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- Vanuatu Tourism Operators
- Travel Guide to Vanuatu
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- Rockwater in the News
This "Frequently Asked Questions" and "Answers" is a collective of questions asked to us by guests, and more.
Hope you find the answers you are seeking or new things to assist you in having a better, more informed holiday.
Don't hesitate to ask us if your interest is not covered in the information below.
Q: What is Tanna like?
A: Tana means ‘earth’ in Tannese, it is 40 km (25 miles) long and 19 km (12 miles) wide, with a total area of 550 km (212 sq. miles). Its highest point is the 1,084 m (3,556 ft.) summit of Mount Tukosmera.
Tanna is one of the Islands where for its 32 000 inhabitant’s culture and custom are still very strong.
Some villages have turned their backs on the modern ways and prefer their traditional way of life.
The island is a mixture of savannah, forest and rugged mountains – stretching from the grasslands and scrub of the north-west to the mountains and dense forest of the south-west.
The fertile centre contains thriving market gardens which produce a variety of fruit and vegetables and the country’s best-known product: Tanna coffee.
TIP: Tanna is an island where tourism is still quite new to local inhabitants. A small number of guesthouses, village bungalows and “resorts” have been established by the local villagers and do not fit any Western standard of accommodation criteria. Most are built of local materials (wood and palm leaves); floors can be mats on the ground; toilet facilities are holes in the ground and running water is not common.
Food is always locally grown and what is available on the day. As there is little or no power, cold storage is non-existent. Preserved and canned supplies are generally in stock for local consumption and often below the standard you are used to. If buying packaged or canned foods please check the expiry date as many are out of date. Traveler’s cheques or credit cards are not normally accepted. Payment is in cash only. Many of these accommodation houses depend on public transport to get travellers to them.
A further word of advice when traveling in Vanuatu: some of the Port Vila roadside “Travel Agents” are closely associated (often family members) with some of the island bungalows of outer islands; consequently may not always have your objectives as their priority.
Q: What is the best time of the year to visit Tanna?
A: Tanna’s climate is subtropical; it is drier and milder than the rest of the archipelago. The island’s near constant all year round ideal climate is one of its best assets. Tanna’s latitude is 19.5155° S, 169.3578°; the same as Townsville Australia, the Cook Islands, Madascasgar, and Mauritius Island. You can expect average temperatures from November to February (our summer) to sit around 28º to 30ºC with some warm tropical showers. Higher humidity prevails. Well-travelled pacific adventurers may consider this to be the best time to experience the real tropics when the local fauna and flora displays their hidden secrets and waterfalls are in full flight. Rockwater’s elevated position over the ocean provides a safe platform in which to view the occasional storms and the ultimate tropical phenomenon, cyclones. All rooms in this resort are cyclone CAT5+ proof so you do not have to worry as long as you stay in your room.
Q: How do I get to Tanna?
A: The following local privately owned airlines service Tanna: Air Taxi (http://airtaxivanuatu.com/) and Unity Airlines (http://www.unity-airlines.com/) . The national carrier Air Vanuatu (www.airvanuatu.com) flies daily (often twice) to Tanna.
Q: What is the tipping protocol in Tanna?
A: It is not expected, nor is it the custom to tip in Vanuatu. If you should feel compelled to show your appreciation of a staff member or village experience, please ask us and we will advise you on the correct method. For example, a bag of rice to a village chief may be received with gratitude (and will be shared with the village) but to offer triple the value in cash may be regarded as rude or worse, to by-pass the chief an offer a tip to a villager of lower rank may be seen as an offence to the Chief. Chiefs are highly respected so it is best to know the protocol. Resort staff is not in the habit of receiving tips – but cash may be placed in their individual bank account administered by the management for their children’s education.
Or a nice gesture is to give them a T shirt that you do not want to return home with, school pads, pens etc. is also highly appreciated. We don’t recommend lollies and the like as it only encourages junk food dependency and there is already a high incidence of diabetes in the indigenous population from soft drinks etc.
Q: Can I purchase genuine souvenirs from Tanna?
A: When visiting Yakel Custom village or the Lenakel Markets you can purchase locally made totem poles, wood figurines, bamboo flutes, stone axes, pig tusks and Pandanus leaf carry bags direct from the craftsman or his wife at better prices than is available from Port Vila local art shops. You will find the villagers willing to bargain only if you are purchasing multiple items. In general, it is not customary to barter and may be considered rude if the item is already well priced.
TIP: Please do not purchase items containing shells. The purchase of these items only encourages the further destruction of the very marine environment you have come to see. Shells are an indispensable link in the ecosystem of all coral reefs and being eradicated at an alarming rate; the so-called ‘farmed shells’ sold in the First World are harvested from pristine reefs of the world (many from the Philippines). Many types of shell found and sold in Vanuatu markets and shops are now on the endangered list.
The resort does not forward art. The reason is that it's best done from the Port Vila Central Post Office; not Tanna Post. Parcels/packages dispatched from Port Vila will get to their destination much quicker. Please be advised that some items (feathers, pig tusks ) may not be accepted on return by your countries of origin. Wooden items and basketware will be inspected at your final destination so please check items for borer holes and ensure no insects are hiding in basketware. We are happy to advise you on this subject.
Q: What are the opening hours for the bar?
A: The resort bar is open from 8:00am till 9.00pm unless otherwise stated for special occasions.
Q: I am a Vegetarian – what options do I have?
A: The resort has plenty of vegetarian options on the menu. We procure organic locally grown foods so you may find new vegetables, fruits and nuts you have never tasted before.
Q: I have certain dietary requirements – can the resort cater for me?
A: We often have guests who are allergic to gluten, dairy, peanuts etc. Please advise us of your dietary requirements before arrival (as we may need to order it in) and we will be happy to accommodate your needs.
Q: Can a romantic lunch or dinner be arranged in the resort grounds?
A: Off course, just pick a spot in the gardens or by the sea when you are at the resort (we can show you some great ones) and let us know.
Q: Can you send me your menus?
A: Yes. Please email us your request from our Contact Us page.
Background on our Menu:
Meat, vegetables and tropical fruits are all grown 100% organically. Tanna is free of crop pesticides and artificial fertilizers. The soil is both high in minerals from a million years of constant volcanic dust deposits, and organic matter from plant matter ensuring maximum soil quality. Add to these constant subtropical temperatures, and you have ideal growth conditions. In addition to encouraging local agriculture, the resort grows much of its own fruits and vegetables in order to ensure supplies. You are most welcomed to pick fruit with our chefs or garden staff.
Local Beef is of excellent quality but because the butchering conditions are not guaranteed to be optimal; compounded by a lack of aging, Tanna beef is not on the menu. All meats used in our kitchen is all flown-in from Port Vila.
Seafoods are caught by local fishermen in pristine waters north of the resort; however our prawns come from Port Vila prawn farms. We sometimes buy a limited number of freshwater prawns but we are very careful not to encourage the decimation of the Tanna wild prawns as their ecosystem is fragile.
Our eggs are from free ranging farms in Port Vila.
Tanna Coffee is available on request (certified 100% organically grown) and regarded by coffee drinkers as one of the best in the world for its superb aromatic quality and unique flavour – coffee plantations are 30 minutes from the resort which you may visit. You may purchase vacuum-packed Tanna Coffee to take home from the resort.
Q: Do you serve Coconut Crab on the menu?
A: No, we are trying to protect the remaining Coconut Crabs by encouraging them to use the resort land as a safe corridor to the interior.
Some things you may want to know before ordering a Coconut Crab in a restaurant (please don’t): The coconut crab is the largest land dwelling crustacean weighing over 5 kg and they have now disappeared from over 90% of their previous territories (Seychelles in the Indian Ocean to Tuamotu Archipelago in the Pacific Ocean). Their ease of capture; destruction of their habitats, and the irresponsible demand by the restaurant/resort trade have placed the coconut crab in Vanuatu in an alarming decline of numbers and survival of the species is now under serious threat. Most Coconut crabs sold in Tanna come from the neighbouring island of Erromango as Tanna’s stock has been extensively depleted, yet some food outlets ruthlessly continue to sell it, in addition (like lobsters) many are juveniles.
The crabs require the protection of crevices, caves, and hollow tree stumps and are found only in coastal-forested areas. Adult crabs are adapted to life on land and may be found up to 4km inland scavenging anything they can eat; fruit, rotting leaves, other animals including their young or other crabs. The massive claws open fallen coconuts, but they are not dependent on coconuts to survive. Although the adults live on land and would drown if in water, they do require access to saltwater, which they drink to maintain the salt level of their body fluids.
Coconut crabs grow very slowly – about a cm per year. Hence a 10cm crab is between 9 to 10 years old, weighing 1 to 2 kg (the minimum size of capture in Vanuatu). Crabs live to 30 years of age with a maximum length of 16 cm weighing 5 kg. Sadly, these monsters are very hard to find nowadays. Female crabs are even slower to grow, few are found larger than 10cm.
Crabs reproduce at 6 years of age. The eggs are released into the high tide in a moonless night. Eggs hatch immediately upon release and start their sea voyage for 2 to 3 weeks as larvae to become sea squatters into empty dead sea-shells until they can climb ashore, eventually release their temporary home and start their life as land creatures. You may see these juvenile crabs at night making their way up the resort grounds and cliffs. They are very slow movers and harmless unless you place your finger in their claws.
The “justification” often given by people killing crabs is that the crabs provide income to villagers. However, if you care about the survival of the species, it’s best to eat something else and encourage the indigenous people to generate income from sustainable Coconut Crab wildlife parks rather than making the species extinct!
Q: What happens to all the resort food scraps?
A: The resort naturally generates a lot of food scraps be it vegetable, meat/bones, or fish and other. The separation of these is done in the kitchen. Fresh vegetables and fruits are given to our hens with their grain diet. The non-mulch scraps are given to our staff for their pigs. Please see our Sustainability page for more information.
FACILITIES & ACTIVITIES:
Q: Does the resort have Wi-Fi?
A: Yes, Wi-Fi is free of charge and covers the resort buildings and adjoining land.
Q: Does the resort have snorkeling equipment?
A: Yes the resort has excellent hygienically maintained snorkeling equipment (mask, snorkel, fins) for in house guests to use free of charge and must be returned at check out?. However, to guarantee a perfect fitting mask or flippers at your disposition 100% of the time it is always best to bring your own equipment. Some of the most pristine coral in the pacific can be found just 5 mins snorkelling in front of the resort. Remember to leave the coral as you found it. It breaks easily so DO NOT WALK ON CORAL. Look for rocks to stand on.
TIP: Suntan oil or creams do not mix with snorkeling equipment; it is hard to remove when in the water. If you are a beginner or a Jean Jacques Cousteau, remember to always snorkel with a buddy. Don’t deprive yourself, even if you can’t swim – you can snorkel!
Q: Does the resort provide laundry facilities for the guests use?
A: We do not have guest’s laundry facilities. All laundry and ironing is done by the resort’s Housekeeping department. Laundry bags are provided in your rooms for this purpose. There is a small laundry fee according to weight.
Q: Do the rooms have TV?
A: We currently do not have TV in rooms but this is planned for 2019 as we expand our communication facilities (we operate our own communications tower).
Q: Do the villas have a hair dryer and/or fridge?
A: Yes. All rooms have hair dryers and a small bar fridge. Our fridges are not designed to hold large quantities of food or drinks.
Q: How far away is the Volcano?
A: Mt Yasur volcano is a 1.5 hour scenic drive from the resort.
Q: What is Mt Yasur volcano like?
A: Mt Yasur has been erupting nearly continuously for over 800 years, although it can usually be approached safely its eruptions occur every 5 minutes or so. It is classified as Strombolian or Vulcanian volcano. With a height of 361 m (1,184 ft.) above sea level, located on the coast near Sulphur Bay it is considered a small volcano, it is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, simply because it is so easy to reach. It has a largely un-vegetated pyroclastic cone with a nearly circular summit crater 400 m in diameter.
Q: How much does it cost to go to the main township?
A: The resort can easily organize a local taxi for guests to town and back. Cost for a taxi to town is 3,000 vatu but talk to us as early as possible of your intentions and we will most probably get you there for free with one of our trips to town. There are many “taxis” and a few buses on Tanna Island. Although Taxi rates have been set, like other countries some Taxi drivers will charge unsuspecting travelers excessively above these rates. Our advice is to negotiate the return rate before your journey starts if you are making your own tour arrangements. Taxis may deviate from your booked itinerary to pick up other passengers at the airport, or stop at the shops to buy items, or even go to the hospital to drop off a family member… so beware your arrival at a destination may be somewhat delayed!
Q: What is a Kastom Village?
A: Tanna is populated almost entirely by Melanesians and they follow a more traditional lifestyle than many other islands. Some of the villages are known as kastom villages, where modern inventions are restricted, the inhabitants wear penis sheaths or grass skirts and may be bare breasted. The children may not attend formal schooling. Ceremonies, including the annual yam festival, circumcision rites and marriages, are frequent events and feature the unique Tannese face painting that is often seen in photos of Vanuatu.
Q: Do Tanesse practice Black Magic on Tanna?
A: Sorcery is a big part of Ni-Vanuatu cultural heritage. While more than 80 percent of the people of Vanuatu follow different Christian religions, belief in sorcery and animist traditions is deeply rooted. Black magic is passed down through families and can take the form of a poison put into someone's food, or a spell motivated by a grievance against a tribe or a person in the community. The practice of sorcery is considered a serious crime by the majority of the population of Vanuatu, and continues to be a source of community disorder and fear; however there are no laws in Vanuatu against sorcery as it is virtually impossible to prove.
Q: Where is the closest beach?
A: A short walk will get you to “Little Black Beach”, our own coral and volcanic sand beach from which you access our 500 meters of protected coral garden.
Q: Anything of interest for an Ornithologist?
A: Pacific Islanders habitually kill birds for food by throwing stones, sticks or using slingshots, then roasting them. Sadly, many are unaware this is causing the extinction of some species and affect tree seed distribution.
Rockwater Resort is a bird sanctuary; we encourage all endemic and migratory species to frequent the resort by planting bird feeding plants and trees. The common myna is a native of India, east and west Pakistan and Burma. It was introduced to many Pacific lands, including New Zealand and Australia, usually to combat invertebrate pests. It is an invasive species and has reduced many endemic bird species populations other than local hawks and owls. The hawks and owls also keep another introduced species down: the bush rat which has adapted to feed mostly on forest nuts and fruits.
HEALTH & WELLBEING:
Q: Do I have to be concerned about Malaria?
A: No. Tanna Island was the first island in Vanuatu to be declared Malaria Free by the World Health Organization (WHO). We live here permanently without taking any medicines.
Q: What should I bring to wear?
A: Generally clothes made of light fabric will do. In winter months (June to August) we advise you bring some warmer clothes for nights. Singlets are not permitted in the restaurant but apart from that there are no clothing restrictions in the resort.
TIP: Wearing revealing clothing (especially swimwear with no cover up) outside the resort is not promoted, as over 100 years of missionary work in Vanuatu has had its effect on the perception of what is considered as respectable attire by ni-vans…we try not to offend. We highly recommend firm footwear and a light jacket/pullover or wind jacket for the Volcano Safari as you can be blasted with ash, and it sometimes becomes chilly on the rim…yes, not expected on top of an erupting volcano!
Q: How can I try the famous Tanna Kava?
A: Tanna Kava is regarded as the most potent of all islands in Vanuatu if not the world for good reason. We do not recommend drinking Kava in the local kava bars or in villages due to a serious lack of hygiene in these “bars” where your glass consists of a coconut shell used by all, washed in the same dirty water. Should you want to taste kava, we can purchase the raw material (kava roots) and have it prepared by our staff in the hygienic conditions of our kitchen and consume it in the evening in the resort by the fire or on the beach with locals. For your information the drink resembles muddy dishwashing water and tastes like petrol; it can be made more palatable by blending in a fruit cocktail. The effect is one of relaxation…depending on the individual and how much Kava is consumed.
Q: Is it safe to swim in the water?
A: Yes. The waters around Ipak Bay are safe to swim in. You will encounter a myriad of fish life including large blue parrot fish, lobsters, clown fish (and pretty much all of Nemo’s friends). We have never seen a shark in these waters but turtles, dolphins and whales visit the bay in front of the resort regularly.
Q: Is the tap water safe to drink?
A: The resort’s tap water comes from our two bores and although lab test results inform us that our underground water is the best on Tanna Island, we advise that guests need to exercise care as it is not filtered, hence cannot guarantee its purity. To be 100% safe, guests should always drink bottled water or BYO water filtering re-usable drink bottles for their personal use everywhere in Tanna including in all resorts.
Q: What tours are recommended to do during our stay?
A: Naturally the volcano is the most popular tour, followed by Yakel Custom Village and the Blue Cave. Please go to the “Things to Do” part of our website for more information on all our tours. If you have a particular interest or experience in mind please discuss with staff.
TIP: Give yourself time to see and appreciate the main attractions when touring, we do not recommend purchasing pre booked “combo packages” online or from sellers in Port Vila before knowing what you are buying . More often than not these included “extras” have little value and erode time from the star attraction you want to experience. Best to discuss your needs when in the resort in order to customise your tour with the knowledge you are not only given expert advice, but obtaining value for money.
Q: Can I go trekking from Rockwater?
A: There are many walking tracks close to the resort, which take you to adjoining bays and black sand beaches passing local villages. You may organize a guide and a picnic with us and walk for many hours surveying the magnificent landscape and ocean views. Sunset from these spots is an unforgettable experience. An even easier track is the continuation of the resort’s road, which ends at North Black Beach (5kms from Rockwater). This is frontier land discovery with villages, cattle gates and beaches on the way. Bring good shoes, a head torch, your camera, and don’t forget to drink!
Q: What currency is used on Tanna ?
A: The only currency used on Tanna is the Vatu. There are 2 banks on Tanna Island; The National Bank of Vanuatu (NBV) and The Bank of South Pacific (BSP). Only the BSP has EFTPOS/Credit Card Facilities. Although we maintain a moderate float, we cannot always guarantee to be able to provide all guests with the denominations you may require. Cash vatu, Visa, MasterCard are accepted at the resort; however as Tanna Island primarily functions as a cash economy, payment of accounts in cash are always appreciated. The two banks do have debit card services available, but only if an account is held in Vanuatu. As an emergency service the resort can provide small cash advances, however, a 10% processing fee will apply. Bring currency from your own country and exchange at the Port Vila International airport on arrival or in Port Vila itself at Goodies Forex exchange offices in the main street of Port Vila.
Q: What is the voltage and plug configuration used in the resort?
A: Most of Tanna Island has very limited electricity but the resort operates with the latest generators on the island providing (240 volt) 24/7. Power point outlets are of Australian standards. Reception has adaptors should you need them.
Q: Is there Fishing from the resort?
A: As we are an ecological resort all forms of fishing (and hunting) is prohibited on our reef but we can organize a fishing trip for you with a local fisherman in another area if required. Please give us as much notice as possible (24+ hours) to organise it. You may bring your own fishing gear.
Q: How long is the flight from Port Vila to Tanna Island?
A: Flying times will vary according to which plane is used. From 45 minutes to 1 hour. It is best if you sit on the right side of the plane on the way to Port Vila as there are wonderful views of Tanna Island and Erromango Island on the way. You will also see the resort hugging the coral coastline and if flying around October you may see migrating whales.
Q: Can we hire a car to drive around ourselves?
A: Sorry, there are no Car hire companies operating on Tanna but see our Reception and we will work something out for you.
Q: Do we need to bring beach towels?
A: No. The Resort provides beach towels in your room.
Q: Any shops nearby?
A: The nearest shop to the resort is a 20 minute drive.
The RESORT & Its BOTANY:
Q: Why did you pick Ipak Bay as your location?
A: Silvana and I had lived in Tanna for 6 years hence appreciated the health benefits of building a safe distance from the volcano’s perpetual ash production, in addition to the damages it creates due to its corrosive character. It is also a very beautiful area with pristine reef for snorkelling and swimming in addition to the custom landowners being very cooperative with our environmentally friendly philosophy.
Q: What fruit trees does the resort have?
A: In our first year we are growing numerous different varieties of Avocados; Custards Apples; Lemons; Limes; Mangos; Oranges; Mandarins; Pomplemousse (sweet grapefruit); Pineapples; Bananas; Guavas; and Pawpaws with many more to come. Our soil is enriched by regular poultry manure; wood shavings from our carpentry workshop and plant matter mulching. All this breaks down rapidly in our tropical weather and become a rich compost protective ground cover that reduces evaporation of soil moisture, helps maintain uniform soil temperatures, reduces soil erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil for earthworms to thrive.
Q: How much do the staff get paid?
A: The national basic wage is 200 vatu (plus 4% from Employer & 4% from Employee to VNPF (superannuation) ) . We have around 30 staff members in our team and all are payed above & beyond this rate. Free transport to & from work as well as free meals when at work are provided to all staff.
Q: Why did you not make larger glass windows?
A: Two reasons; it is minimising the glass surface for storm winds to push into your rooms, hence you do not have to totally lock-up the room in cyclone conditions (except a Cat 4+). All windows in the resort are double glazed which insulates your room from sun/heat, requiring less cooling which in turn reduces the resort’s carbon emission from our electricity generators.
Q: Why all the hardwood ceilings?
A: Few reasons; aesthetics, soundproofing and protection against earthquakes as even if the (metal reinforced) 200mm concrete slab above you was fractured, it would not be of any danger to anyone as it is very well supported by the hundreds of hardwood beams.
Q: Why did you choose to use concrete as your main building material instead of timber or cement sheeting like other resorts?
A: Wood exposed to the elements in the tropics deteriorates rapidly and is prone to white ants, termites and borers as well as pose a serious fire hazard issues (no firetruck services in Tanna) and has to be treated with toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Although concrete is much more expensive in Tanna, it is a superior sound proofing medium and 100% safer in cyclone conditions than any other building material.
Things to bring to the outer islands.
Sporting goods - soccer balls that can be inflated, pumps, tennis balls, skipping ropes.
Fishing gear (hooks, lines, lures), small sharpening stones, flashlights.
Baby clothing and blankets, any size T shirts, Towels.
Much of the above can be pre used, they do not care. It will be used and passed on.
Medical/personal health supplies; Toothbrushes, toothpaste, antiseptic cream, waterproof Band-Aids, Betadine cream/jell, cotton buds, cotton balls, Scissors.
School supplies. Writing pads, pencils, rulers, biros, erasers, dictionaries/thesaurus.
Cheap, non-prescription reading glasses take up very little space and are gratefully received by older people.