Miracles on Tanna Island (Vanuatu) | The Family Without Borders

The Family Without Borders

The Travelling family

South PacificVanuatu


Miracles on Tanna Island

Lakaqai village, Middle Bush, Tanna (Vanuatu, South Pacific)

How we won with the system, then lost with the system and at the end had the most wonderful week on the far-away island of Vanuatu (South Pacific).

There is one must-see place in the country of Vanuatu. If the tourist visit the country – he has to go there. Yasur – an active volcano on the Tanna island. But Tanna is few hundreds kilometres away from Efate, the main island, and you need to take plane to get there. 1 hour flight, expensive as a hell, usually in a day package: flying, visiting the volcano and coming back. We really wanted to go there but tickets for 4 of us (just tiny discounts for the kids) and the fact that we will be on such an interesting (the most far away) island of such an interesting country just for few hours – made us decide that this time we will give up. Ok, we don’t have to see everything, right?


One day, while walking through Port Vila, we ended up in a coffee factory. „Tanna Coffee“ it was called and the coffee tasted really good. – Wait a second – said my smart husband. – If they are called „Tanna Coffee“, this coffee must be from Tanna island, right? And I bet they don’t bring the coffee here by plane. There must be a boat, there must be!

We started to talk with Jacob Samuel, who works in the cafe place. – Sure, there is a boat, going there and back every few weeks. – Can we go with the coffee? – Sure, you can!

Goshhhh! We won with the system! We paid some little money and our dream came true: we will go, almost in a romantic way!, with a coffee cargo boat, to Tanna island! Not for a day, but for a week!

Jacob Samuel told us one more thing. He was born on Tanna, in the little village Lakaqai and we’ve got the map how to get to his father’s village. Could it be any better?

We went to the port on a day, we knew the boat was going to start. Jacob Samuel came too, and – surprisingly – decided to join us. He left Tanna 12 years ago and didn’t visit his family since then.

Oh how happy we were in this port! But… not for long. Boat started and maybe after 30 minutes we knew that it was going to be the worst time on our trip. A little space, with closed windows, and we – together with the other people like sardines, holding the metal chairs with both hands, and waves were getting higher and higher… They told us that the ocean is harsh at this part of the ocean but we thought: hey, we were on so many boats, what can be a problem for us? And it was not a big problem for us… But imagine that almost all the other passengers had a problem and every few minutes were crossing the crowds, running to the side of the boat and… simply vomiting. – Bleeee – after – bleee! For… 16 hours. There was nothing we could do. No way to stop the boat, no way to go back. The only thing we knew was that we gonna come back to Port Vila by plane.

When we arrived to Tanna island, we were simply dead. So tired, soooo tired. We took, together with Samuel, some lift by a big car, crossed half of the island and got into the bush. Somewhere there, there is his old village, his father, his sisters and brothers with their families. But what will they tell us? How will they react that such a white family is suddenly coming?

First of all, when they saw us, all the kids run away. They have never seen white people and were truly afraid of us. Then, the father of Samuel, put a mat on the ground, with a serious face he asked us to step on it and all the village came. They stood altogether and sang a song for us. All the men and women of the village, very very loud. And that was a moment, when I knew that all those ugly 16 hours on the boat and then on the bumpy road, that they all made sense. I had tears running down my face.

That was not a moment for filming or making pictures. But after a while with this villagers, I asked one woman to sing this song again for me. And here it is. Just imagine it being sang by the group. Just imagine.

Our life in the Lakaqai village was beautiful and challenging. Cold river, 15 minutes away from the village, a lot of mosquitoes, not much food and amazing hospitality. Very important talks about love and relationship, but I think it’s rather a topic for a longer article or a book.

And don’t forget that Vanuatu is a land of receiving the presents! Food, mats, chickens – all of it we were receiving every hour.

But the most important has happened in the morning. The father of Jacob Samuel, liked Tom from the first sight. That morning he came to our little house and asked him to take a walk with him. He showed him the coffee plantation and his land and then, he pointed on a big sunny grass: – And this is a place for you. I give you this land, that you can build a house for you and your family. – And then I’ve got a wedding skirt from his wife. And they they painted our faces in the wedding way. And they asked us to stand in the coffee and taro leafs place. And then, the boss of the village came to us and gave Tom his walking, wooded, carved stick. The stick, which is THE symbol of power and which should be given to his oldest son, once he passes away. Oh my god. Oh my god. (you should see the faces of those sons!)

– Now you can call me „papa“. – Ok, papa.

What a time in this Lakaqai village we had.

Our first book is out!

We have published our first book (for now just in Polish:) about our Central America Trip.
See, read and order here »


  • Sarah
    Posted November 26, 2014 at 23:22 | Permalink

    Owww! Cowabunga! Guess what? There was a time I thought: pfft, they’ll visit the western parts of the world now, how disappointing. Boy, was I wrong… thanks a lot lot for all these supercoolinspiring stories!!
    They truly make me happy, like I’m almost a child again, or at least another voyager instead living in the midst of a cold and almost-snow country.

    • Anna Alboth
      Posted November 28, 2014 at 00:26 | Permalink

      Why did you think so?

      • Sarah
        Posted November 30, 2014 at 21:22 | Permalink

        Well… I think because it’s my stereotypical image of New-Zealand and Australia. I’m not sure I realised beforehand you were going to go to other areas in the continent. By the way, by reading your adventures, I became more interested in the area and started reading about it (well, Wikipedia and that stuff), and it is a very fascinating area!

  • Tess
    Posted November 27, 2014 at 11:14 | Permalink

    OMG! “They’ve never seen white people”? Come on…Tanna Island is a touristic spot with resorts and dozens of day trips. I’ve been there 4 years ago and participate in the same marriage and welcome rituals. I understand you want good stories but there are limits. “Don’t let the facts spoil a good story” it’s not a nice way of doing this. Sorry, i’m disappointed :(

    • Anna Alboth
      Posted November 28, 2014 at 00:28 | Permalink

      Im quite sure that you didnt participate in the same rituals ;) In which part of this island have you been..?

  • Agnieszka
    Posted December 17, 2014 at 14:57 | Permalink

    Uwielbiam Wasz blog! Jesteście dla mnie ogromną inspiracją. Dlatego dzięki Wam narodził się pomysł wzięcia udziału w konkursie Photo Grants Challenge, tutaj więcej info,gdyby ktoś był zainteresowany:) http://www.facebook.com/photograntschallenge/timeline?ref=page_internal Ponieważ Wasze życie zdaje się być ciągłą wolnością! Pozdrawiam

  • Jacob Samuel
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 04:20 | Permalink

    Hi Thomas and Family

    Jacob Samuel here in the factory. I wanted to say a big hello and thank you for the story and the photos. I received the photos in the mail and it made me very happy. I kept some and the others I sent to my father. I wish you a Happy New year and hope you will come back to Vanuatu again soon.

    The Samuel Family thinks of you as part of our family and hope you will return.

    Much love.

  • Jacob Samuel
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 04:22 | Permalink

    Hi Thomas and Family

    Jacob Samuel here in the factory. I wanted to say a big hello and thank you for the story and the photos. I received the photos in the mail and it made me very happy. I kept some and the others I sent to my father. I wish you a Happy New year and hope you will come back to Vanuatu again soon.

    The Samuel Family thinks of you as part of our family and hope you will return.

    • Kirsten
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 08:52 | Permalink

      Hello Jacob – good to see a comment from the host as well as the visitor. I am planning a trip to Vanuatu this year. I would like to bring some small gifts – what things do people need and want? What do children require? Thanks for any advice (if you get this message, 1.5 years later!)

      best wishes,
      Kirsten in Sydney, Australia

  • Posted January 23, 2016 at 10:28 | Permalink

    Wow! am so happy that you took part in Vanuatu village rituals. How was your expeirence? Was your hubby and kids frightened?


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