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