There are over thirty
spoken on the island,
one of the richest from
a linguistic and cultural
point of view. But what
really typifies this
island are the tribes
which used to live up
in the hills: the Big
Nambas in the North
and the Smol Nambas,
originaly, in the central
part of the South.
Big & Smol Nambas !
Visiting the island
Norsup and its Airfield is the main gateway to Malakula.
The village is a former French centre, with a store, a Saturday market, and the main provincial hospital.
Lakatoro, the provincial centre, lies 5 km to the south. Here you will find an NBV Bank, a post office, Air Vanuatu Office and stores.
A bit further north lie the islands of Rano, Wala, Atchin and Vao.
Malakula is the second largest island in Vanuatu with 2069 km2, being 94 km long and 44 km wide at its broadest end, from Melip to Rerep.
In 1965 a major earthquake caused the northern part to lift by 40 cm. This is the most accessible area of Malakula, the south is more rugged and inhospitable.
Ambat and his children
According to legend, in South Malakula there lived Ambat and his children who had the particular trait of being white and having long straight hair.
Then one day, the children ate a pink apple, something their father had forbidden them to do and thereupon they turned black. As a punishment they were banished to the south and required to wear a penis sheath.
In 1768, Bougainville gave his
name to the straits which separate Malakula from Santo. Six years later, Cook was given a hero's welcome in memory of Ambat, because in the local people's eyes, the white man was a god. Unfortunately, this notion was to be short-lived with the arrival of the labour recruiters, the black-birders.
Relations deteriorated very rapidly thereafter: in retaliation, the villagers attacked the ships captured the crews and
sometimes they even ate them. In 1939, a copra cooperative was set up at Matanvat in northern Malakula. In no time, it took on some of the cargo cult traits, up until 1950, after which it returned to its original purpose, copra production. Today, the largest copra-producing plantation in Vanuatu, the P.R.V. Plantation is located at Norsup.
Island bungalow and guesthouse accommodation is available throughout Malakula.
Please contact local tour operators
Their specialty was tribal warfare, which would flare up at the least
provocation. They would cease after killing 3 or 4 opponents and would then celebrate, finishing off with a repast in which their victims often figured on the menu. It was standard practice for a village chief to have several wives.
Young boys undergo a circumcision ceremony in order to become men.
Their names stem from the size of the penis sheath they wear, made out of banana or pandanus leaves.
In the village, the men would sleep in one house, the “amel” while the women and children would sleep all together in another house. The Smol Nambas introduced the practice of the heads elongating of their young children, a custom unique to this area of Vanuatu.
To see the Big Nambas, you will have to go to the village of Mae, or up to the northwestern coast at Potovaro, Tenmaru or Amokh.
Smol Nambas tours can take you to Rano Mainland, or Unua in the south. Travelling south, don't miss Lamap, a charming little village (the third major town in Vanuatu in Condominium times) which has a wonderful view of the volcanoes on Ambrym and still pratices the art of Sand-drawing. There are stores, a post office, a branch of the NBV Bank and an airfield.
Go off on foot for a delightful 45 minute walk through the bush to the wharf at Port Sandwich.
A magnificent a view, but beware of swimming in the sea there, because this beautiful natural bay is home to sharks. Finally, if you have a chance before leaving the south, do go to the unforgettable Maskelyne Islands.
On the other side of Malakula lies Southwest Bay, again with an airfield, bank and stores.
Southwest Bay has its own unique Smol Nambas customs and natural beauty, and hosts an annual cultural festival at Labo in August.
Organize your stay with ...
• Wreck to Rainforest
• The Malampa.travel
Ph (678) 48888,
• Vanuatu Tourism Office
Ph (678) 22 813