VANUATU | Yakel Kastom village overnight stay, Tanna island


After landing in Port Vila and spending a couple of days on EFATE ISLAND, we flew to TANNA. This smaller VANUATU island is known for its untouched NATURE and TRADITIONAL LIFESTYLE of the local population. Many of the island´s residents live in so-called KASTOM VILLAGES where a more modern way of life is intentionally restricted. We booked our accommodation for the first 2 nights in advance and decided to see later what we want to do after.

We knew that we want to see the Mt. YASUR VOLCANO and we knew that we did not want to spend so much time on the BEACH here. We´ve had lots of beach time in the past weeks, so we were totally ready for a much more CULTURAL EXPERIENCE. And here on Tanna, we found the ULTIMATE ONE. In a green village up in the hills, where people used to be CANIBALS.

After realizing it is actually possible to STAY OVER in one of those KASTOM VILLAGES mentioned above I was immediately up for it. You can visit a traditional village up in the hills as a part of a day trip, but we really wanted to sleep there as well. This allowed us to spend more time with the locals and really peak into their daily lives. So instead of just a couple of hours, we stayed 2 FULL DAYS and it was one of the best things we did on this trip.

After the car dropped us off, we were taken to the BIGGEST BANYAN TREE in the village and participated in a DANCE PERFORMANCE the locals prepared for just Lu and me. Obviously, this is what you get to see on a DAYTRIP to the village. You can also buy some traditional necklaces and other handicrafts. Even though this part of the day was meant to be just for the tourists (me and Lu being the only one there though), it was still very authentic.

While some of the locals were obviously more into T-shirts and jeans (which we noticed later in the day), many of them still wore the traditional GRASS SKIRTS and NAMBAS – a traditional penis sheath, characteristic of central Vanuatu. Some women were topless, mostly older ones though.

Surely there are not many blond 6yo staying here before. Small children in general do not come to these villages so often, so that was a great ice-breaker for me. People at times, were a bit reserved, especially women. Still very friendly and welcoming, it was more the fact that you first needed to gain their trust. Easy peasy with Lu. Nobody spoke English except one or two younger guys. There were no mobile or other phones. The KASTOM WAY OF LIFE is strongly against modernization in such ways. There were no TV´s. There were no real roads. There were no tourists.

The village became known to the world mostly through the MOVIE TANNA, shot in 2015 right here. It is a love story about a couple who decide to go against their parents wishes of arranged marriages and marry without their approval. In the end of the movie the two main actors die in a similar way as Romeo and Juliet. It is a wonderful movie, fully filmed on Tanna, showing some of the islands best spots. No wonder it has won several prizes and was even nominated for an OSCAR for BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE MOVIE. Lu and me had this great honor to meet miss MARIE WAWA, the LEADING ACTRESS in the movie. And later on, in the village we also met her parents. So if you are heading to Vanuatu, I recommend you to watch the movie before.

Our visit to the village was long not over after a couple of hours. We were taken to the other side of the village, met the CHIEF, had a little friendly chat and were shown our new place for the night. This is where we slept. A COZY LITTLE HUT with a smaller entrance space and a bed inside. We slept very well that night. Chickens ran freely around it and under it, there was a place to hang out just opposite the hut. Perfect. We dropped our backpack and then wondered. So, what do we do now?

As there is NO GUIDED PROGRAMME, it was more or less up to us what we wanted to do. There were no “activities”, no schedule, no rules to follow. The deal was, we sleep there, we stay in the village and we see how it goes. So we thought it is the best to stick around the only guy who spoke some English and simply follow him around. He first took us to meet the LOCAL DOCTOR, we can say. Also refereed to as the MEDICINE MAN. Apparently we had good timing, there was also a patient. The finger looked like a lot of pain but the man stood bravely and let the doctor put all sorts of natural things on it. Should heal soon, he said. Huh I sure hoped so, as it really looked not so good.

After a short visit to the COMUNITY TOILET, yes there was just one and yes it was just a hole in the ground, we were curious how they take a SHOWER and if even? Well, the good guy was very keen on showing us the perfect spot to do that. After HIKING through the village, waving at the children hiding in the gardens, jumping over WATER CREEKS, descending a pretty STEEP HILL and getting our feet pretty dirty we reached this amazing WATERFALL. No one was there. But we were accompanied by about 7 of other younger and older village boys by the time. Well then, quick in the water.

Waterfall. The WATERFALL. The waterfall from the MOVIE TANNA. Basically, it is the shower for the whole village. It was not a short way to get to it, but it was so nice once we got there. Even if I was the only woman surrounded by men who did not speak English, in the middle of nowhere, I felt perfectly safe and comfortable. It was so refreshing to jump into the pool. And once again we realized how important water is. And which effort many people in this world have to put in to get to a water source.

Water makes HUNGRY, right? After the swim we were starving and I have to admit, as much as I was looking forward to staying in the village, I was really concerned about the food. I would have swallowed worms if I was given those, but solely out of respect for my hosts. Not because I think it would make my life richer for an unforgettable experience. So I really hoped for a simple fruit or veggie based meal. And guess what? Ta-daaa, got it. It was delicious.

And we got to see and participate in the whole FOOD MAKING PROCESS by cutting vegetables and laughing with the ladies. Didn´t get to skin the chicken though, but I´m pretty sure I would not do a good job at that anyway haha. Really loved the way they all cook together here, it´s like the whole village is involved, everyone has their chores and everyone knows what to do. And absolutely love the UNDERGROUND COOKING style.

Yakel vilage Vanuatu Tanna cooking

CARD GAMES are easy to carry around so we had a couple of different packs with us and played regularly every evening. Lu was very eager to teach the other how to play, because well, the more the merrier. I don´t think they every play cards over here and that was really very funny and a great way to spend some hours before the sun set.

As any other Pacific island, TANNA is under constant threat of being hit by a devastating CYCLONE. And when it happens, the consequences are usually pretty bad and all the houses have to be slowly rebuild. Vanuatu was hit a couple of years ago and we could still see the impact it had. It was quite interesting to spend some time observing the new ROOF being put on one of the HOUSES though. Again, everybody had its place and his chore and together they made it happen. The SENSE OF COMMUNITY and belonging was present at all times here and I really loved that.

yakel village tanna island vanuatu house building

And to end our visit we checked out the GARDENS as well, and got some fresh WATERMELONS along the way. It is amazing how fertile the black volcanic soil is, they grow so many yummy VEGETABLES and FRUITS over here. And they are totally depending on what they grow on their own.

tanna island vanuatu yakel village garden travel blog

And just like that, the 2 DAYS WERE OVER PRETTY QUICKLY. We managed to get another delicious bowl of food before we left. Everyone came to wave goodbye as our car came surprisingly on time. This was an absolutely worthy experience and I felt so happy and privileged we we able to spend some time in the village and peak into the life of these amazing people. Another adventure to remember on our already amazing trip so far.


Yakel villagestay Tanna Vanuatau South Pacific

Tanna island Vanuatu Yakel Village stay

Comments 6

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      hey Nicole, we arranged everything via Tanna Evergreen resort, where we were staying for the first nights on Tanna. I+m not sure, but I think they might be the only ones who offer this specific overnight experience.

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