Reef Islands, also called Rowa ('ro-wa'), are a cluster of
coral cays between Mota Lave and Ureparapara, in northern
Vanuatu. These low-lying islands have been uninhabited since
1939, when the people left after a severe tropical cyclone.
The kastom landowners
now live on Ureparapara, Vanua Lava and Mota Lava. Visitors
to the Reef Islands are people from nearby islands on fishing
trips and sometimes cruising yachts.
Islands are enclosed by a large, horseshoe-shaped reef that
protects an expansive lagoon with sandy shallows. The five
small islands are mostly sand built up over reefs and at low
tide you can walk between the islands. To the northwest is
a large break in the reef and an anchorage.
island there is much evidence of village gardens with stone
walls, breadfruit trees and bananas. There are also some black
stones which must have been imported from neighbouring, volcanic
islands. Some of these are flat with many grooves and were
apparently used for making shell money.
island is a favourite spot for beachcombing and some people
call it 'China Town' because you can find many things there.
island is covered in low scrub and has the ruins of the old
village. There are brackish ponds on Enwot. Early inhabitants
probably dug wells and found potable ground water. Today,
visitors bring their own drinking water. As a backup, there
island is drier and there's a camp site at the northern tip.
the smallest island, looks like a sparsely vegetated sandbar.
and remote, the Reef Islands are vulnerable to exploitation.
It is said that all of the sea cucumbers (beche le mer) were
harvested by Asians in the 1980s. Also, shark-finning has
greatly reduced numbers of sharks. Today, most people visit
for simply for recreation and fishing. Sea Mullet are plentiful
and the locals always bring a net.
the Reef Islands
Visiting the Reef Islands is an expedition. You need a boat,
camping equipment, food and water. The best place to find
a speedboat is on Mota Lava.
L petrol (at cost)
Vatu for boat and captain
Vatu fee to for land owner
likely that land owners living on Vanua Lava and Ureparapara
see any of the 5000 Vatu fee!
perfect conditions, it only takes one hour by speedboat from
Mota Lava to the Reef Islands. In a choppy sea the crossing
can take up to 2 hours. If winds are strong you should wait
for calmer weather although the local speedboat Captains are
don't mind camping a few days, beachcombing and fishing and
you usually would not pay any daily compensation.
surveyed: October 2005 by Stephen.
Last updated: October 2012 by Steve and Pip.