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Tanna Island In Vanuatu: Untouched By Tourism


by Rici Loy



Welcome to Tanna Island, a hidden gem in the South Pacific and one of the most untouched and captivating destinations in Vanuatu. Nestled in the archipelago of islands that make up this tropical paradise, Tanna Island offers visitors a unique experience that is truly off the beaten path.


With its pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and an active volcano, Tanna Island is a dream destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. What sets this island apart from other popular tourist destinations is its untouched beauty and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions.


The journey to Tanna Island begins with a short flight from Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. Upon arrival, you will feel a sense of tranquility as the island’s peaceful atmosphere washes over you. The friendly and welcoming locals, known as Ni-Vanuatu, will make you feel right at home and share their rich heritage with you.


Whether you are seeking relaxation on pristine beaches, embarking on thrilling adventures, or immersing yourself in the local culture, Tanna Island has something to offer everyone. This article will take you on a journey through the history, culture, natural landscapes, and unique wildlife of this breathtaking island.


So, pack your bags, leave behind the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and get ready to explore Tanna Island, where untouched beauty and rich cultural experiences await.


History of Tanna Island

Tanna Island has a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. The island was first inhabited by the Melanesian people, who arrived in the region over 3,000 years ago. These early settlers established a rich and vibrant culture that still thrives on the island today.


The arrival of European explorers in the 18th century brought about significant changes to Tanna Island. The island became a hub for trade and colonial influence, with the French and British vying for control over the region. The establishment of Christian missions during this time greatly impacted the cultural and religious practices of the local population.


One of the most well-known aspects of Tanna Island’s history is its connection to the John Frum Movement. Originating in the early 20th century, the movement became a symbol of resistance against foreign influences and a call for the return of traditional beliefs and customs. The followers of the John Frum Movement believe that John Frum, an unknown American figure, will bring prosperity to the island. Every year on February 15th, a grand celebration known as the “John Frum Day” takes place, attracting both locals and tourists to witness this vibrant and unique cultural event.


Another significant historical landmark on Tanna Island is the presence of Mount Yasur, one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes. For centuries, the volcano has played a crucial role in the lives of the island’s inhabitants, with its eruptions shaping the landscape and providing fertile soil for agriculture. The awe-inspiring sight of the volcano attracts visitors from around the world who come to witness its explosive displays of nature’s power.


Despite the influence of outside forces and the impacts of colonization, the people of Tanna Island have managed to preserve their cultural heritage with great pride. Traditional practices such as dancing, storytelling, and vanuatu kava ceremonies continue to be an integral part of daily life on the island, allowing visitors a glimpse into the rich history and traditions of the Ni-Vanuatu people.


Today, Tanna Island is known not only for its captivating natural landscapes but also for its deep-rooted cultural heritage. It is a place where ancient traditions coexist with modern-day influences, offering visitors a chance to delve into the island’s fascinating past while embracing its vibrant present.


Culture and Traditions

The culture and traditions of Tanna Island are deeply rooted in the daily lives of its inhabitants. The Ni-Vanuatu people proudly celebrate their unique heritage through various customs, rituals, and ceremonies.


One of the most striking aspects of Tanna Island’s culture is its traditional dances. The locals perform captivating dances, accompanied by rhythmic beats of drums and mesmerizing chants. These dances often depict stories of ancestral legends, important events, or daily life on the island. Visitors have the opportunity to witness these performances and even join in the festivities themselves, immersing themselves in the vibrant energy of the local culture.


Another significant tradition on Tanna Island is the practice of the Vanuatu kava ceremony. Kava, a traditional drink made from the root of the kava plant, holds great cultural and social importance. The ceremony involves the preparation and consumption of kava, which is believed to have calming and relaxing effects. Participating in a kava ceremony is not only an opportunity to try a unique beverage but also a chance to engage with the local community and experience their customs firsthand.


The people of Tanna Island also hold a deep respect for their natural surroundings and the spirits believed to inhabit the land. Custom villages, called kastom villages, are an important part of the island’s culture. These villages follow traditional customs and practices, offering visitors a glimpse into the daily lives, traditional dwellings, and ancient ways of the Ni-Vanuatu people. A visit to these kastom villages provides an authentic experience, allowing visitors to learn about the customs, traditions, and values that shape the island’s identity.


Furthermore, Tanna Island is home to the Kastom Garden, a unique initiative that promotes sustainable agriculture and preserves traditional farming methods. The Kastom Garden showcases the diverse range of crops cultivated on the island, providing insight into the islanders’ deep connection to the land and their reliance on agriculture for sustenance.


Overall, Tanna Island’s culture and traditions are a testament to the island’s rich history and the resilience of its people. The Ni-Vanuatu’s commitment to preserving their heritage and sharing it with visitors ensures that the unique traditions of Tanna Island continue to thrive and captivate those who have the opportunity to experience them.


Natural Landscapes

Tanna Island is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, offering breathtaking landscapes that are truly awe-inspiring. From lush rainforests to pristine beaches, this island offers a diverse range of natural wonders waiting to be explored.


One of the most prominent features of Tanna Island is Mount Yasur, an active volcano known for its explosive eruptions. This volcanic marvel attracts visitors from around the world, providing an opportunity to witness nature’s raw power up close. The volcano is accessible by a short hike, and once at the summit, visitors can gaze into the fiery crater and marvel at the molten lava that spews forth. It is a truly humbling experience and a testament to the island’s dynamic and ever-evolving landscape.


Beyond Mount Yasur, Tanna Island boasts lush rainforests that are teeming with life. The dense vegetation is home to a variety of unique flora and fauna, including exotic bird species and endemic plants found only on the island. Exploring the rainforests allows visitors to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, and scents of the island’s natural wonders.


Tanna Island is also renowned for its pristine beaches, with powdery white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Some of the most popular beaches on the island include Lenakel Beach and Port Resolution Beach, where visitors can swim, snorkel, or simply relax under the warm sun. These beaches offer the perfect setting for sunsets, capturing the vibrant hues of the sky as the sun dips below the horizon.


For those seeking further adventure, Tanna Island is home to stunning waterfalls that cascade through the lush landscape. Waterfalls such as Lenuanatuaiu and Lopévi offer a refreshing retreat from the tropical heat, inviting visitors to swim in their cool, rejuvenating waters.


Apart from these natural wonders, Tanna Island also boasts magnificent underwater ecosystems. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can explore vibrant coral reefs, encountering an array of colorful fish and other marine life. The underwater world offers a glimpse into a hidden realm of beauty and tranquility.


Tanna Island’s natural landscapes are a testament to the island’s untouched beauty. Whether you choose to hike through the rainforest, relax on the beaches, or witness the power of Mount Yasur, the island’s natural wonders are sure to leave you in awe and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Unique Wildlife

Tanna Island, with its diverse ecosystems, is home to a variety of unique wildlife species. From colorful birds to fascinating marine life, the island offers plenty of opportunities to encounter creatures found nowhere else in the world.


One of the most iconic bird species on Tanna Island is the Tanna Fruit Dove. With its vibrant plumage and distinct call, this bird is a symbol of the island’s natural beauty. Endemic to Tanna, the Tanna Fruit Dove can be spotted in the island’s rainforests, adding a splash of color to the lush green surroundings.


Another notable bird species found on Tanna Island is the Vanuatu Megapode, also known as the Tanna Scrubfowl. These ground-dwelling birds are known for their unique nesting habits, as they use geothermal heat to incubate their eggs. Witnessing their elaborate nesting mounds and observing their behavior in their natural habitat is a truly fascinating experience.


Underwater, Tanna Island offers a vibrant marine ecosystem that is teeming with life. Snorkelers and divers will have the chance to encounter a variety of colorful fish, including the famous clownfish, with its distinctive orange and white stripes. Coral reefs surrounding the island provide a home to a diverse range of marine species, making each dive or snorkeling excursion a mesmerizing experience.


Tanna Island’s rich biodiversity also extends to its reptiles, with the most notable being the Tanna Ground Skink. This large skink is endemic to the island and can be observed in the forests and along hiking trails. Its unique appearance and fascinating behavior make it a fascinating sight for nature enthusiasts.


Conservation efforts on Tanna Island aim to protect and preserve the island’s unique wildlife. Local initiatives work towards creating sustainable practices, raising awareness, and promoting responsible tourism to ensure the long-term survival of these species.


Exploring the wildlife of Tanna Island is an incredible experience that allows visitors to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of the island’s natural habitats. From avian wonders to vibrant marine life, encountering Tanna Island’s diverse wildlife is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Adventure Activities

Tanna Island offers a wide array of thrilling adventure activities for those seeking an adrenaline rush in the midst of its stunning natural landscapes. From hiking to cultural expeditions, there is no shortage of exciting experiences to enjoy on this remarkable island.


One of the must-try adventures on Tanna Island is hiking up Mount Yasur, the active volcano that dominates the island’s skyline. As you ascend towards the summit, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Once atop, standing at the edge of the crater and witnessing the volcanic eruptions is an unforgettable and awe-inspiring experience.


For those who prefer exploring the island’s lush rainforests, there are several trekking trails that wind through the dense vegetation. These trails offer opportunities to spot unique wildlife, discover hidden waterfalls, and immerse yourself in the island’s stunning natural beauty. Guided tours are available for those who want a deeper understanding of the flora, fauna, and cultural significance of the rainforests.


Tanna Island also offers the opportunity to engage in cultural expeditions. Joining a local guide, you can visit traditional kastom villages and interact with the Ni-Vanuatu people, learning about their customs, traditions, and way of life. Engaging in activities such as traditional dancing, storytelling, and partaking in a kava ceremony provides an immersive cultural experience.


Additionally, Tanna Island’s pristine waters provide a range of water-based adventures. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can explore the vibrant coral reefs, encountering a kaleidoscope of tropical fish and other marine creatures. Surfing is also a popular activity on the island, with pristine breaks along the coast offering the perfect conditions for catching some thrilling waves.


For those seeking a unique and breathtaking experience, taking a scenic flight over Tanna Island is a must. From the air, you’ll have an unparalleled view of the island’s volcanic landscapes, lush forests, and crystal-clear waters. This perspective allows you to appreciate the vastness and diversity of Tanna’s natural wonders.


Tanna Island’s adventurous spirit and stunning landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for a wide range of activities that cater to every thrill-seeker. Whatever your preferred adventure, exploring this remarkable island is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories and a sense of awe for the beauty of the natural world.


Local Cuisine

Tanna Island not only captivates visitors with its natural beauty and cultural experiences but also delights them with its unique and flavorful local cuisine. The island’s culinary offerings showcase a blend of fresh, local ingredients and traditional cooking techniques, resulting in dishes that are both delicious and reflective of the Ni-Vanuatu culture.


One of the most popular staples of Tanna Island’s cuisine is laplap, a traditional dish made from grated root vegetables such as taro or yam. The vegetables are mixed with coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves, and cooked in an earth oven. The result is a hearty and flavorful dish that showcases the island’s abundant agriculture and culinary traditions.


Seafood is also a highlight of Tanna Island’s cuisine, thanks to its coastal location. Freshly caught fish, such as yellowfin tuna or mahi-mahi, are commonly grilled or pan-fried, allowing their natural flavors to shine. Prawns and crabs are other favorite seafood choices that are prepared in various dishes, providing a taste of the ocean’s bounty.


Coconuts play an essential role in Tanna Island’s cuisine, finding their way into many dishes and beverages. From refreshing coconut water to creamy coconut milk-based curries, the versatility of coconuts adds richness and depth to the local cuisine. Don’t miss the chance to try coconut crab, a local delicacy known for its succulent meat and unique flavor.


Another notable aspect of Tanna Island’s cuisine is the use of local herbs and spices. Lemongrass, ginger, and chili peppers are often incorporated into dishes, adding a zesty kick and aromatic flavors. These ingredients, along with tropical fruits like mangoes and pineapples, create a perfect balance of flavors that tantalize the taste buds.


To complement the culinary experience, visitors can sample the local kava, a traditional beverage made from the root of the kava plant. The mildly sedative and relaxing drink is often served during social gatherings and ceremonies, providing a unique cultural experience alongside the island’s cuisine.


Whether you choose to indulge in traditional dishes, seafood delights, or flavorful coconut-based creations, Tanna Island’s cuisine promises to take you on a culinary journey that reflects the island’s natural abundance and cultural heritage.


Sustainable Tourism Initiatives

Tanna Island is not just a destination for natural beauty and cultural experiences; it is also a place where sustainability plays a crucial role in preserving the island’s pristine environment and unique cultural heritage. Through various initiatives, the island is committed to sustainable tourism practices that aim to protect its natural resources and support the local community.


One of the key sustainable tourism initiatives on Tanna Island is the promotion of responsible and respectful tourism practices. Local communities work together to educate visitors about the importance of preserving the island’s delicate ecosystems and cultural traditions. This includes educating tourists about the appropriate behavior when visiting cultural sites, minimizing waste, and respecting local customs and traditions.


Tanna Island is also mindful of its environmental impact. Efforts are made to reduce plastic waste and promote eco-friendly practices. Some accommodations and establishments on the island have adopted sustainable practices such as using solar energy, recycling, and implementing water conservation measures.


The Ni-Vanuatu people have a deep connection to the natural environment, and this is reflected in their commitment to sustainable agriculture. The Kastom Garden is an initiative that promotes traditional farming methods and biodiversity conservation. It is a place where visitors can learn about the importance of sustainable farming practices while experiencing the island’s agricultural heritage.


Furthermore, the local communities on Tanna Island actively participate in ecotourism ventures that benefit both the environment and the local economy. These initiatives provide opportunities for the Ni-Vanuatu people to share their culture, traditions, and natural beauty with visitors, while also generating income to support local livelihoods.


Tanna Island’s commitment to sustainable tourism extends beyond environmental and cultural aspects. There is also a focus on supporting community development through initiatives such as community-based tourism projects. These projects aim to empower local communities, preserve cultural heritage, and create economic opportunities for the people of Tanna Island.


By implementing sustainable tourism initiatives, Tanna Island strives to maintain its unique identity and natural beauty for future generations. The island’s dedication to sustainability ensures that visitors can enjoy the wonders of Tanna in a responsible and respectful manner, while also contributing to the preservation of its cultural heritage and environment.



Tanna Island in Vanuatu is a destination like no other. This hidden gem in the South Pacific captivates visitors with its untouched natural beauty, vibrant culture, and commitment to sustainable tourism. From its fascinating history and rich cultural traditions to its breathtaking natural landscapes and unique wildlife, Tanna Island offers a truly immersive and unforgettable experience.


Whether you choose to hike up the fiery slopes of Mount Yasur, trek through lush rainforests, or immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture, Tanna Island has something to offer everyone. The island’s untouched beaches, pristine reefs, and diverse ecosystems provide opportunities for relaxation, adventure, and exploration.


What sets Tanna Island apart is its commitment to sustainable tourism practices. The island’s dedication to preserving its natural resources, supporting local communities, and promoting eco-friendly initiatives ensures that visitors can enjoy the island’s wonders in a responsible and respectful manner.


As you journey through Tanna Island, you’ll be captivated by the warmth and hospitality of the Ni-Vanuatu people. Their rich cultural heritage is deeply intertwined with the island’s daily life and traditions, offering a unique insight into their customs, dances, and delicious local cuisine.


Tanna Island is a place where traditional and modern coexist, where you can disconnect from the outside world and immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of nature. It’s a destination that will leave you with unforgettable memories, a deep appreciation for cultural diversity, and a renewed commitment to sustainable travel.


So, pack your bags and set off to Tanna Island, where untouched beaches, lush rainforests, an active volcano, and a vibrant culture await. Let the island’s natural wonders and welcoming people guide you on a journey that promises adventure, relaxation, and a profound connection with the beauty of the South Pacific.