After an impromptu visit to Flight Centre, Leo and I found ourselves on a plane to Vanuatu back in January 2015.
Vanuatu was not somewhere on our list of places to go when we booked our trip. In fact, we had gone into the travel agents with the distinct idea of hopping over to Fiji (because that is what people do in New Zealand). When we sat down, our travel agent explained to us this deal that they had for Vanuatu – a country that was only really starting to get its tourist rating up. For this reason, it would be quieter, more authentic and less popular than Fiji. She didn’t have to say anything else. That was persuasion enough.
We stayed at Mangoes Resort in Port Vila, Efate Island. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to explore any other islands on this trip – don’t worry though, it certainly is on our bucket list!
It is a colourful country, brimming with brightness – the people and the place. For this reason, we have chosen to structure this post in relation to four colours. Enjoy these photos – I’m sure they’ll make you want to book a Vanuatu vacation soon.
Located 20 minutes from Port Vila, the Blue Lagoon is a water-lover’s paradise. With no shops, and one rickety ticket office, this swimming hole is charming. You’re likely to see more locals here than tourists – as with many places in Vanuatu – so if you like more off-the beaten-track destinations then this one’s for you. Featuring rope swings and curving tree branches, the more adventurous can enjoy jumping into this blue oasis from a variety of heights!
Port Vila is a vibrant and busy small town where many cruise ships will stop for a day. The main streets, few designer shops and range of markets will often be full of intrigued tourists. It is certainly not the most glamorous of capitals but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the warm smiles and friendly faces of the local residents, making you feel instantly at home.
If you ever catch a taxi in Vanuatu, you will know what I mean when I say the driving has a particular sporadic style to it. There is little road rules – including any sense of a seatbelt being worn – and you will get used to seeing groups of men clamber onto the back of trucks for their ride around town. This little bit of frenzy only adds to Port Vila’s character.
This popular little roadside spot is not what you would usually expect when visiting a ‘museum’. Just along the WWII air strip, you will find a small shack with hand painted signs pinned outside, inviting you to come in. Once inside you will see shelves and shelves of glass Coca Cola bottles from the war. We were given a brief talk about the museum by one of the very proud owners, and it was hard not to find his passion for these objects endearing.
What is more satisfying that lush green foliage and bright blue skies? Exactly. That’s what we thought too. All island routes will lead you to views just like this.
The closest beach to our resort was linked to the Holiday Inn. To get there we had to follow a lovely, quiet forest trail; I think we literally saw one other person on our walk down. Considering that this is the pathway to the Holiday Inn, you would think it would be more populated! It started raining on our journey, hence the umbrella, but it only lasted a couple of minutes. You soon begin to love the rain here anyway – and appreciate that this is the weather needed to create this beautiful rainforest.
One of the highlights of our trip, the Mele Cascades, is the perfect day out. The rope-assisted hike up to the 35m waterfall will lead you past a dozen or more turquoise pools. You can soak in these to cool down from the humidity on your way up, or wait until you get to the end point and you’ll be rewarded with both waterfall and superb plunge pool. The water temperature is pretty cool – you’ll find it a refreshing relief.
One thing that will always be noticeable in the Vanuatu is the brilliant array of plants. Most hotels will decorate your room with a rainbow assortment of hibiscus flowers – a way of welcoming you to the island. These flowers our quite the novelty but you will inevitably find a small trail of ants accompanying them.
Still possibly one of the best places I’ve ever eaten (for food and atmosphere), the Vila Chaumieres is a magical restaurant and resort only 4km away from Port Vila. The restaurant juts out across Second Lagoon so you can enjoy gazing across the deep blue floodlit waters. We were lucky enough to have this restaurant all to ourselves, which made the night even more romantic. Do we recommend? YES. If you have the chance to eat here, you’ll be rewarded with beautifully presented Melanesian food over a thatched roof. It’s not just for calm evenings either – we went when there was a thunderstorm!
We just had to throw in another picture from the WWII Museum. I loved the arrangement of these artefacts and Ernest’s dedication to the cause. Be sure to admire the way the light shines through the collection of glass bottles.
Who thinks of a South Pacific holiday without thinking of all the cocktails you could be drinking? Well Vanuatu doesn’t disappoint on this front either. They even put the flowers as decoration here too.
We were treated to some amazing sunsets on our vacation. A good spot to watch the sun setting is by the water, near the Port Vila main strip. There are many waterfront restaurants to choose from if you want to dine out whilst taking in the view. This photograph was one of our top picks due to the array of pinks, reds, and blues. Gaze across the ocean and feel truly relaxed. Oh so dreamy.
Because of the warm climate of the South Pacific, you would expect to see some unwanted insects. I spotted this friendly spider by the women’s outside toilet block at a beach side cafe. This guy ran around between cubicles – consequently I skipped my bathroom break. On other subjects, let’s just admire this pastel coloured door for a second.
There are a handful of markets to check out at Port Vila. For starters, you should take a stroll past the Central Market to see massive pineapples and fresh mangoes. This market is full of everything ‘vanuatu-style’ including handmade jewellery, vegetables, firewood and carvings. Soak in the hustle and bustle of island life. You should also check out the Arts & Crafts market, further along the strip, where you can pick up some colourful new clothing.
Walking along the harbour front of Port Vila, you are sure to see a variety of seaside accessories such as slides, souvenirs and fancy restaurants. Don’t miss this assortment of small boats – a quaint display of Vanuatuan optimism and happiness.