First month in Vanuatu

climbing trees

Hi folks! Once again I’ve found myself in a situation where it is impossible to post anything regularly. For most part Vanuatu does not have internet access.

I also had a mini computer tragedy. The files from Mac OS X somehow got screwed up and I was unable to load up the system as soon as I arrived in Vanuatu. Luckily I also installed a copy of Windows 7 through bootcamp meaning that I can still use the computer to an extent, albeit very minimally. So much for Mac’s famous reliability – big disappointment there. Stupidly I forgot the system recovery disks and I don’t have much software to work with on the Windows system. Nevertheless, here are some images that have been processed relatively little, you might still see different versions of them sometime down the road. The images are a quick overview of some of the things I’ve come across so far on this adventure.

The image at the top is of a young chief climbing a tree to look for fruit bats and birds (which the local people hunt). People don’t usually wear this sort of stuff any more (apart from ceremonies and festivals), but this is what they used to wear not all that long ago. I got involved in helping some local people make some promotional shots of their area for tourism, so the man dressed for the occasion as did the other people in traditional outfits.

nice beach

This was the scene right outside of our bungalow on Maskeyne island off the larger island of Malekula. Pretty lovely place, we stayed for a week and a half and I got to experiment a little with some underwater photography.

fishing in a canoe

Fishing at Maskelyne island. The man is hitting the water to scare the fish so that the swim towards the net and get tangled in it. It was pretty wet in the boat (lots of splashing), so I was real glad to have my Aquatech housing, more on which in future posts.

spear fishing

Spear fishing by the reef, still in Maskelyne. Just one image under water for now, more to come.

fire in a forest

Maskelyne is not all underwater stuff. I came across this boy on the way to the village in which our bungalow owners lived.

nakamal at night

Abobe is a “Nakamal” a kind of a local bar, except the people don’t drink alcohol, but Kava – a very foul tasking drink made from a root. I will say again it tastes pretty awful, but the effect is great and Nakamals are great places to meet the locals and do some bonding.

bird hunting

Continuation form the series which the first photo belongs to. These guys were amazing tree climbers. I did manage to get up on a branch a little above the ground in order to get this shot.

two chiefs

Same young chiefs photographed one they got off the tree. The trees I should mention are some of the most photogenic I’ve ever come across.

fire in the village hut

I love shooting stuff by the fire and this is probably one of my favourite images of the sort so far. Here Jenny, the daughter of a man I befriended in one of our bungalows is preparing our dinner. Amenities in many parts of Malekula are pretty basic, here Tyreesa the young sister is providing some extra light.

mat weaking and kids

I really loved shooting inside the thatched huts that make up the main part of architecture in most villages around Vanuatu. Children are everywhere in Vanuatu and they are some of the nicest and cutest kids one is likely to encounter. As much as I love India, the children there can be absolute monsters, that’s never been the case in Vanuatu. In this image Victor, Jenny’s sun is the baby and in the back it’s his grandma and a neighbour girl doing some mat weaving.

chief ayar

Chied Ayar Randes. This man is one of the favourite characters I’ve come across so far on all of my journeys. Besides being a chief he’s also a church elder, which is actually pretty contradictory, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Despite wearing not much more than a banana leaf around his private parts he reminded me a bit of my grandfather – full of interesting stories, strong beliefs and basically he’s someone who might come across as a simple village man, but in fact is a very smart fellow who sees the bigger picture better than most of the people around him. I’ll definitely post a little story with some photos of him in the coming days.

planting yam

Chied Ayar’s hands planting a yam. It’s one of the main parts of the local diet all around Vanuatu and as far as I know a lot of the Pacific too. I have to say, I am really not a big fan of the stuff and though I have tried yam in some really tasty dishes, if I never see it again in my life I’ll be just fine.

hands with fishing net

Youngsters fishing in a lagoon in the remote South West Bay, Malekula.


More net fishing in the same place, there’s actually quite a bit of fish there and I love fish, thus the lagoon was a place I liked too.

traditional boy in a canoe

Another photo taken for the tourism campaign. I saw this boy wearing the outfit a few days earlier during a festival. The festival is another story, but it was not a place where I could get the kind of shot of him that I wanted (I’d have to compete with some pretty intense and sometimes rude tourists who mostly traveled to the festival on their yachts).

young warriors

Same boy in the background and a son of a chief at the front. The thing he’s wearing is a curved pig tooth which forms when the pig’s bottom or top teeth (don’t remember which) are pulled out. For a tooth like that to form it takes a few years and a pig with this prized possession is worth a substantial amount of money, as it’s the kind of pig that’s used in grade-taking ceremonies, where young men become chiefs and older men move higher in rank after they perform traditional dances, kill pigs and share food with local villagers. The leaves above the boys heads are local umbrellas, for real. It started to rain during the shoot and once some adults brought them these leaves I thought it was a great opportunity.

baker lighting fire

A local baker in Wintua, South West Bay, Malekula lighting a fire. I shot a whole bunch of photos in his bakery. As I mentioned, I loved shooting in the interiors and the bakery was pretty awesome with some nice backlight and sidelight. I also shot some video there and I hope I’ll have enough time to share some of it when I get back.

Ok, so that’s about all for the quick overview. There are of course many more images and I’ll try to post some mini stories with some of those photos while I am near the internet. Next Wednesday I should be going somewhere pretty remote again, so hopefully I’ll have the time. In any case I just wanted to share something quick in case I don’t get the chance in the near future.

12 Responses to “First month in Vanuatu”

  1. Nico Chiapperini Says:

    Really nice pictures and lovely short stories.

    The image with Jenny preparing the dinner is a masterpiece, it looks like a painting of Caravaggio, the light is super as well as the chiaro-scuro: outstanding.

    Thank you for sharing, keep on the good work.

  2. Benjamin Says:

    Nice pictures and stories! I´m looking forward to more of them! It´s always a pleasure to see pictures from you!

  3. Apratim Saha Says:

    Nice picture. Very good stories. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Agi Magyar Says:

    As always: fantastic review of a place so many would never see otherwise!

  5. Matt Welsh Says:

    Beautiful pictures! Even with minimal processing you’re photos are amazing. Now if you were only carrying your emergency Adobe Lightroom CD install disc… 🙂

  6. Mitchell Says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    Agi: Vanuatu is actually very close from Australia, you should make your next trip there 🙂

    Matt: I did download a demo version of Lightroom, I hope it lasts me till the end of the trip. So I am doing some PP, just more light than usual because Windows 7 kinda sucks on a Mac and everything is just not as responsive.

  7. South West Bay, Malekula – Where pristine nature meets ancient traditions « Mitchell’s Travel and Photography Blog Says:

    […] so let me get to the photos. This is a just a portion of the images I created, you can see more HERE and in the coming months. The image at the top is of one of the boys (Pillison was his name)  who […]

  8. Kent portrait & event photographer Says:

    There’s some great photos here, I love the earthy tribal feel. This is a glimpse of the World that I will probaly never see with my own eyes.

  9. linda Says:

    Thanks! Very useful for me, considering teaching there for a year. Interesting, re: little internet access

  10. Mona Says:

    My husband and I were on our sailboat “Angelique” in Southwest Bay, Malekula in 1996. I stumbled upon your blog while researching the stone carvings we found there. I still do not know nor can I find anything more about them. I was hoping you might have learned what they represented. The chief of the village did not know any more about them but that they may represent ancestors. The carvings were strewn about haphazardly in the village and resembled gravestones that stood vertically with carvings on the front. Thanks for helping me relive our wonderful time in Malekula.

  11. mick Says:

    Great photos ! I am a photographer myself & go to Vanuatu twice a year. I really do nothing but sit under a tree & wait until 4pm & then join the people in the nakamals. Im sort of known there now but even from my first day i was welcomed and there is always someone totalk to…these people are the most beautiful people in the world.

  12. Hana Says:

    The photos were nice. We’ve been there during our holiday and we’re planning to go back and visit Tanna and see up close the Mount Yasur and we will definitely book with a Sure Thing.


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