WELCOME TO THE TROPICS
Dive a shipwreck, peer into a volcano, bathe in a waterfall, then sip some kava. Vanuatu is calling.
Dive a shipwreck, peer into a volcano, then bathe in a waterfall. Vanuatu is calling
Vanuatu is an archipelago of contrasts. Within its 80- odd islands, you’ll see nature at its most furious – and its most serene. Where else could you get an up- close view of smoldering lava belching from the crater of an active volcano, then within a few hours slip into a turquoise-hued lagoon to the soundtrack of bird song?
From the minute you touch down, get ready to dive elbow deep in adventure. This is Vanuatu’s calling card, after all – there is so much to be seen and done, and not from a sideline seat.
Vanuatu’s capital (Port Vila, on the island of Efate), is where your international flight will land, and it pays to set some time aside to soak up the bustling vibes. Positioned around the twinkling Vila Bay, the winding streets are crammed with souvenir-packed stores, colourful markets and the fragrant flavour of waterfront restaurants.
After scouring the stalls for your pick of fresh tropical fruit, step away from the flurry of the streets and weave your way into Le Cafe du Village. Hidden down an alleyway, its courtyard offers quiet views of the sun- soaked harbour, and its hearty cuisine pays homage to Vanuatu’s lingering French influences.
Elsewhere on Efate, take your pick of ocean- side resorts for the chance to experience expert takes on local flavour. Paradise Cove is revered for its blend of Melanesian and Mediterranean cuisine: think coconut ice cream, freshly caught grilled fish and juicy lobster drizzled with a secret-recipe island sauce. For the ultimate view, book a table on the end of the jetty and enjoy the lazy sound of water, lapping just inches away from your feet.
Tamanu on the Beach is another foodie destination that can’t be faulted. You’ll smell the seafood curry before you see it: stuffed with fresh shellfish, it’s an intoxicating blend of coconut milk, spring onion and coriander, while pan-fried scallops come with a tangy zucchini salad. If you’re too full for dessert, swap it for an ice- cold pina colada – the bar at Tamanu is home to Efate’s best.
Food and tropical cocktails aren’t Tamanu’s only specialty, though. Freshly renovated, the resort, set 20 minutes from downtown Port
Vila, is the ultimate oasis. The trade winds sweeping its private beach provide a refreshing contrast to Vanuatu’s sky-high mercury readings. Sun- soak yourself by the pool, stretch your legs on the powdery sand, then enjoy the swirling flames of the nightly bonfire lit by the resort’s staff. Once darkness has well and truly fallen, take the excuse to retire to your villa and relax in your own private slice of indulgence. Deep, egg-shaped baths, open-air bathrooms, spacious bedrooms and private plunge pools – no detail has been spared in the resort’s effort to ensure this hideaway has the last word on luxury.
Tamanu offers a regular shuttle which will whisk you into the township, but wherever on the island you’re staying, it might be wise to hire a car if you’re hoping to do some serious exploring. And why wouldn’t you? Home to highlights such as Blue Lagoon – so named for its peacock-blue shade of water – and Eton Beach, Efate has no shortage of natural wonders waiting to be admired.
And if all the adventuring gets too exhausting? Head to Break as Beach Resort – a 60-minute full body coconut oil massage is sure to revive your spirits.
Efate is only one of Vanuatu’s islands, though – there are 82 more to consider. Espiritu Santo – or Santo as this other-worldy northern island is known – is Vanuatu’s largest, and you’ll feel well and truly ‘away from the crowds’ the moment you step onto its cruisy shores. A 50-minute flight from Port Vila, this jewel of Vanuatu’s crown basks in natural – and largely untouched – beauty.
To best explore the island, you’ll have to get active: slip and slide through narrow jungle paths, cross creeks and clamber over boulders. The stand- out Milennium Cave trek is one of the island’s most diverse: you’ll be guided through a coconut plantation, across a bamboo bridge, along a river and through a cave before plunging into a water hole for a shower beneath a roaring waterfall.
If offshore adventures are more your vibe, you’re in luck – Santo is an undisputed favourite with divers, and it’s not hard to see why. Its tropical waters are home to pristine reefs, a reliably colourful fish population and eerie World War II ship and plane wrecks. For a more leisurely take on aquatic activity, Champagne Beach’s crystal clear waters and gentle, photogenic arc shape have many touting it as the greatest in the South Pacific – the ultimate spot for a gentle ocean paddle and a lazy doze on the sand.
Elsewhere on the island, paddle your traditional outrigger canoe beneath vines, ride horseback through plantations, and shop for a new sarong at the local Mama’s market. Your days in Santo will be crammed full, making the luxurious accommodations on offer all the more alluring.
Where homes-away-from-home are concerned, you won’t be