THE DROP- OUT TEST
Vanuatu has a swag of small resorts for getaway holidays, reports Lee Mylne
THE dawn is still and silent. I’m sitting in my sarong on a wooden jetty, my toes skimming the shallow water, waiting for a dugong. There’s usually not much that will stir me from my bed this early, but the prospect of seeing this elusive creature is a great incentive. Vanuatu has so far provided exceptional experiences, so I’m confident of one more.
After a while, I stop scanning the shallow water and let the quiet and the colours of the sunrise seep into me. And when it’s clear that the dugong has stood me up, it doesn’t seem to matter.
The jetty stretches into Etlau lagoon on the southern side of Efate, Vanuatu’s most populated island. Although we are situated only 20 minutes outside the capital, Port Vila, there are times when it seems a world away from civilisation.
That’s a feeling easily evoked while staying at several of Vanuatu’s newest hideaways. With limited guest numbers and a focus on couples, they are setting out to lure Australians to their shores and doors by offering the option of combining drop-and-flop with the chance to explore Vanuatu’s culture and natural beauty.
Eratap Beach Resort, a collection of 11 beachfront villas set on a small eponymous peninsula, is a prime example. Fringed by three beaches and clusters of mangroves, it is owned and run by Australian couple Tony and Louise Pittar, who opened their dream resort less than two years ago.
Shoes are abandoned on arrival and on our first afternoon we’re taken in a motorised longboat to snorkel along the reef that runs the length of the ocean beach in front of the resort’s restaurant and bar. Our boatman waits patiently while we explore and then drops us on a small island offshore for a walk on the beach.
Another option for guests is kayaking, with the lagoons, reefs and islands providing plenty to discover. A keen surfer, Tony is happy to show his guests where to find the best waves but admits ruefully his own time in the water is limited these days.
Facing northwest, the resort is in a sheltered spot perfectly positioned for sunset watching from the veranda of the restaurant and bar, where during our stay almost everyone chooses to eat. If you ask, candlelit dinners can be provided on your villa deck, or for something even more romantic, on the beach. The menu
In the swim: Mangoes Resort villa with plunge pool