Millennium Cave, Vanuatu, July 28, 2019

Tony Crocker

Staff member
For our non-dive day on Espiritu Santo we opted for the all day adventure to Millennium Cave. The people at Aore Island resort warned us that it was a rigorous trip and that recently some people at the resort had bailed out during the rough 4x4 ride to the trailhead, but of course we were not deterred.

It's winter dry season, but on South Pacific Islands that's not absolute as in our Australia stops. It was cloudy most of our time on Santo and it rained during the Port Vila layover, our first afternoon on Santo and once overnight. It didn't seem like a lot of rain, but on tropical islands it rains more in the hills than it does at the coast.

We checked out of Aore Island Resort and were on the 8AM ferry to Santo at 8AM. We were transferred to the office to store our luggage and sign waivers. Here's the map of the day's activities.

The road to the trailhead at Nambel village was slow going through numerous water filled potholes. The first 20 minute walk to Vunaspef village was extremely muddy.

Due to the swim part of this trip I wore Teva sandals. But when I stepped in deep mud, the mud became a lubricant between my feet and the sandals, making the footing less secure. I was able to get my feet and sandals rinsed at Vunaspef and watched my step carefully from then on. Liz fell in the mud once but in general she was better off as she had neoprene socks as well as sandals.

We get another chance to rinse at the Bamboo River.

Our guides got some bamboo walking sticks for us in the forest.

This is where we stopped for the face painting.

Liz is here with Joe from Australia.

This is perhaps the longest of several wooden ladders we descended.

After an hour and 45 minutes total hiking we reach the cave entrance.


Looking back at the cave entrance:

We were provided with flashlights for the cave. The cave walk was still difficult because it was in water and over sizable rocks. The guides kept an eye on us for assistance and gave us the helpful advice that white rocks have the most secure footing. I got warm from the hike, particularly wearing a life jacket. So I was delighted to find a waterfall in the cave and spent a couple of minutes under it. Liz and her guide were ahead and didn't see that but she took some flash pictures inside.


End of the cave:


The exit from Millennium Cave was our lunch stop.

After lunch we get a short refreshing swim.


Next is the canyoning descent.

This involved climbing over and around large boulders. In some places ropes, chains and metal steps/grips were installed.




Finally we get the reward of the long swim.

This starts in a narrow slot.

Then the river widens some.


View up:

We get a nice side waterfall here too.

Some mellow floating:


The guide leads Liz around a choke point.

I preferred to stay in the water as much as possible.

End of the swim:


It's a half hour climb back to Vunaspef village. Climbing this stream over the rocks was easier than the ladders.

After a few ladders we were in the forest.

Then we walked though some coconut palms.

And finally we reached Vunaspef village, where some kids are playing here.

We got some fresh fruit refreshment, followed by the walk to Nambel and the hour drive out. We changed clothes at the office and were off to the airport to fly to Port Vila.

This was a unique and excellent adventure in our experience, as the pictures show. If this is what Millennium Cave is like during the dry season, I have to believe it is often closed during the wet summer. The cave and river could be dangerous in high water and the road access could be cut off.

The actual 4 hours spent walking, climbing and swimming is not that long. The challenge (and limitation for some people) is the agility and balance required on muddy trails, wood ladders and the cave walk with uneven light and on rocks partially underwater.

The people in Vanuatu look quite similar to their neighbors in Fiji to the east, perhaps a bit shorter in stature. Like the Fijians, they are very hospitable to visitors. But Fiji is booming with tourism while Vanuatu is much more low key.