Immortalised by James Michener as the
magical island of Bali Hai
Its' official name, Ambae was known as Aoba prior to Vanuatu Islands'
independence in the year 1980. It covers 678 square meters about 50 kilometers east of the Espiritu Santo island.
The late American author by the name James Michener who was stationed in Santo as a United States Navy lieutenant,
in World War II, wrote of Bali Hai as a great mystic isle of fascinating beauty in the Pulitzer Prize winning book
"Tales of the South Pacific".
Visible from Santo island, Michener watched the island disappear in the morning mist, which gave him
the inspiration for a magical island paradise, he named Bali Hai. The book evolved into a Broadway
musical with "haunting ballad Bali Hai."
The magical beauty of Ambae island inspired James Michener's famous prize-winning book and
Settlements on the island
The west and the east of the islands are densely populated, with a few villages in between. It's an ideal
destination for those who like hiking or walking holidays, with a few secluded beaches on the south parts of
How to get there
Being close to Vanuatu's largest island Espiritu Santo, it makes it an easily
accessible island. Transport to the island is available frequently from Santo's largest town of Luganville, at a
relatively modest cost.
Ambae is actually shaped like an up turned canoe which has a volcano at the island's center. The Lombenden
(1,496 high) has erupted a number times, and most recently in the year 2005 when the villages near the north coast
region were evacuated. It's the largest of Vanuatu volcanoes.
It is possible to actually climb the Lombenden volcano from the Ambanga village but it is a very rough going,
and a guide will most certainly be required. The volcano is described as one of the top ten most potentially
dangerous volcanoes in the world.
Ambae island is home to Vanuatu's tallest volcano, which is considered one of potentially most
dangerous ones. (Image by Wikimedia)
Ambae itself does attract some tourists, usually coming from Santo. There are actually 3 airstrips on the island
- Walaha, Redcliffe and Longana airports. The local Vanair company, which serves domestic air routes in Vanuatu
islands, has flights from Vanuatu capital Port Vila and of course from Santo's Luganville.
You can snorkel and swim from the beach and/or in the blue hole fresh water pools. Kayaks and landing crafts are
also available for viewing corals. For sightseers, you can get to tour the nearby village, as well as several other
Devil Rock which is near the Walaha Airstrip is one beautiful spot and it is possible to go hiking along north
coast coming from Walaha towards Saratamata near the Longana Airstrip.
There are some guesthouses on Ambae island, in Saratamata, Walaha and Nduindui, which can accommodate
visitors. These include Toa Palms Bungalows, Garden Private Bungalows, and
Tui Lodge. There's also a camping ground on the island.