Malekula, island of diversity
Malekula is linguistically and culturally diverse: there are 28 languages spoken, and it’s a favoured stamping ground for anthropologists. Two of its major cultural groups are the Big Nambas and Small Nambas, originating from the size of the men’s nambas (penis sheath). Malekula has more bungalows and conservation areas than neighbouring Santo and is Vanuatu 's most culturally diverse island. The interior of Malekula is mountainous, rugged and forest-covered with good walking and bird watching. There are old cannibal sites hidden in the bush on north Malekula, but at many the bones and skulls have been removed or buried. The Maskelynes and the small offshore islands along the east coast of Malekula have sand beaches and coral reefs with good snorkelling and diving.
Malekula's economy is largely based on agriculture with extensive copra plantations on the eastern coastal plains around Norsup and Lakatoro. Norsup's past glory has faded and Lakatoro has taken over as the main town in Malekula. Lakatoro has more stores, a market house, a National Bank of Vanuatu branch, an Air Vanuatu office, the main wharf and it is the administrative centre for MALAMPA province (Malekula, Ambrym, and Paama). Norsup has the provincial hospital. Both Norsup and Lakatoro have telephones and 24 hour electricity.
Road Transport —Lakatoro is Malekula's road transport hub. The best place to find trucks is at the Lakatoro Trading Centre (especially for the north) where you'll find many people waiting for transport on weekdays. Trucks come to town in the mornings and return to the villages in the afternoons. There are several trucks along the northeast coast as far as Vao with departures as late as 1600H. There are fewer trucks servicing the south. The road around Port Sandwich is rough and may be closed if there has been a cyclone and/or heavy rain. Alternatively, you can catch a speedboat across Port Sandwich. The road north of Black Sands is better. However, some sections north of Banam Bay are prone to landslides and the Pankumu river can't be forded when in flood.