Van­u­atu has a swag of small re­sorts for get­away hol­i­days, re­ports Lee Mylne

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

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

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