PENAMA Province, its name derived from a combination of the first few letters of the 3 main islands Pentecost, Ambae and Maewo, is situated in the central part of the archipelago, approximately 150km north of the nation’s capital. With a population of just under 31,000, this province is one of the most vibrant in natural attractions – from its breathtaking waterfalls, to the volcanic peaks and rugged mountainous ranges; PENAMA is the meca for eco tourists. The proximity of these islands fostered trade dating back to ancient times and this has given the islands shared similarities in arts and crafts, traditional dress, language and customs.
In Vanuatu, behind every island’s name lies a story telling of how this name came about. Pentecost, known by the locals as “Raga” was given this name after its discovery on the Christian White Sunday. Famous for inspiring bungee jumping with its “nagol” jump, Pentecost is an island rooted in tradition and custom and boasts one of the Pacific’s few remaining “kastom” economies, facilitating trade in mats, pigs and kava in exchange for school fees and other major expenses. Ambae, formerly called Aoba, was inspired by James Michener’s mysterious island of Bali Hai in his book “Tales of the South Pacific”. The island itself is a dormant volcano with a volcanic lake in its centre -Lake Vui- rising some 1496m above sea level, with an old caldera to the east. Boasting magnificent rainforests fed by the rich volcanic soil, Ambae like its provincial brothers Pentecost and Maewo, is famous for its water taro, “melo melo” (stone grind) kava and intricately designed fine red mats. Lake Vui is listed under the world’s most dangerous volcanoes because of its catastrophic potential if it were to erupt. PENAMA Provincial headquarters are nestled in a rarely calm but beautiful bay on the north-eastern side of the island, facing the prevailing south westerly winds.
Across the choppy waters to Ambae’s north east lies Maewo – a mysterious, untouched island, abundant with majestic waterfalls, black sand beaches and a rugged mountainous interior. Known as the wettest island in the country, Maewo has remained almost untouched by outside influence. It retains an air of mystery, shrouded in stories of sorcery and secret societies. Maewo’s only testament to any form of geothermal activity is two hot springs which can be accessed from nearby villages.