Held in the stunning Maskelyne islands just south of mainland Malekula, the Maskelyne Canoe Festival is no ordinary event: it’s an amazing fusion of culture, sport, and community spirit.
The event occurs every year from 26–28 of July in Peskarus village. It is timed to take place just before the local celebrations for national Independence on 30 July. It sees both men and women race across the water just offshore from these beautiful islands.
Visitors to these parts during this festival are warmly welcomed, and there’s a range of other activities taking place alongside the canoe races to keep you busy.
For food lovers, visitors can join in and help prepare Vanuatu’s national dish, lap-lap, in village kitchens. Coming together to bake lap-lap is a social event for the community. It provides the perfect opportunity for community members and visitors to share jokes, stories and laughs while preparing a delicious meal.
Lap-lap is just one of many feasts that you can experience while in the Maskelynes. While the food is baking, visitors can go off to learn the art of mat or basket weaving. There are even weaving competitions that take place during the festival! There is also local carving, in which village men and boys are always ready to show off their skills to visitors. Canoe carving is a skill that is proudly passed down the generations, and visitors are encouraged to take part and learn a thing or two from the village men. Littered around the island are many tracks that visitors can go off to explore in between races, or after the canoe festival. Your accommodation provider can organize tours to Sakao Island, where visitors can go for scenic walks through the rainforest to a white sandy beach where you can enjoy a meal prepared by the hosts. It is also possible to visit the nearby Ringi Te Suh Marine Conservation Area for a snorkel and meet the array of marine wildlife, including dugongs. Back at the event site, locals, and visitors alike can join the kastom dances throughout the day. This is the perfect time to let loose and join in unison with the stomps, jumps, claps, and excitement of the villagers showcasing their unique traditions. The main event itself, the outrigger canoe race, is a sight to behold. With the amazing backdrop of Maskelynes Group’s tiny islands, the outrigger canoes sit in contrast to teh clear tropical water as each racer sits ready to compete. At the start signal, the prowess of each competitor’s sailing and paddling skills comes out in display as they take off towards the finish line.
Shouts of excitement go up as the crowd urge on their favourite racers, and the sound of the paddles hitting the water reverberates and the delicious smell of the village feasts roasting and baking in the fire makes this event truly unforgettable. At the end of each day, a special treat of oysters as ‘wasem maot’ awaits kava drinkers to mark the day’s end on the white sandy beach at sunset.
Where to stay. Located in the beautiful plant lined paths of Pellongk village, Batis Bungalows offers private, comfortable and affordable waterfront accommodation while discovering the diversity of the unique marine wildlife in the Maskelyne islands. To book, call 7751463. Malog Bungalows is right on the water on stunning Maskelyne Island, off the south coast of Malekula Island, Vanuatu. There are beautiful bungalows and lots of activities/tours, including dugong viewing, snorkeling, canoe tours and hiking. To book, call 5343687.
Senelich Bungalows is located inside Vanuatu’s biggest Mangrove Conservation Area on the water, Senelich Bungalows has two very attractive over-water bungalows with their own decks over the water and facing east towards the sunrise and Ambrym’s volcanoes. There are two garden bungalow options and one family bungalow. Each bungalow has a generous double bed, writing and bedside tables and unique local decoration. All five bungalows have their own private modern toilet and shower facilities. To Book, call 5737011. How to get there Air Vanuatu flies weekly to Lamap Airport at Malekula Island. At Lamap Airport you will drive 5 minutes to Point Doucere/ Lamap Landing where you will then take a boat through the Maskelyne Sound to the small islands. Flights can also be organized through Unity Airlines by calling 24475 or emailing unityairlines.reservations@ vanuatu.com.vu or Air Taxi by calling 5544206 or by emailing info@ airtaxivanuatu.com.
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