The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

OF course room ser­vice is avail­able at San­bis Re­sort. I am­told so quite proudly by the Solomon Is­lan­der who shows me to my bun­ga­low. But a search soon re­veals there is no phone. If you want room ser­vice, you have to walk to the restau­rant and or­der it.

That is what makes San­bis so spe­cial: it is dif­fer­ent. Even the name re­quires an ex­pla­na­tion un­less you speak Pid­gin English. It means ‘‘ sandy beach’’, but that is an aw­fully bare de­scrip­tion of this un­usual hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion fac­ing Marovo La­goon at Gizo. Honey­moon­ers’ hide­away, stress-free sanc­tu­ary and comfortable eco-lodge are all ap­pro­pri­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions. The word lux­ury does not ap­ply, which is a re­lief if you want to es­cape phones, tele­vi­sion, cars, com­put­ers and air­con­di­tion­ing.

Built in 2005, San­bis con­sists of six tim­ber-and-thatch bun­ga­lows with decks that pro­vide view­ing plat­forms above opales­cent wa­ter teem­ing with life. Comfortable queen-sized beds un­der mos­quito nets face lou­vred win­dows, re­veal­ing a tran­quil la­goon view. En­suite bath­rooms com­plete a ba­sic lay­out and I sleep to the sound of slap­ping waves as a ceil­ing fan stirs the air.

By day I snorkel off the San­bis jetty, dis­cov­er­ing gi­ant clams and a pass­ing pa­rade of vivid fish. One evening, drink in hand, I ob­serve an oc­to­pus walk­ing along the beach, ten­ta­cles only just in the wa­ter. This is price­less Great es­cape: The la­goon at San­bis en­ter­tain­ment but, if bore­dom sets in, kayaks are avail­able and boats can be hired for fur­ther ex­plo­ration.

A soar­ing pavil­ion houses a restau­rant and bar; the lim­ited menu favours freshly caught seafood, in­clud­ing cray­fish, and good wines are avail­able. No one dresses for din­ner, es­pe­cially the bare­foot host, Swiss­born Hans Mer­gozzi, who has spent much of his life in Aus­tralia.

He has spared no ex­pense in mak­ing this pri­mar­ily so­lar-pow­ered re­sort eco­log­i­cally sus­tain­able, from the sewage treat­ment plant to the veg­etable gar­den. As­sist­ing him is a hand­ful of hos­pitable lo­cal peo­ple who add colour to a very Me­lane­sian ex­pe­ri­ence. It is not lux­u­ri­ous but a few days here are sure to be re­mem­bered for­ever. Leonie Coombes


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