Explore the Maskelyne Canoe FestivalMalekula, Vanuatu
Looking for an epic Vanuatu cultural event? Then the Maskelyne Canoe Festival, where there’s feasting, kastom dance, traditional craft and canoe making and, of course, the ultimate outrigger canoe race, should head to the top of your travel hit list.
Attended by locals and travellers, the festival takes place every July, in a tiny archipelago called the Maskelyne Islands, off the coast of Vanuatu's second largest island, Malekula. The Maskelynes are a pristine group of low-lying islands with extensive reefs and mangroves. You’ll find welcoming bungalow accommodation, mainly on the island of Uluveo, at places like Batis Seaside Bungalows, which can be booked through Airbnb.
The two-day festival has four rounds of competitive canoe racing, which see men, women and children competing in individual, team and relay races. However, there‘s much more to do than simply watching the fast paddling action. Try traditional kakae (island food) or watch members of the local community perform kastom songs and dances.
Travellers are encouraged to spend more time in the area after the festival, exploring some of Vanuatu’s most linguistically and culturally diverse islands. As the islands are surrounded by a protected marine park, there’s the chance to snorkel the reefs – you might even get lucky enough to spot a dugong. Out of the water, hike diverse terrain or spend time in one of the local villages learning about the unique culture and history of the islands.
- Witnessing the ultimate outrigger canoe race
- Sampling the local cuisine
- Experiencing the Ni-Vanuatu culture and getting to know some of the friendliest people in the world
- Snorkelling the pristine reefs – the islands are one of the top spots in the archipelago to see dugongs and sea turtles
- Mobile signal isn’t great on these islands so you’ll have to post your Instagram snaps when you’re back on the mainland
Visitors can jump on a 40-minute domestic flight from Port Vila to Lamap airport then connect to the Maskelyne Islands on a local boat transfer from Point Doucere. Each village in the Maskelynes typically has its own boat. It’s best to confirm a pick-up with your accommodation before travelling.
A seven-day trip with Crooked Compass to experience this festival starts at AU$2,969.