What a government does to promote yacht tourism is always vital, causing cruising sailors to arrive in droves or flee to cheaper or more friendly cruising grounds. Recently Greece has taken the prize for deterring would-be visiting yachts, while countries like Russia and Estonia are opening their doors.
Eric photographing volcano from above
Now tropical Vanuatu is taking the game to a whole new level, with one cruising couple spending years researching to make Vanuatu's welcome the very best in the South Pacific.
Vanuatu - 82 tropical volcanic islands
The Vanuatu Tourism Office, in conjunction with the Department of Tourism, have been, for the last couple of years, developing a new Cruising Vanuatu Guide and supporting website.
Reflections - sailing Vanuatu, a cruising sailor's delight
The aim is to further promote Vanuatu, a string of 80 volcanic islands spread over 700nm of tropical waterways, as a destination for visiting yachts. But it's not just the main islands, which are pretty well documented anyway, but the wildest, most remote and sometimes uninhabited islands, encouraging more and more yachts to discover this amazing island archipelago.
To do this, New Zealand cruising sailors Eric and Anne Simmons, on Reflection, their 43ft St Francis catamaran, who already know the islands well since the late 1990's, have been documenting the islands one by one during 2013, and now in 2014, since April, they have continued their research and documentation, covering such islands as the Maskelynes, Paama Island, Lamen, Havannah, Epi, Lenakei and Erromango.
Anne and Eric - enthusiasm for their project
By the beginning of the next cruising scene, they tell us, the guide will be out, comprehensive and easily accessible. In the meantime, the first stage of the website www.vanuatucruising.info is live, with comprehensive details of each anchorage to be added by the end of the year.
The Simmons are an ideal cruising couple for the job. 'It’s no secret that we love Vanuatu,' they said recently, 'the people are friendly, natural wonders abound and every island is different – each one is like visiting a different country. Vanuatu is one of the few countries where real 'kustom' and tradition can still be experienced, where there are protected anchorages and welcoming villages enabling yachts to visit in safety. The Ni-Vanuatu people are wonderful, unassuming and always willing to help visitors get the most from their Vanuatu experience'.
Listening to the Simmons, it’s not surprising that Vanuatu has been voted twice the happiest place in the world by the Happy Planet Index and the Lonely Planet.
Reflections - joining the Ni-Vanuatuans in their repast
Anne says, 'Most yachts that visit Vanuatu leave saying they wished they had had more time. They have no idea of the options ahead of them before they arrive. The new Cruising Guide will enable them to plan better and give them more ideas of the amazing places to visit and things to experience.'
For more and developing information on accessing the guide from where you are, go to what has to be the best resource website for cruising sailors www.noonsite.com.
About Anne and Eric:
Anne and Eric Simmons volunteered as photo journalists from May to October 2013, a six months assignment, and then again from the beginning of April this year. In between visits to the islands they have been back in Port Vila ('what a culture shock with bright lights, shops and plenty of traffic' observes Anne) to work with the Department of Tourism and their web manager to bring their new found information to the rest of the cruising world.
They have enjoyed the experience. 'The more we look, the more exciting possibilities arise to make Vanuatu a premiere yachting destination — and as a consequence, a huge increase in direct income to the outer islands who see very few tourists, giving them the opportunity to retain 'kustom' and reduce urban drift.'
Of their experiences, they say, 'We have been honoured to meet so many inspiring Ni-Vanuatu people, so friendly and willing to share what they have with us.
They recently summed up their experiences very articulately on their blog. 'We have seen the most amazing things: 'kustom' dances, weddings and ceremonies, topped off with fantastic scenery. In many cases it has been like stepping into an episode of National Geographic. We have stood on the edge of two vastly different but active volcanoes, soaked in hot springs, traversed river canyons, dived pristine reefs, explored amazing caves, hiked across seemingly endless ash plains and through stunning jungle.
'This country has so much to offer the cruising yachtie, who is one of the fortunate few able to access these areas. With so many safe anchorages and such friendly people, our job of promoting Vanuatu as a cruising destination should be an easy one.'
Try the new site now: www.vanuatucruising.info