Many faces of Vanuatu
Cocktails and culture, poverty and splendour: the one constant is the happy people
CLUTCHING the knot in the rope attached to my harness, I stepped to the edge of the platform and looked down. Eighty metres up and hundreds of metres of wire to get me to the other side – I thought I’d be a lot more nervous than I was.
But whether it was simply the thrill of being in another country, or the promise I’d made to take more chances and try new things, I leapt off the platform without hesitation and was awestruck at the jungle, island and waterfall views across the Vanuatu mountainside.
“I need to do that again!” I said as I landed on the other side. This was just day one of my five-day Vanuatu adventure, where I was pushed to my limits, immersed in its culture, surprised at its diversity and had the chance to experience the luxurious side of the island as well.
After a comfortable 3.5-hour Air Vanuatu flight we arrived at our hotel about 1.30am on a rainy, muggy night.
We were staying at the new Ramada Resort Port Vila, which opened in March. Tired, we settled in to our rooms, which were huge, luxurious and had everything we needed.
The view as we met for breakfast a few hours later at the resort’s Akiriki Restaurant was absolutely stunning. The weather was a stark contrast to when we’d arrived – the sun was shining and the restaurant overlooked the striking Erakor Lagoon where kayakers were enjoying the morning sun.
After breakfast we headed into Port Vila township where we visited the markets. Hundreds of stallholders offered food and items including seafood, fruit and vegetables, crafts, souvenirs, handmade clothing and traditional food.
As one of our group purchased a dress from a stall, a child thanked her, saying the money was going towards his schooling. I was surprised just how many young children were managing the stalls by themselves at the markets – it was a Thursday, and we’d passed a school earlier filled with students.
I assumed these children had no option but to help the family make a living.
Outside the markets, a small group gathered as the Vanuatu National Council of Women held a peaceful protest against the ongoing abuse in their homes and on the streets by men. It was a powerful sight.
After lunch back at the resort, we headed to our first adventure: the Vanuatu Jungle Zipline, currently rated number two on TripAdvisor’s most popular outdoor activities in Port Vila.
On the bus along the way I was struck by the diversity of Vanuatu’s capital. In the space of only 20 minutes we’d come from a four-star resort, passed upmarket hotels and casinos, and driven through the village and market centre and the industrial area. We passed offices and parliamentary buildings, villages and homes with roaming chickens and locals tending their gardens, poor areas where locals were living in shipping containers and makeshift shelters, thick jungle, open fields, flowing rivers where residents were bathing, and past farms.
Although we travelled through some poor areas, almost every single local we passed gave the bus a wave and a huge grin. They were some of the friendliest and happiest people I’d ever come across; genuinely just living their lives, doing what they can to make the best of what they’ve been given.
We finally arrived at the jungle zipline after travelling up a
A visitor takes part in some stand-up paddleboarding on Erakor Lagoon; middle, Ramada Resort Port Vila; and right, the stunning scenery during the Off-Road Buggy Adventure in Port Vila.
◗ A participant takes on the Vanuatu Jungle Zipline, a short drive from Port Vila.