Par­adise re­stored

Friendly Van­u­atu lo­cals are once again wel­com­ing tourists to their beau­ti­ful na­tion, as the last of the is­land’s re­sorts re­open af­ter 2015’s dev­as­tat­ing cy­clone. An­gela Quigan spent a few days ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the Pa­cific is­land na­tion.

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - VANUATU -

this trop­i­cal la­goon and vis­i­bil­ity for snorkelling is lim­ited – but it’s well worth ex­plor­ing in a kayak.

There’s plenty to see as you pad­dle, in­clud­ing some de­bris left washed up fol­low­ing Cy­clone Pam.

Hol­i­day Inn Re­sort sits right at the up­per end of the la­goon, and Le Lagon Re­sort and Pa­cific La­goon Apart­ments are at the mouth. Both Hol­i­day Inn Re­sort and Le Lagon of­fer guests free use of kayaks.

You can also take a day trip to Erakor Is­land re­sort, which sits nes­tled amongst trop­i­cal rain­for­est, and boasts a beach­front bar and wa­ter­sport ac­tiv­i­ties. Note, you must buy a ferry ticket for a day trip to the is­land (Adults 1000 VUV ($12.50), kids 500 VUV), but it’s fully re­deemable for food and drink on the is­land.

F is for food

Don’t leave with­out sam­pling the meaty de­li­cious­ness that is grass­fed Santo beef. The meat, from Van­u­atu’s big­gest is­land – Santo – could give New Zealand eye fil­let a run for its money, though I rec­om­mend or­der­ing it a lit­tle rarer than you’d nor­mally like.

For some­thing re­ally out of this world, try the wasabi prawns at Hol­i­day Inn Re­sort’s Veran­dah Restau­rant – part of its spe­cially crafted chef’s choice dishes. They’re not what you’d ex­pect.

G is for get­ting around

Vans marked with a red B on the num­ber plate are buses and will take you any­where you need to go for 150 VUV. Just flag one down on the side of the road and tell the driver where you’d like to go.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing way to see the is­land and meet lo­cals along the way. If the bus is full, or other pas­sen­gers get on board, the driver will drop off pas­sen­gers in or­der of their pre­ferred des­ti­na­tion along any given route. Ve­hi­cles marked with a T on the num­ber plate are taxis and are a more ex­pen­sive op­tion – but con­ve­nient if you’re trav­el­ling in a group.

Make sure you ne­go­ti­ate the price – and ne­go­ti­ate well – with the driver be­fore you start your jour­ney.

A taxi from the air­port to any of the ma­jor re­sorts should cost you around 3000 VUV. Be wary as some taxi driv­ers will try and sell you a pri­vate tour for a ‘‘great price’’, which can end up a lot more ex­pen­sive and time con­sum­ing than those run through le­git­i­mate tour op­er­a­tors. You can also hire pri­vate ve­hi­cles for per­sonal use. Th­ese are iden­ti­fied with an H on the num­ber plate.

Bear in mind there are no speed lim­its, no traf­fic lights, and ev­ery­one drives on the right-hand side of the road.

H is for hot

Sum­mer in Van­u­atu runs from Novem­ber to March, with av­er­age tem­per­a­tures sit­ting at a scorch­ing 28 de­grees Cel­sius. How­ever, in win­ter – April to Septem­ber – tem­per­a­tures are only slightly cooler, av­er­ag­ing 23C – the lo­cals tell me this is ‘‘cold’’.. When the rain rolls in, it never seems to stick around for long – and the wa­ter is al­ways warm. It can get very hu­mid, so be sure to pack a hat, some sun­screen, and stay hy­drated.

I is for is­land time

Be­ing on is­land time is in­cred­i­bly re­lax­ing – but it can also be in­cred­i­bly frus­trat­ing if you’re some­one who appreciates a sched­ule and tight dead­lines. Grab a cock­tail, put your feet up, and ac­cept there is no such thing as a timetable here.

J is for jet lag

A short flight can have you touch­ing down and ready to bask in the sun within three hours and 15 min­utes.

Van­u­atu is just one hour be­hind New Zealand, so the time dif­fer­ence shouldn’t be a prob­lem.

K is for kids

Got them? There are plenty of fam­ily-friendly things to en­joy in Port Vila (see also and all of the ma­jor re­sorts of­fer kids’ clubs and daily ac­tiv­i­ties.

Hol­i­day Inn Re­sort also of­fers a kids ‘‘stay and eat free’’ pro­gramme.

A for ac­tiv­i­ties) L is for lan­guage

Bis­lama is the lan­guage spo­ken by ni-Van­u­atu, how­ever there are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent di­alects spo­ken by lo­cals at the more than 80 small is­lands.

Three ba­sic phrases that will come in handy and win you some points with the Port Vila lo­cals are ‘‘Halo’’ (hello), ‘‘Tankyu Tu­mas’’ (thank you very much) and ‘‘TaTa’’ (bye). If you re­ally want to be pre­pared, try ‘‘Mi harem no gud’’ (My belly is sore). Easy, right?

M is for mos­qui­toes

This one’s pretty self-ex­plana­tory. There’s a high risk of dengue fever and malaria in Van­u­atu (though malaria is more preva­lent in the outer is­lands). There is no vac­ci­na­tion for dengue fever, so take loads of mozzie re­pel­lent and re­mem­ber to ap­ply it af­ter your sun­screen – not be­fore.

N is for Namele Day Spa

There are a range of treat­ments on of­fer at Hol­i­day Inn Re­sort’s spa, which com­bine ni-Van­u­atu heal­ing reme­dies with French spa ther­a­pies.

A cou­ple’s mas­sage on the edge of the la­goon is the most re­lax­ing way to be­gin, con­tinue, or end your ro­man­tic hol­i­day, or take things up a notch with the sought-af­ter hot rock treat­ment.

O is for over­wa­ter bun­ga­low

Want to get away from other peo­ple’s chil­dren? Hol­i­day Inn’s adults-only over­wa­ter bungalows on its pri­vate is­land, Erongo, pro­vide the per­fect es­cape.

There’s also a ‘‘quiet zone’’ at the ter­race pool, and a casino on site if you feel like a cheeky late-night flut­ter.

PHOTO: HOL­I­DAY INN RE­SORT

Erakor La­goon is worth ex­plor­ing on a kayak or pad­dle­board.

PHOTO: HOL­I­DAY INN RE­SORT

En­joy the Vanua Fire Show ev­ery Thursday at Hol­i­day Inn Re­sort, Port Vila.

PHOTO: AN­GELA QUIGAN

This is the life . . . his and hers cock­tails.

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