Ambae Map, Vanuatu
Ambae is the legendary Bali Hai invented by American novelist James Michener and later popularized in the Broadway musical South Pacific. During WW II, Michener was stationed on nearby Espiritu Santo Island, and the sight of Ambae looming mysteriously on the horizon inspired one of Michener's best stories.
Until the independence of Vanuatu in 1980, Ambae was known as Aoba, a misnomer dating from the arrival of the first Europeans. An early explorer asked a local chief what the island was called, and the chief understood that he was asking the name of a bird which happened to be flying past at that moment, an aoba.
Ambae is shaped like an upturned canoe with an active volcano in the center of the island. Lombenden (1,496) has erupted many times, most recently in 2005 when villages along the north coast were evacuated as a precaution. It's possible to climb the volcano from Ambanga village but it's very rough going and a guide or guides will definitely be required.
A few small guest houses in Walaha, Nduindui, and Saratamata accommodate visitors, and three airstrips at the vertices of this triangular island receive flights from Espiritu Santo. Devil Rock near Walaha Airstrip is a beauty spot and it's possible to hike along the north coast from Walaha to Saratamata near Longana Airstrip in long day.
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