VANUATU – Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour; must do day trip from Port Vila

VANUATU - Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour; must do day trip from Port Vila

A Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour is a must-do day trip in Vanuatu. Roi Mata was an important person in Vanuatu’s history as he brought peace between the many tribes on the various islands. The site consists of three places: Mangaas (his home), Fels Cave (where he died) and Hat Island (his burial site). I’m a real UNESCO World Heritage Site chaser and places that are far away are always challenging to visit. When I was planning my Vanuatu itinerary, I of course added a Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour. I made a day trip from Port Vila to Vanuatu’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site at that moment. Join me on a Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour where I’ll give you some tips to keep in mind as not everything can be accessed on your own.

Booking a Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour

Booking a Chief Roi Mata’s Domain day trip from Port Vila can best be done directly at the Savannah Harbor. I highly recommend stopping by there and plan it for the next day. You’ll probably have an island round trip or Coongoola cruise on your Vanuatu itinerary too, so you’ll pass the place anyway. All three sites can only be reached by boat, so you’ll need transport over the water which is included in the tour. If you’re alone expect the tour to last about 4-5 hours. You can also book the tour of course at one of the many tour agencies or check with the Vanuatu tourism office. They normally include the transport from Port Vila and lunch too. One tip: try to NOT do the day trip from Port Vila if there is a cruiseship as it will be crowded then.

If you want to visit Fels Cave it is a requirement that you contact the management of the site. It is not safe to visit Fels Cave without being accompanied by a trained guide. There is a danger of collapse. It’s best to contact the Vanuatu Tourism Authority which can arrange a tour or go to Havannah Harbor and ask the locals.

 

Chief Roi Mata historical background

Roi Mata (or Roy Mata) lived 400 years ago and was an important chief in Melanesia; the islands that now form Vanuatu. He conquered the tribes but mainly to make peace amongst them. He lived on Efate where his home, or so called Mangaas, can be visited. Approximate 50 people made up his family and staff. He didn’t die a natural death but was poisoned by his brother. It’s said that the ocean split in two and he was brought across the water to Fels Cave where he died. The cave can be visited too which was also used as a shelter by fishermen and the tribe’s wise men. Roi Mata was buried on Hat Island (Artok Island) together with his close family and staff. This mass burial site can also be visited today. No written text exist from Roi Mata’s reign, but only oral testimonies remain. One thing is sure: Roi Mata played a very important role in Vanuatu’s history.

Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour Mangaas

The Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour starts at the Mangaas or Roi Mata’s home. It’s located on Efate island where also Port Vila is. You might think that you can start the day trip form Port Vila by just driving there but that doesn’t work as dense jungle separates the road and the site. You must go by boat tour. Just behind the beach there are large old trees with an open space. It’s the place where the elders of the tribe discussed daily matters. The tour then continues through the dense tropical forest.

You will stop by various safety stones first which marked the place from where you could not carry weapons further. A bit further, covered by dense jungle, there are remains of walls. There is a magical stone and a wise stone where people would ask for advice. A replica totem pole is on display on an open space. Hitting it with a stick makes a loud noise which other tribes could hear. It was a form of communication. Roi Mata’s home, or Mangaas, is just a small open space with a few rocks remaining. I really enjoyed the tour even though there isn’t much left, because the structures made of wood & plants are long gone. The stories however of the local guide made up for that big time!

 

Fels Cave on Lelepa Island

Fels Cave is across the water on Lelepa Island. Before you go there ask the guide to show you the place where the water supposedly split in two. You’ll see that rocks are split under water. If it really happened who knows. Oral history does tell that Roi Mata was taken to Fels Cave after his brother poisened him. This cave was the second stop of my Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour. I do recommend going to Hat Island first in case it might rain later that day. It wasn’t nice going there in the rain I can tell first hand.

In Fels Cave you can see various rock art. There are patterns with dots and lines which represent weather patterns. Other depict fishes, plants, and other wildlife. Wise men kept track of the weather to predict when to cultivate and when to harvest. No one knows exactly how but it’s interesting to see how this must have worked. It reminded me a bit of the rock art made by fishermen in Qatar which I saw several years. Fels Cave is as mentioned not save as several years ago a part of the ceiling collapsed. Go with a trained guide only.

Hat Island burial site

Hat Island (or Artok Island) is the burial place of Chief Roi Mata and his wife, family, and closest tribe members. After his burial 400 years ago, the island was closed for visitors; it was forbidden to go there. This led to an eco-system with several endemic plants and animals. Today it’s possible to visit the island as part of the tour but just the mass burial site. There are two large stones which are the graves of Chief Roi Mata and his wife. Smaller stones surround them which represent all the other people who are also buried there. As it was raining I had just a quick look at the graveyard and continued back to the main island.

A Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour is a day trip from Port Vila I recommend everyone to add to their Vanuatu itinerary. You’ll learn about Vanuatu’s history and how tribes were united over 400 years ago. Chief Roi Mata’s story is an interesting one as he was the first to make peace and die in a tragic way. Just oral history exists, and this is preserved by descendants of Chief Roi Mata and protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was as interesting as my visit to Skull Island which I saw earlier when I travelled the Solomon Islands. Another great story is the stone money of Yap island, far away, but great to add to a Pacific Island-hopping itinerary. The Pacific is full of interesting places.

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Gallery Chief Roi Mata’s Domain tour

Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.

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