VAO TOUR that visitors can enjoy as a day trip or overnight.
Public transport cost VT 500 per person from Norsup or Lakatoro to Vao mainland. And canoe trip at VT50 per person across. For overnight trip, contact Oralie of Nabelchel bungalows (+ 5416575).