Mele Cascades

Mele Village / Port Vila, Shefa Province, Vanuatu

About Mele Cascades


Hiking Distance: tour; 2-3km round trip
Suggested Time: 3 hours

Date first visited: 2014-11-29
Date last visited: 2014-11-29

Waterfall Latitude: -17.6756
Waterfall Longitude: 168.25512

Of all the waterfalls we’ve visited in Vanuatu, Mele Cascades had to have been the most well-known.

Given this notoriety, it was only natural to see for ourselves whether this attention was justified or if it was all hype.

Mele_038_11282014 - The Mele Cascades
The Mele Cascades

But in our experiences, coming in with such expectations tended to be a setup for disappointment.

Nevertheless, we suspected that the popularity of the Mele Cascades was largely due to its accessibility from Port Vila (Vanuatu’s busiest town, which was probably as close to being a city as an island paradise can have).

So did the waterfalls meet the hype?

Well, the Mele Cascades were basically a series of travertine or limestone cascades.

The uppermost tiers featured the tallest drops (which I’d imagine was well over 30m or so high).

Mele_057_11282014 - Closeup look at the uppermost drop of the Mele Cascades
Closeup look at the uppermost drop of the Mele Cascades

There was also a somewhat hidden companion waterfall that was probably half the height of the main drop.

Meanwhile, the lower tiers of the waterfall were more like smaller drops that had walkable limestone surfaces.

Some parts of the walking paths were ridges acting like water channels over which parts of the cascades flowed before tumbling over dropoffs on either side.

Indeed, we were dealing with a waterfall that had the substance as well as the fun factor to boot.

Thus, I’d have to say that the Mele Cascades had largely met our high expectations (no easy feat given our jaded tastes).

Basic Logistics

Mele_001_11282014 - The entrance to the Mele Cascades complex
The entrance to the Mele Cascades complex

Like with the quieter Lololima Waterfalls, we went with a tour company.

So after booking our visit, we arranged to be picked up from our Port Vila accommodation.

However, unlike Lololima Waterfalls, the Mele Cascades Tour with Evergreen Vanuatu had three options.

We went with the straightforward option one, which was just the main waterfall itself.

Option two involved a tour of Mele Village and some “secret” garden.

Mele_005_11282014 - Passing through some gardens on the way to the trail leading to the Mele Cascades
Passing through some gardens on the way to the trail leading to the Mele Cascades

Option three involved an abseil down the main drop of the waterfall.

Apparently, it was also possible to self-drive to the Mele Cascades car park or even hire one of those “buses”.

By the way, these “busses” were really vans essentially doubling as public transport except it operated more like a taxi service).

Doing it the independent way like this might save a little more money though independent visitors would still be subject to the 2000 vatu per person kastom fee.

Our tour costed us 3600 per person (though we did receive a discount, which we weren’t quite sure what for but we’ll take it).

Mele_012_11282014 - Julie and Ronald following another group of tourists making their way on an established trail leading to the Mele Cascades
Julie and Ronald following another group of tourists making their way on an established trail leading to the Mele Cascades

Anyhow, the ride to Mele Cascades was roughly 15-20 minutes from our accommodation in the south of Port Vila.

We were accompanied by our guide Ronald, who was a young and very friendly ni-Van local from the village of Mele (said to be the largest native village in all of Vanuatu), as well as the driver Kenny.

Apparently, Evergreen Tours was said to be owned and run by the Mele Village itself.

Our Mele Cascades Experience

That said, given how accessible the Mele Cascades were, we were told that over 600-1000 people at one time could be at the Mele Cascades on a busy day, especially when cruise ships arrive.

Mele_016_11282014 - Ascending quite a few steps on the trail leading to the Mele Cascades
Ascending quite a few steps on the trail leading to the Mele Cascades

The day of our visit happened to be a designated cruise ship day, but Ronald told us that someone fell overboard on the cruise ship bound for Port Vila.

They had to return to Sydney while search and rescue went looking for the missing passenger.

And that instantly made the experience quieter, which was readily apparent when we showed up at the car park and there were hardly any people there (it was around 9:30am by that time).

In any case, we followed Ronald past some change rooms and past a bar adjacent to a clear pool full of fish while blaring some ni-Van reggae music.

Mele_020_11282014 - Julie and Ronald walking on an established trail headed towards the Mele Cascades
Julie and Ronald walking on an established trail headed towards the Mele Cascades

We then proceeded onto an uphill trail with quite a few steps to ascend.

After the steps, the trail then undulated beneath a partially open jungle while also skirting and traversing parts of the stream responsible for the Mele Cascades.

Ronald said there used to be guided walks inside the stream itself, but apparently there were too many slip-and-fall injuries so we just followed the trail on our own, which itself skirted the banks of the stream.

And after spending about 15-20 minutes of walking and accumulating a bit of sweat thanks to the humidity, we eventually made it to the main part of the Mele Cascades.

Mele_042_11282014 - Climbing up to the middle tiers of Mele Cascades with folks swimming near the dark grotto on the right
Climbing up to the middle tiers of Mele Cascades with folks swimming near the dark grotto on the right

With the watchful eye of Ronald, we left our stuff by the shelter and platform before getting into the water itself.

Our play time in the Mele Cascades pretty much was a combination of walking on the unusual ridges acting as water channels as we climbed our way up to the base of the tall, uppermost waterfalls.

I’d imagine that if any part of the waterfalls could be abseiled, it would be the vertical drops of these uppermost waterfalls.

Footholds were carved into the limestone to make climbing over the wet surfaces easier.

Mele_044_11282014 - Julie climbing up footholds on her way to the front of the uppermost of the Mele Cascades
Julie climbing up footholds on her way to the front of the uppermost of the Mele Cascades

After having our fill of looking at the upper cascades, we then retreated to the shadier pools around the smaller lower cascades for the rest of our play time.

In addition to just soaking, I also managed to get massaged (or pummeled) by some of the cascades as they crashed onto me.

Ronald let us stay in the water for as long as we wanted, but we wound up probably in the water for about an hour or so.

All around, the experience at Mele Cascades was fun and relaxing, especially since we were amongst just a handful of visitors that showed up.

Mele_Cascades_009_jx_11292014 - Cooling off in one of the lower pools at the Mele Cascades
Cooling off in one of the lower pools at the Mele Cascades

When we got out of the water and dried off, we accompanied Ronald back towards the main entrance area (noting that we took a slightly different walking path to get there as we were on the other side of the stream).

Anyways, we paid for the tour and got a refreshing platter of fruits consisting of very sweet pineapple, papaya (or paw paw as they say here), bananas, brown coconut, and even passion fruit.

Our tour pretty much came to an end roughly 2.5- to 3 hours from our start time at around 9am.

Although we were supposed to be dropped off at our accommodation, Ronald and Kenny accommodated our request to be dropped off in downtown Port Vila.

Mele_073_11282014 - People swimming at the base of the uppermost tiers of the Mele Cascades
People swimming at the base of the uppermost tiers of the Mele Cascades

That way, we could do a little eating and shopping before the places would close up for the rest of Saturday afternoon.

Of course, we would have to find our own transport back to our accommodation, but by then, we were pretty familiar with their system of getting around.

More specifically, we paid the 300 vatu it would typically take to be driven the 5km or so from Port Vila to our accommodation further south.

Authorities

The Mele Cascades reside by the Mele Village near Port Vila on Efate Island, Vanuatu. We booked this excursion through Evergreen Tours, which is owned and run by the village. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Mele_003_11282014 - Going past the change rooms as we made our way through the entrance complex and towards the Mele Cascades
Mele_008_11282014 - Lots of fish swimming in the clear pool by the bar as we made our way to the Mele Cascades
Mele_011_11282014 - After the bar, we had to go up several steps en route to the Mele Cascades
Mele_015_11282014 - Some pretty cascades seen early on in our walk to the actual Mele Cascades
Mele_018_11282014 - When the climb ended, the trail opened up a bit more while flattening out en route to the Mele Cascades
Mele_022_11282014 - Julie traversing one of the stream crossings on the trail to the Mele Cascades
Mele_023_11282014 - Julie going across the next stream crossing shortly thereafter on the way to the Mele Cascades
Mele_024_11282014 - Going by a bamboo tree as we got closer to Mele Cascades
Mele_026_11282014 - This attractive cascade was just down stream of the main part of Mele Cascades
Mele_029_11282014 - A look back at the trail in the jungle as we were getting even closer still to Mele Cascades
Mele_033_11282014 - When we first looked at this part of Mele Cascades, we could see straight away that it was indeed impressive
Mele_Cascades_001_jx_11292014 - Closer look at the scramble leading higher up the Mele Cascades
Mele_036_11282014 - Julie proceeding ahead first to get closer to the main drop of Mele Cascades
Mele_Cascades_007_jx_11292014 - Closer look at the footing of the scramble leading higher up the Mele Cascades towards the base of the uppermost drop
Mele_037_11282014 - Julie climbing higher up the Mele Cascades
Mele_Cascades_011_jx_11292014 - Closer look at the footing of the middle cascades just beneath the uppermost drop of the Mele Cascades
Mele_Cascades_014_jx_11292014 - Context of the penultimate cascade before the uppermost of the Mele Cascades
Mele_052_11282014 - Finally in front of the main or uppermost drop of the Mele Cascades
Mele_053_11282014 - Looking up at the main drop of the Mele Cascades fronted by one of the middle drops
Mele_054_11282014 - Looking downstream towards the swimming holes and plunge pools at the lower tiers of Mele Cascades
Mele_066_11282014 - Direct look at the somewhat hidden companion waterfall adjacent to the main drop of Mele Cascades
Mele_Cascades_028_jx_11292014 - That's me swimming towards the relatively 'hidden' waterfall ahead of me.  There was also a tiny cave around and behind that waterfall
Mele_Cascades_043_jx_11292014 - Looking up at Mele Cascades from the area where Julie and I cooled off in the water
Mele_074_11282014 - Context of the jungle when looking downstream from the main drop of Mele Cascades
Mele_075_11282014 - Julie back on the trail after having our fill of the Mele Cascades as we were headed back to the car park
Mele_077_11282014 - Continuing along the trail back to the Mele Cascades entrance complex after having had our fill of the waterfall
Mele_078_11282014 - Going back down the steps leading to the Mele Cascades entrance complex
Mele_079_11282014 - Continuing to Descend the long steps back down to the entrance area
Mele_080_11282014 - Getting reacquainted with some of the smaller but just as scenic cascades closer to the entrance complex of the Mele Cascades
Mele_083_11282014 - Contextual look at the gardens of the Mele Cascades entrance complex
Mele_084_11282014 - Walking back on the opposite side of the stream than on the way up at the Mele Cascades entrance complex
Mele_086_11282014 - Looking across the clear and colorful pool towards the bar at the entrance complex of the Mele Cascades
Mele_090_11282014 - When we were back at the Mele Cascades entrance and enjoying fresh fruit, this was our view

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Since we did the Mele Cascades as a tour with Evergreen Vanuatu, we’ll just say that we were picked up from our accommodation (about 5km south of Port Vila).

Then, we were driven roughly 15-20 minutes to the Mele Cascades, which was right off the main road that goes around Efate Island.

It was just past the village of Mele, which itself was northwest of Port Vila.

Julie and I paid 3600 VT each, which included the 2000 VT per person kastom fee.

We were also given a large platter of fresh fruits (way too much food to consume in one sitting).

Overall, we spent about 3 hours on the tour, including transport and the walk to get to and from the falls.

Our tour began at 9am, but they also offered one at 2pm as well.

Movie capturing the walk from the shelter then up most of the main part of its cascades until reaching the base of the tallest plunge


Starting with a relatively hidden cascade, then scrambling towards an outcrop right above the base of the tallest of the Mele Cascades with a group of French folks swimming there.

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Tagged with: port vila, efate, shefa, vanuatu, waterfall, popular, play, swim, swimming, evergreen, mele



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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