The Mele Cascades are about ten kilometres from Port Vila (Vanuatu): it’s more of a stroll than a hike, but there are lots of clear swimming holes to stop at and the waterfall at the end is impressive. Avoid at all costs visiting when there’s a cruise ship in town as it will be packed, otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll have the place to yourself if you go early or late in the day.
You’ll need to pay an entry fee near the start (2,000 VT or about USD$18 per person in 2019). You can also pay a bit more to get a guide, or join a slightly more expensive guided tour from Port Vila. There’s a cafe, picnic area and an artificial beach near the start of the walk. (The prices increased significantly around 2017 when the Mele Cascades were sold by their traditional owners to a Chinese consortium. The Mele Cascades are owned and managed by Evergreen Vanuatu, and sometimes referred to as the Evergreen Mele Cascades.)
As you set out there’s immediately a small pool and some small cascades next to the path. There was a a decent flow of water, but I’d heard that for many months earlier in the year the river had been virtually dry.
You can swim in any of the pools, which are all very inviting – although some of the lower ones are a bit rocky and harder to access.
Once you leave the building at the bottom, it does feel a little more like a bush track – although a bushwalk with concrete stairs on the steeper sections!
After the initial up to a low ridge, there’s a wide but unmarked track that leads to a lookout – it’s only a hundred metres or so from the main track.
There’s a nice view to the south over Mele Bay, and a large grassy area that would be suitable for a picnic.
From here the walk gets a bit more interesting, as the trail crosses the river a couple of times. Unless you’re wearing sandals, now’s the time to take shoes off…
While generally following the river quite closely, at times the track goes through rainforest-like sections. Evergreen, the new owners of Mele Cascades since late 2017, have added many native plants along the path.
Along this last section is another nice pool, just below a small set of cascades.
For the last section, as you near the foot of the falls, the river flows over the stone stairs and you can hear the falls not far ahead.
There’s another photogenic and inviting pool just below the main falls.
The water flow can vary significantly from year to year – the photo is a few years early (but the same month of the year), and there’s significantly more water over the hiking path.
A last set of steps up the river…
…and you’re at the base of the falls, which tumble about 35m into another swimming hole.
It’s the same way back down the river. Except when I reach the concrete stairs down the last steep section, I take an alternate path to the right. This is a more natural bush track, that winds down the steep slope back to the Mele Cascades entrance.
You could do the Mele Cascades walk in under an hour (I’ve taken two hours with many photo stops), and if you’re going for a swim in one of the many pools you could easily spend half a day here. It’s a bit expensive when you consider you’re just paying for access to a short walk, but it’s worth it to experience the cascades and waterfalls – just allow plenty of time and pick quiet day.
More information on Mele Cascades
- Evergreen Vanuatu – Waterfall Tour