AUSTRAL, February 25th, 2017, Malekula, VanuatuPosted on Monday 6 March 2017
By Katia NICOLET , Photo credit Nathalie MICHEL
This morning is a relaxing morning at sea, starting with a stretching class with our dancers at 8:30, followed by the briefing about our afternoon outing at Malekula given by our Expedition Leader, José. At 10am, our naturalists Mark and Harry teamed up to give us a conference on the “Island delights of Vanuatu”, talking about coconut and kava. For those who never experienced the effects of Kava before, it is a traditional drink of Vanuatu, made out of the root of a piper plant and which has the main effect of relaxing the mind and body. It is used to reduce stress and anxiety, but to be honest, the taste is pretty earthy and strong. Might not be recommended for everyone.
This afternoon we set foot on Malekula, the second largest island of Vanuatu and the most diverse, culturally and linguistically, with over thirty distinct languages spoken. Our first stop is on the Lava Ground, a ceremonial ground where all the rites and custom dances are performed. After a short walk through the jungle, we find this sacred place and we are welcomed by the Big Nambas –the people inhabiting this island. They perform for us the Octopus dance, an incredible custom dance with masks and decorated wooden carvings that they carry as they dance. Most masks and carvings represent the octopus, an important creature for this tribe that is been said to have originated from the sea.
Once the custom dances are over, we jump in Zodiacs® again to cross the 6km-long bay to reach the nearest village where the Big Nambas live. We were amazed by the effort they have put in welcoming us. The whole village was decorated and even the trees were covered in flowers. As we arrived on the beach, women put flowers in our hairs and men offered us fresh fruits and coconuts. We were offered a tour of the village and shown the local school and the traditional houses. Every single village was very pleased and very proud to show us around and to share their culture with us. We had demonstrations of sand drawings, a local band was playing and the kids at the school sang songs for us. We could not have expected a warmer welcome.
It was thus, hard to leave the village at sunset to return to the ship and to say goodbye to these amazing people. We will remember their smiles for many years to come.