Efate, Vanuatu

The Island that Survived “Survivor”

Passengers from "Congoola/Lady of the Seas" are transported to one of the islands that hosted "Survivor"
robin of efate
Robin, a crew member of the Vanuatu native "Congoola/Lady of the Seas" who witnessed the development of Efate's "Survivor" phenomenon.
jungle music
The band from Ekasup Cultural Village is a village created to showcase aspects of traditional Vanuatu life.
of scale
Support boat about to arrive at the sailboat "Congoola/Lady of the Seas"
Natives at Mele Waterfalls
Father and son walk along the flooded base of one of the most famous waterfalls in lush Efate.
to the bow
Passengers socialize and enjoy the scenery of Efate aboard the Congoola/Lady of the Seas.
true surviving village
Traditional village of Efate, lost in the lush interior of the island.
Much of Vanuatu lives in a blessed post-savage state. Maybe for this, reality shows in which aspirants compete Robinson Crusoes they settled one after the other on their most accessible and notorious island. Already somewhat stunned by the phenomenon of conventional tourism, Efate also had to resist them.

For most people, Vanuatu is nothing more than a big question mark, a cognitive void that contemplates all possible imaginaries.

In practice, the name identifies an absolutely unique archipelago in the South Pacific, formed by eighty-two tropical islands of relatively recent geological origin, from which several are projected. active volcanoes.

Of the total, 65 remain uninhabited, even wilder than the rest.

For four thousand years, the others were exclusively shared by Melanesian tribes warriors and cannibals with a provenance that remains under study. Until European explorers arrived in the area and disputed them.

Without your obligation to complain about anything, we calmly disembark at Bauerfield Airport and are treated to a hilarious reception.

One of the string band he plays with all his soul, transmitting to us, through the musicians' caricature posture, the instruments that seem to be playing and the voices of cracked cane, the feeling that we are joined to a cartoon.

Band Ekasup Cultural Village, Efate, Vanuatu

Music band from Ekasup Cultural Village in Efate, Vanuatu.

Discovering Efate, based on the Capital Port Vila

In tourist terms, Port Vila is the national star, more famous than Efate or even the country itself. The capital serves as a gateway to Australians, New Zealanders and Japanese who flock there through cheap holiday packages, limited, therefore, to the coastal places touched by ships and to the trails more than beaten by agencies.

Port Vila and Efate are Vanuatu but a very smooth version, a world apart from its other islands where any small expedition descends into a crazy adventure. We started by exploring that introductory Vanuatu, that same evening, through its most interesting corners.

The next morning we visit the market. At first sight and in that almost pioneering incursion into popular Melanesia, the similarity of the visuals, the bright colors of the natives' clothes and the basic tropical products on display make it look like any sub-Saharan African market.

Gradually, the differences stand out. Unlike Africans, tissue patterns do not include animal forms. Afterwards, we also noticed the mysterious blond hair of the children and the Bislama dialect that infantilizes, in a fun way, the millenary and institutional English language: “tankyu tumas” this is how the sellers close our purchases, uncommitted to the original “Thank you only much".

We buy papayas and mangos. Also grapefruits, the most succulent and sweet we've ever tasted. We never thought that food adaptation to those parts would prove so fast.

Since then, they have been part of our diet, such as durians, taro and, without much alternative, baguettes, part of the legacy left by the French who controlled the archipelago in condominium with the English, until independence in 1980.

Team formed in the Portico of the Independence of Vanuatu, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Group of friends from Luganville poses on a portico celebrating 28 years of independence from Vanuatu

The History and the Tropical and Melanesian daily life of Efate, Vanuatu

Port Vila houses some buildings from the colonial period that began in 1906. We pass in its main nucleus on Rue Carnot and Rue de Paris, now known as Chinatown because most of its shops and warehouses are explored by Chinese merchants.

During World War II, US military forces established massive radio stations crucial to the mission of halting Japan's hitherto overwhelming expansion in the Pacific Ocean. These stations were called Number One, Two and Three.

The last two have been preserved with the corresponding names in Bislama: Nambatu and Nambatri and are located in the finest residential area of ​​Port Vila. Nambawan was occupied by Independence Park.

We had been accommodated on one of the top floors of one of the tallest buildings in the city. From the bedroom window, we admire the anthill activity around two boats moored next to the jetty that delimits the capital, with no sign of sight of the cruises that visit her from time to time.

We see them delivered to the colorful loads and unloads that preceded their departure and the stepping stone route through several inhabited islands of the Vanuatu nation. It didn't take long to find ourselves aboard a completely different vessel.

Once one of the organization's sailboats in the Sydney-Hobart regatta, the “lady of the sea” moved to the much warmer and gentler seas around Efate and began to reveal its tropical wonders to new passengers.

Guide Robin, Efate, Vanuatu, Congoola - Lady of the Sea

Guide Robin sails towards the coast of Efate.

When "Survivor" invaded Vanuatu

We sail towards an island called Tranquility where we are supposed to stop for bathing recreation, including snorkeling among the turtles.

Before we get there, however, the helmsman and guide points out to a lush coastline. “Boys, there is Gideon's Landing, one of Efate's many Survivor domains.

Efate, Vanuatu, Return to Congoola - Lady of the Sea

Passengers from “Congoola – Lady of the Seas” back to the boat.

The Australian celebrities who participated were all there.

Two French teenagers come to the rail and admire and comment on the scene in ecstasy, not because of its possible biblical context, but because of the media importance it has achieved. They are waiting for the helmsman's indication of where the sixth series of the French version took place.

Meanwhile, they indulge in a series of memories of the unforgettable moments of Koh Lanta, the Gallic version of reality show which only the time of entering the water with masks and fins puts an end to it.

It is up to us to elucidate readers who insist on resisting TV or its programs of this type: “Survivor” is a reality show contest of skill and survival. British producer Charlie Parson invented it in 1992 for the Planet 24 producer, which he owned halfway with (who would have guessed…) Sir Bob Geldof.

The contest has been franchised. It issued it for the first time while “Expedition: robinson” Sweden's Sveriges Television which, in 1997, took its competitors to Malaysia. This debut was a great success.

Since then, the contest has spread to the world like a television virus. Numerous channels from different nations have developed their own Survivors.

"Vanuatu, Islands on Fire", the Series that revealed Vanuatu to the World

“Vanuatu, Islands on Fire”, the first to be filmed in Efate, in 2004, was already the ninth series of the North American contest. In the following years, Efate also received the second series of “Australian Survivor” and “Koh Lanta”, the sixth series of the French version.

In 2011, even part of the Portuguese version of “Perdidos na Tribo” was installed there. The program assumed that twelve Portuguese VIPs would move to live among tribes of different regions of the world. It lasted much less than expected. Competitors never estimated that the conditions they were going to live in were so harsh.

In either case, the formula of reality show dictates that the participants divide into rival tribes of would-be castaways.

These tribes must build shelters and survive in the wild with minimal resources: machetes, canteens, small pots and controlled amounts of rice and other cereals.

Vanuatu, coast of Efate used in Survivor

Efate Coast: an encounter of coral reef with Melanesian rainforest, as used by “Survivor”

They face pre-established challenges for production that lead to their successive elimination. Until a unique tribe is formed in which the last survivors confront each other. Prizes, money or enviable goods, are always big.

The Ridiculousness of Vanuatu Culture and Other Cons of Survivor

We return to the beach and have a conversation with Robin, a young ni-vanuatu crew member of the vessel.

We didn't take long to address the topic: “the truth is that it gave money to many people here. The owners of some of the places did their life's business. But we soon realized how (Survivor) used and corrupted our culture.”

We only had to investigate a little for the examples of this conclusion to be revealed. During the American series, the two competing tribes borrowed the names of Yasur (tanna island volcano) and Lopevi, two of the most emblematic volcanoes in the archipelago and in all of Melanesia.

“Vanuatu, Islands on Fire” opened theatrically with eighteen North American participants descending from the sailboat we were on to board a small fleet of canoes. Two of the competitors fell overboard but were hoisted up by the natives who took them close to the coast.

while the young survivors walking on shallow waters, flocks of painted natives, covered in leaves and in vegetable skirts, ran towards them, shouting and brandishing spears.

Then came a tribal chief who welcomed the outsiders, who had arrived with a mission that, more than not understanding, 95% of the Ni-Vanuatu population found ridiculous.

Ekasup Cultural Village, Efate, Vanuatu

Ekasup Cultural Village showgirl in traditional Vanuatu costume.

When “Vanuatu, Islands on Fire” Becomes a National Mockery

The society and press based in Port Vila, took the opportunity to have fun. The Vanuatu Daily Post ran a cartoon that showed two tribal women from across the nation enjoying a briefing broadcast to contestants by a host of the reality show with military look and befitting tone:

“To earn the million dollars, you have to survive 39 days without electricity, running water, hot showers and telephones; completely isolated from the modern world!” At the side, one of the ladies comments to the other, in bislama: “But what, aunt? What's so special about that? My old mother has lived like this all her life!”

Ironically, the contest has been criticized time and time again for its radical primitivism, for the contestants being dumped in the wild, among dangerous or lethal plants and animals whose cameras displayed close-up shots to the sound of drumming.

This is despite the participants' tribal camps being just an hour's drive from four-star hotels in Port Vila.

Efate, Vanuatu, inland village

Traditional village of Efate, lost in the lush interior of the island.

In Efate, in particular, few natives were overly concerned about the lack of genuineness and blatant ethnic respect of a fiction that contributed to the natives' prosperity, not necessarily their happiness.

Displaced Eruptions and Other Lies That Made “Survivor” Survive Time

Images used to illustrate the Yasur team revealed exuberant eruptions of the Lopevi volcano – the one that symbolized the homonymous opposing team – this because Yasur only had very contained Strombolian eruptions, as such. The show had to shine above all, including the most basic truths and realities of the country.

For a fortnight, we explored other parts of Efate and five other islands, each amazing in its own way. At that time, we realized how Vanuatu maintains a fascinating balance between the most absolute innocence and the forced learning of Western civilization.

Gradually, more and more inhabitants stop considering the curious western whims of the reality shows who take advantage of the exuberance and that same innocence of the country. All in all, the nation proudly preserves itself ni-vanuatu with all the purity of values ​​that the gentile entails.

As for the “Survivor”, twenty years later, it resists. In September 2016, thirty-two seasons and eighteen countries later, he returned to the neighboring nation of Fiji.

In recent times, Vanuatu has had its dose of natural disasters. Located above the ring of fire, it was recently shaken by earthquakes with magnitudes well in excess of 7. In 2015, Cyclone Pam caused extensive damage to several islands, including Efate.

Efate, Vanuatu, Congoola - Lady of the Sea, Efate, Vanuatu

Support boat approaches the schooner “Congoola-Lady of The Seas”, off the island of Efate

Even so, the rumors are repeated that the contest will soon return there.

In the meantime, tourists continue to arrive more interested in discovering the places where the various Survivors unfolded than Vanuatu itself.

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