Yachting in Vanuatu: A captain, owner, guest and crew guide
Last updated: 03/07/2017
Located only 1,750km from the north-eastern coast of Australia and 1000km west of Fiji, Vanuatu is a South Pacific country made up of 83 islands that stretch some 1,300 kilometres north to south.
It’s a nation that has much to offer visiting superyachts, so Yachting Pages spoke to agents at Seal Superyachts Vanuatu to find out what visiting vessels can expect.
Visiting Vanuatu aboard a superyacht
Agents at Seal Superyachts Vanuatu report that the number of yachts visiting Vanuatu each year has ranged from 10 to 40 in a season, with the average being approximately 30 per year.
When to visit Vanuatu
The climate in Vanuatu is tropical, and yachts usually cruise Vanuatu during the driest months - any time from April to December, avoiding the height of summer and Cyclone season in January, February and March.
What to see and do in Vanuatu
Justin Jenkins at Seal said, “There are a number of unique adventures that await superyacht owners, guests and crew in Vanuatu. There are many islands to explore, with hundreds of pristine protected bays and coves, and high mountains covered in dense virgin jungle to coral atalls and spectacular reefs.”
He gave his recommended five top activities for those visiting Vanuatu:
1. Peer into Benbow Volcano’s lava lake on Ambrym Island
“Anchor at Ranon Village on the north coast of Ambrym. Take a helicopter up to the top or let the local guides take you on a full-day walk up through the jungle, across the ash plains to the edge of the crater where you can peer over a cliff into the bubbling lava lake several hundred feet below.”
2. View the Nagol ‘land-diving’ ceremony on Pentecost Island
“Anchor on the west coast of Pentecost, tender ashore to the beach for a welcome ceremony then walk a short distance up the site of the Nagol where you will see amazing feats of courage and faith as the young men of the village dive off a 30-meter high tower with vines attached to their legs!”
3. Visit the amazing waterfalls and caves on Maewo Island
“Vanuatu’s archipelago offers an abundance of unspoiled and magnificent scenery. Maewo is no exception with virgin jungle, cool waterfalls, awesome caves and kastom ceremonies. Both Naone Waterfalls and Asanvari Bay are stunning locations with plenty to explore above and below the water.”
4. Dive the President Coolidge on the island of EspÍrito Santo
“The HMS President Coolidge is the world’s largest and most accessible shipwreck. Diving on the Coolidge is rumoured to be one of the world best intact wrecks to dive on. Vanuatu has several other very good dive sites including the Tongoa Wall in the Shepherd group.”
5. Hike to the spectacular volcanic lake on Ambae Island
“Ambae rises up out of the ocean as a massive and beautiful volcanic peak that is covered in dense jungle from top to bottom. The volcano’s crater is a large fresh water lake with volcanic activity below. There is a smaller crater to the one side with steaming and bubbling warm water that recently turned from blue to red.”
He provided a video that the crew of M/Y Dragonfly recently shared with him on their recent trip to Vanuatu, showing the unique sights and activities available. View the video here.
Claire from Seal added, “There are numerous official and unofficial attractions and excursions in Vanuatu; this is why it’s always a good idea to have a discussion with your agent about your preferences to allow them to prepare a customised itinerary. Yacht captains and crew can contact us for a copy of our current guide of suggested attractions and excursions.”
Superyacht support services in Vanuatu
Vanuatu has no large marinas as such, however stern-to berthing for vessels up to 30 to 35m LOA is possible at Yachting World, and up to 40 metres LOA at certain private wharfs in the capital Port Vila.
According to Claire, “In terms of berthing, we have exclusive arrangements with Yachting World and several private berth owners in Port Vila.”
Costs for stern-to berthing in Port Vila depends on vessel size, and, whether at Yachting World or at a private dock, berth fees range from $200 to $400 (AUD) per day, with the higher side of the scale being for the larger yachts of approximately 30 to 40 metres LOA. Water and power is excluded.
Security for berthing in Port Vila is exceptional, as full-time security guards protect the facility, which is set in a well-maintained and developed private seafront area.
Yacht fuel bunkering
Yachts can easily get fuel either from the main wharf or at certain stern-to berths. The rate is competitive with global prices and duty-free fuel available when clearing out of Vanuatu.
Refit and repair facilities
Vanuatu is fortunate enough to have a couple of top-end joiners, engineers and other marine professionals, and a couple of fairly decent chandlers. Many yacht crew comment on how much is actually available in Vanuatu compared with some of the other Pacific destinations.
When undertaking work in Vanuatu, it’s important to communicate directly with your yacht agent to ensure your contractor is above board with legitimate insurance and qualifications.
Large and small vessel marine surveying (IIMS and IYB surveyors) is possible with Marine Surveyors & Consultants Vanuatu.
Currently superyachts cannot be hauled-out in Vanuatu. The Port Vila Boatyard and its sister company Southern Cross Creations (who are NZ qualified boat builders, joiners and fine cabinet makers) do in-water repair work on visiting superyachts. Seal Superyachts Vanuatu has close links to Gold Coast City Marina and BSE, which provide out-of-water refit and repair facilities in Brisbane and Cairns.
Superyacht supplies and provisions
Vanuatu has very well stocked supermarkets, excellent organic beef, fantastic local markets and fresh fish. The provisioning in Vanuatu is said to be the best in the Pacific. The liquor stores boast fine wines from all parts of the world and all the brand name spirits. Agents at Seal explained that what cannot be sourced in Vanuatu can be air freighted from NZ quickly.
Yacht clearances, customs and immigration
Clearance in Vanuatu is very streamlined. Claire explained, “Inward clearance to Vanuatu is straightforward; we have it well coordinated with our government departments. We give the actual process a maximum of two hours, but we have usually found it takes about 40 minutes once the officers arrive on board. We do a lot of background work before a yacht arrives to make sure all the required paperwork is done prior to arrival.”
Visas and registration
All the usual yacht flags are accepted into Vanuatu, and most people do not require visas. Upon arrival you will receive a 30-day tourist visa, which can be extended for yachts staying for longer periods. However, the department of immigration is currently looking at changing the current ruling to support the growing yachting industry.
Claire said, “Seal is working with the authorities to help create the best possible experience for the visiting yachts. Vanuatu’s department of customs are doing a fantastic job already and are becoming well known (in the yachting community) for their high level of professionalism and friendliness.
“For charter yachts, we arrange all the paperwork allowing for legal charters of foreign registered superyachts in Vanuatu waters. Yacht captains or management companies should contact us directly for more detailed information on the charter requirements.”
Tourism advice from the experts
When cruising Vanuatu, Seal advised that yachties stay in close communication with their agent, cross-referencing any information they may have found from other sources. Claire said, “Be polite and respectful of local landowners and villages, and most importantly have fun and enjoy the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the people and the environment of the beautiful archipelago.
“Vanuatu is said to to have ‘the happiest people in the world’. The Ni-Vanuatu people are very friendly and welcoming and they value your interest in their country. We encourage captains and crew to enjoy some downtime (if possible) and take the opportunity to make some friends!”
“Lukem yu” long Vanuatu soon - See you in Vanuatu soon!