[y] Vanuatu Visitors Guide
A tropical paradise, only three and a half hours from Sydney, Australia, Vanuatu means ‘the land that has always existed’. It is made up of 83 islands formed in a Y-shaped archipelago which stretches over some 800 kilometers of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Formerly called the New Hebrides, Vanuatu is a mecca for those who love diving. The waters surrounding these beautiful islands provide some of the most spectacular and varied underwater explorations in the South Pacific and experienced divers come from all over the world to swim amongst the WW2 wrecks which lie scattered over the seabed.
CAPITAL AND MAJOR CENTERS
Although Captain James Cook explored and charted the Vanuatu archipelago in 1774, which he named the New Hebrides, he ignored the island of Efate and thus missed discovering one of the world’s most beautiful deep water harbors. Today Efate offers safe anchorage to those who visit the capital, Port Vila, by boat and there is Bauerfield, the international plane terminal, which is ten minutes from the capital. Thus Port Vila is the gateway to Vanuatu and offers visitors a wealth of tourists’ activities. Free of skyscrapers, the town is set within a magnificent natural harbor where hibiscus dot the surrounding hills and the air is redolent with the scent of frangipani.
A boat trip around Efate and the other island retreats, reveals a place untouched by modern civilization. Tanna Island has almost 16,000 people who inhabit 92 villages in a 56,199 square kilometer area. The islanders have remained relatively unchanged by a century and a half of explorers, missionaries, and traders.
Pentecost Island is a beautiful unspoiled place, home to a spectacular ritual, the Pentecost Jump. Espiritu Santo is the largest and oldest island with the largest population and the greatest number of natural sights. The movie South Pacific was inspired by this island and Bali Hai is named after Ambae located to the east of Espiritu Santo.
Predominantly Melanesian, the people speak English, French, and Bislama, a form of pidgin. The Ni Vanuatu have populated these islands for centuries and with more than 105 distinctly different cultures and languages still thriving, Vanuatu is recognized as one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.
The first European to visit these shores was Spanish navigator Fernandes de Quiros who landed at Big Bay on Espiritu Santo in 1606. The French explorer, Bougainville, arrived almost 160 years later and in 1774 Captain James Cook charted all the islands and named the archipelago the New Hebrides. In 1839, missionary John Williams attempted to impose western ways and Christianity on the Ni Vanuatu and was clubbed to death and eaten. The locals had no defenses however, against the slave traders, known as blackbirders who shanghaied more than 40,000 people to work on the sugar plantations in Australia.
In the 1860s, British and French interests purchased huge tracts of land for cotton plantations and the Ni Vanuatu retaliated by killing a number of Europeans, only to suffer extensive naval bombardment of their villages. The French and British jointly colonized the islands in 1906. During WW2 the 250,000 Americans stationed in Vanuatu brought in enormous amounts of cargo which led the Ni Vanuatu to believe that such vast wealth could only have come from the gods. The New Hebrides gained independence in July 1980 and was renamed Vanuatu.
Vanuatu has rich lush tropical rainforests, volcanoes, sparkling blue lagoons, cascading waterfalls and beaches that range from silky white to volcanic black. Surrounding the land is a magic sea of aqua and dark blues with a fascinating underwater world of colorful tropical fish that live amongst magnificent coral and reel formation.
Port Villa offers a range of resorts and scenic bus tours, island cruises and flights around the archipelago. Away from the capital you have the opportunity to visit villages, bathe in hot mineral springs and shower beneath sparkling waterfalls. On Espiritu Santo, visit major plantations growing cocoa, coffee and coconuts and explore the world’s most accessible liner, President Coolidge wrecked in Santo Harbour.
Vanuatu Accommodations Guide
ERAKOR ISLAND RESORT
To stay on Erakor Island Resort is to succumb to the relaxation of island taste, well away from telephones, faxes, television and the rest of the world. Only minutes from the mainland and five minutes from Port Vila, you may as well be light-years away from the bustle and hustle of the western world at Erakor Island Resort. The resort, which was a missionary retreat, is small and friendly and it nestled on Erakor lagoon. Accommodation is 18 bungalows with absolute waterfront views.
Take a stroll through the sixteen acres of lush tropical jungle and gardens which surround the resort. You can watch the resort staff row home in their canoes, and arrange to visit their village if you wish. The more energetic, none motorized water sports are available. Snorkeling around the island is spectacular and safe and the white sand beach is the perfect place to relax. Soak in the enchanting sounds of the sun-drenched Oceania/Pacific Islands coming to you in 64kbps FM Stereo!
The overwater restaurant prides itself on its famous garlic coconut crab and will even serve guests on the beach if the short walk is beyond contemplation. Continental breakfast is included in the tariff. Erakor Island Resort is ideal for families, honeymooners and stressed out business executives seeking a change of pace. For those who can’t relax for too long, Port Vila is only minutes away, offers the excitement of duty-free shopping, bars, and restaurant.
LE LAGON PARK ROYAL
If you dream about a tropical hideaway holiday, the Le Lagon Park Royal in Vanuatu has all the ingredients. Located on 75 acres of the exotic tropical gardens, beside the crystal water of Erakor Lagoon, each suite is built so that it juts into the lagoon which means you can virtually catch your fish from your front door. Or you may prefer to choose a charming thatched-roof bungalow with garden or lagoon view.
The 141 guest rooms range from standard bungalows to suites and each room has a furnished balcony, air-conditioning, fans, mini bar, coffee/tea facilities, refrigerators, IDD telephone, television with satellite channels and in-house videos.
Guests who want to pursue water activities can choose to take trips on the catamaran, ride the surf skis, windsurfers and outrigger canoes or borrow the snorkeling equipment to view the tropical fish that swim in the sparkling warm blue surrounding waters.
There’s also a 12 hole golf course, swimming pool and spa, games room and activity center. For those who like to explore, you can discover Efate Island and visit Port Vila, the country’s capital three kilometers away. A final compliment to a perfect holiday is the selection of drinks, cocktails, snacks, pizza and light meals available at the resort’s own Tam Tam cafe and recreation center. Whatever you choose to do, Le Lagon Park Royal offers the opportunity to experience first hand the timeless spirit of Melanesia.
IRIRIKI ISLAND RESORT
Located on a private 69-acre island in picturesque Port Vila Bay, Iririki Island Resort offers tropical seclusion only three minutes by free 24-hour water taxi from Port Vila township. From the shaded balconies of the 70 air-conditioned fares which are elevated on stilts and dot the hillside and waterfront, guests will delight in the magnificent harbor and garden view. All fares have queen size beds.
The harbor view bungalows feature an antique four-poster bed draped with thai silk swag, and the waterfront fares have a traditional South Pacific theme with authentic furnishings and artwork from the Pacific and Asia. The influence of British and French culture is reflected in the inspired a la carte menu of Michener’s Restaurant which overlooks the bay from its elevated terrace beside the pool. Complimentary resort activities include snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing, canoeing and catamarans. Water skiing, fishing trips, diving, and yacht charters can be arranged.
TANNA BEACH RESORT
Nestled on the shores of palm-fringed Embul Bay on the spectacular Tanna Island, Tanna Beach Resort is the epitome of a South Pacific Island. The resort bungalows are set amid lush tropical gardens of coconut palms and exotic vegetation, lending the simple delights of nature with all the creature comforts. A licensed restaurant, bar, and swimming pool provide in-house activity, while the splendor of the South Pacific and all its tropical attractions are nature’s irresistible contribution.
One of Tanna’s islands’ greatest assets is Mount Yasur, an active volcano. Tours take brave adventurers to the rim of the bubbling inferno where they come face to face with the mighty earth and its most volatile. Less audacious souls can feel content to simply relax around the pool, snorkel for lobsters, ride horses, or visit local villages and get to know the local people who maintain traditional lifestyles and live in complete harmony with nature. Tours are also available to the coffee plantation, to see the wild horses on Tanna and to various beaches around the island.
BOKISSA ECO ISLAND
Bokissa Eco Island has been extensively upgraded to create an original castaway coral island atmosphere. There is a maximum of 45 guests on the island at any one time. The island’s 175 acres are full of a variety of interesting walks through the rain forest. If you enjoy beachcombing, it is possible to explore the island by walking around the palm-fringed sandy swimming beaches. Set low amongst the tree line each air-conditioned private fare has been individually positioned for optimum harmony and privacy. You will enjoy all the trappings of home and more as you watch the sunrise from a beachfront hammock or just walk out from your room, across the private beach and go snorkeling right out front.
A casual atmosphere pervades the dining room and bars while the resident Bokissa Eco chef works tirelessly to delight the pallets of expected guests. Making of most of its pristine location, bio-organic food is grown to remind you of the way fruit and vegetables should taste. If you are seeking the company of others, then you will spend time around the 25-meter resort swimming pool and the adjacent pool bar. Adventurers can explore the coastline in one of our ocean kayaks or try the authentic island dugout canoe. Dugongs frequent the bay and can be spotted browsing amongst the seagrass from one of the sunset cruises.
Being so close to the world-famous SS President Coolidge, USS Tucker and MV Henry Bonneaud wrecks, the island boasts its own resident PADI scuba dive training center where you can train from the safety of the resort’s pool all the way up to instructor level. Guests can take a scenic flight in a Bokissa Eco Island helicopter to survey the WWII sites on Santo from above, or book a deep-sea fishing trip on one of the three resort boats. Weddings in the traditional theme can be arranged at the historic island church. A nanny service allows those with young families to explore Bokissa with peace of mind.