Vanua Lava, big island of the Banks
There is plenty to explore on Vanua
Lava: mountains, a volcano, crocodiles, reefs, rivers,
waterfalls and forests. Visitors are few and you will feel like an adventurer, not a tourist.
and Alket Rivers are north of Sola. It is
thought that crocodiles swam to Vanuatu from the Solomon Islands after
getting lost during a cyclone. One crocodile was relocated to Vanua Lava from Maewo in 2003 by
the late Steve Irwin (yes, the crocodile man on TV).
Data source: WMO-Vanuatu Meteorological Service
Mountains obstruct the south-easterly trade winds and create a very wet climate for east Vanua Lava and Sola, with 4.1 metres mean annual rainfall. West Vanua Lava is a rain-shadow area and distinctly dry.
to Vanua Lava are expensive from Port Vila and moderately
so from Santo. You get better value by visiting other islands in the Banks and Torres on the same trip. Stopping over on Gaua is an excellent strategy.
Rural Bungalows on Vanua Lava
Waterfall Bay, west
Vanua Lava is popular with yachts. You can also walk from Sola
to Vureas Bay and onwards to Waterfall Bay. There are two bungalows in the
Nerr Bungalows, Vureas Bay
Malau Yacht Resort, Waterfall Bay
Bungalows in Sola
is the provincial town for the Banks and Torres Islands (TORBA province). From Sola you can make excursions to the Mt Sere Ama
volcano, the Selva River and Kwakea Island. If you're still waiting for a plane at Sola, you could go hiking in the forest on the hill behind the clinic.
2011: A white man
purchased the lease to Kwakea and Nawila islands and apparently he is building a resort. So don't bother visiting Kwakea and Nawila?
are now four guest houses in Sola:
Eliezer Travel Lodge, Sola
Leumerous Guesthouse, Sola
Ulkel Guesthouse, Sola
Wilkin's Guesthouse, Sola
Sola has a Post Office, National Bank of Vanuatu, Police (and Immigration), Customs, TORBA Provincial Government,
shops and guesthouses. The medical clinic is relatively good and the nurse is helpful.
Mobile phone communications arrived to Vanua Lava in 2009 or 2010. They have both Digicel and Smile (TVL). The TVL tower is on Mota Lava and provides good coverage of east Vanua Lava. Digicel is on the hill above Sola and provides more limited coverage. There is no mobile phone coverage on west Vanua Lava to-date.
South American fire
ants have been accidentally introduced via the Solomon
Islands and are now an established pest around Sola.
The airport at Sola has been upgraded with a hard coral surface and now flights are quite reliable.
Air Vanuatu flies to Vanua Lava three times a week:
Monday, Wednesday and Friday. An adult return
fare from to Sola is 41308 Vatu from Vila or 22070 Vatu
from Santo (May 2006). Exchange
Rates. Tourists with an international return Air Vanuatu
ticket are entitled to a 20% discount. Check the Air Vanuatu website for more up-to-date schedules and fares.
When leaving Sola, plan
to be at the airport early. What happens is the pilot radios
ahead from Santo and may decide to change the routing. Confirm
your ticket at least one day before departure.
These days, ships to the Banks and Torres Islands are rather infrequent. You might be lucky but it's not possible to plan ahead for travelling by ship.
Speedboats between Vanua Lava and Mota Lava run almost daily when the weather is fine and this makes it easy to visit both islands. You can fly in to one island, make the crossing by speedboat and fly out from the other island for example. The 20 km journey costs around 10000 Vatu for the whole boat or about 600 Vatu per person, shared. It may be a rough ride if the trade winds are blowing.
Hiring speedboats on Vanua Lava can be difficult. There are plenty of boats but few operational outboard motors. Boats are often booked days in advance.
Sola airport is about 4km by road northwest of Sola (45 minutes walk). There are two or three private trucks on the island, two or three government trucks and one or two belonging to the Anglican diocese. An airport transfer in the back of a truck costs
a few hundred Vatu.
updated: April 2011 by Stephen