Travel north from the main island of Efate and you’ll discover Penama province and its jewel Maewo. With its rivers, waterfalls and an abundance of postcard-perfect tropical scenery, it’s an island the Ni-Vanuatu people refer to as the “untouched of the untouched paradise”.
From above, it looks like an emerald dropped into the blue ocean, so remote that it’s hard to imagine anyone actually living here. As you descent to the tiny airstrip, you’ll spy waterfalls splashing over cliffs and some thatched roofs emerging through the jungle near the sea.
Your guide will meet you at the door of the plane with a smile and a warm welcome handshake and the walk inland begins. You’re heading towards Naone, Vanuatu’s second tallest waterfall. The bush is dense, damp and cooler than the exposed airstrip. A path that has to be negotiated rock by rock extends upriver .
Eventually you’ll hear a deep, thunderous sound and see a massive amount of water cascading from the rocks. While the height may only be 20 metres or so, the waterfall is wide, full and more imposing than you might have expected. The pool beneath the cascade is inviting and you’ll be welcomed in by a few locals already cooling off.
After a good dip and chat climb further up the rocks to an elevated spot from which to jump. Take care because the rocks are slippery and green with algae. Make it to the top, though, and you’ll feel like the king of the castle as fond childhood memories come flooding back. Take your stance and count – one, two, three – before plunging into the water below. It’s worth the hike up and the nostalgia will drive you to jump again and again.
Air Vanuatu only flies to Maewo a few times a week. Check the domestic schedule and remember if you book when in Vanuatu with your international ticket in hand, you get 20 per cent off your domestic flight price.
Book everything else through the Vanuatu tourist centre either in the provinces or go into the office in Port Vila.
The tour to Naone Waterfall costs about $US80.
It’s an easy walk, but wear shoes with good grip as the rocks can be slippery.