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.
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.
Erakor Lagoon is worth exploring on a kayak or paddleboard.
Enjoy the Vanua Fire Show every Thursday at Holiday Inn Resort, Port Vila.
This is the life . . . his and hers cocktails.