Easy is­land es­cape awaits

A trop­i­cal ad­ven­ture in Van­u­atu cater­ing to all ages and bud­gets is right on our doorstep

Gatton Star - - LIFE | ESCAPE - LETEA CAVANDER

A TROP­I­CAL hol­i­day for the whole fam­ily need not break the bank.

On the east coast of Aus­tralia, we are a hop, skip and jump away from a num­ber of trop­i­cal play­grounds in the South Pa­cific, in­clud­ing fam­ily is­land hotspot Van­u­atu.

Van­u­atu’s main is­land, Efate, and neigh­bour­ing Tanna of­fer ac­tiv­i­ties for ev­ery age group and bud­get.

Here are a few things not to miss when plan­ning a trip only three hours’ flight from Bris­bane.

Hide­away Is­land

A five-minute boat ride from the shore of Mele Bay near Port Vila, this lit­tle islet is pop­u­lar with snorkellers and more ex­pe­ri­enced divers.

One of the big­gest vis­i­tor draw­cards is the un­der­wa­ter post­box, which even snorkellers can reach.

Buy a wa­ter­proof post­card, write a mes­sage and then dive to send the card to loved ones back home.

Swim­ming over the deep drop-off that divers use, which is only about 15m from the shore, is thrilling and ter­ri­fy­ing.

The bar and cafe on the is­land pro­vide yummy feeds (and brews) to keep the en­ergy lev­els up be­tween swims.

DE­TAILS: www.hide­away.com.vu.

Sun­set cruise

If a ro­man­tic getaway is more on the cards, be sure to book in a sun­set cruise in Port Vila’s har­bour.

Stroll down to the sail boats and yachts docked close to the casino and mar­ket in the main part of town and choose whichever boat tick­les your fancy and suits your bud­get.

Some in­clude drinks and canapes dur­ing the on-board cruise.

Be warned though – canapes is­land-style can in­clude sand­wich quar­ters.

But when watch­ing the boat cut through the dark turquoise wa­ter of the har­bour as the sun casts a golden and red glow over ev­ery­thing, I guar­an­tee those sand­wiches will taste as good as lobster.

The wine also helps.

DE­TAILS: Google “sun­set cruise Port Vila” for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent op­tions.

Iririki Is­land

This lit­tle is­land took a hit when Cy­clone Pam wreaked havoc across the is­land na­tion in 2015.

But re­pairs were un­der way when we vis­ited Port Vila last Septem­ber.

Stay on the is­land, which is a short boat ride from Port Vila, or visit for a day but re­mem­ber you need to pur­chase a day pass if choos­ing the lat­ter.

Tanna vol­cano

This will put a dent in the hol­i­day spend, which is why we did not go, but see­ing Mt Ya­sur is still on the bucket list and should be on yours too.

Flights to Tanna leave the Port Vila air­port daily, weather per­mit­ting, and some pack­ages in­clude pick-ups from re­sorts, flights, en­try fees to the vol­cano plus ex­tras.

If time-poor, book a one-day ex­cur­sion but we heard from other vis­i­tors the overnight ex­cur­sion to see the vol­cano spit its magma in­sides as the sun set was ab­so­lutely spec­tac­u­lar.

DE­TAILS: www.dis­cov­er­van­u­atu.com.au.

Visit the mar­ket

The Port Vila mar­ket is a feast for the senses.

From fresh fruit and veg to cloth­ing, bags and other mar­ket knick-knacks, there is a lot of colour to see and peo­ple­watch­ing to do in this heart­beat of town.

If self-cater­ing at your ac­com­mo­da­tion, eat like the lo­cals do and stock up on fresh foods.

Cheap cloth­ing and bags for sale en­sure sou­venir shop­ping is also a breeze. DE­TAILS: www.van­u­atu­trav­eller.com/port-vila-food­mar­ket/.

Day tour of Efate

Efate is not a huge is­land but much won­der lies just out­side of Port Vila.

Many tour group op­er­a­tors are set up near the Port Vila mar­kets.

All of­fer dif­fer­ent day tour op­tions.

Our tour in­cluded a stop at a tra­di­tional vil­lage.

Be sure to wear comfy shoes, as the lo­cals will dance but will ex­pect vis­i­tors to join in.

PHOTOS: THINK­STOCK

SPEC­TAC­U­LAR SIGHTS: The Mt Ya­sur vol­cano on Tanna Is­land, Van­u­atu; (top right) a boat on Hide­away Is­land; (bot­tom right) Port Vila and its har­bour from the air.

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