When the decision came to book a quick four-day getaway to snub our snuffly noses at what’s been a bitter New Zealand winter, there was no second guessing or contemplation.
Cyclone Pam’s devastation in March meant only one spot to spend our tourist dollars: where it’s needed most… in beautiful Vanuatu. So pretty, rustic, real, happy and sunny, yet still raw and untouched – well, except for that cyclone.
Port Vila is an easy three hours from Auckland. We departed Auckland at midday, arrived bang on 2pm with Vanuatu a cruisy hour behind. All very New Zealand and Australian traveller friendly.
A quick sail through customs complete with live music on arrival which set us up for the 20-minute wide-eyed drive to our booked destination. London might have “Mind The Gap” but in Vanuatu it’s the potholes. Definitely a bumpy road to your seaside paradise.
On arrival at Eratap Beach Resort all that was soon forgotten. Wowee, what a haven. Just twelve private, separated villas all surrounding the main pool and spa. The attentive staff are exceptional and welcoming and certainly deserve every award that you see lined up in the main reception. A quick walk around, we see waves, sand and sunshine, kayaks, SUP boards, a fishing boat, piles of white coral and sun loungers.
A squizz at our funky room – which we love – and hungry off plane, sit down to a lovely late lunch and a glass of Aussie chardonnay. Salt and pepper calamari alongside a fresh, grunty salad. The fish and chips divinely fresh and the fries and homemade tartare sauce, perfect. Fresh off the boat seared tuna was on the menu for dinner from 5pm. The chef came out to make sure we enjoyed our meals. A nice touch.
A walk back along the beach to our villa for a duty free bubbles. To greet us along the way, cute sprinty little white crabs and a stunning sunset. Later on it was live music and dancing from the local “boy band” in grass skirts with primitive instruments.
With only three full days, we decided day one was for exploring the island, day two for water activities and day three for lazing about so we rented a car from the lovely Stalin at World Rental Cars for a self-drive around the island, about 130km.
Day one, we left at 9am and arrived back at Eratap at 5.30pm and saw it all: The Blue Lagoon, Eton Beach, palm trees, horses, rivers, countryside villages, all in contrast to the new subdivisions – the island has been discovered by Aussie and Kiwi speculator. Sadly the damage and destruction from Cyclone Pam is still evident but the main thing is there was happy, hardworking locals and smiling kids.
From a healing mud bath at Nasinu natural springs and snorkelling a WWII plane wreck to a magic meal at The Havannah followed by a late afternoon plate of prawns and cold beer on the bean bags on the jetty at The Wahoo Bar. Francesca’s next door also looked incredible. Next time.
Day two started with the house smoked fish, poached eggs and corn fritters followed by a blat in a cute blue Mini Moke to the local village to meet the kids, then it was all about the water with a bomb off the Mele Cascades and a heart-pumping walk up to the waterfall peak.
A beautiful lunch at Chantilly’s in the city centre where I had the best potato gnocchi. Ever.
A sensational snorkel off Eratap, literally twenty paces from your villa. The day ended perfectly with wine tasting and local kai with boardgames by the sea.
Day three, the lazy day so we threw ourselves in the water just after 7am for a pre-brekkie snorkel. Again, gorgeous colourful coral and fish life – at least thirty species.
Beauty eggs bene and great coffee with yet again, a basketful of fresh muffins. Today was pineapple and coconut.
The Etlau Spa was great with a de-stressing acial and the back and neck massage pure invigoration. Left there almost in a daze. A quick kayak, swim in the pool and a late lunch of a tangy prawn salad and a sneaky mojito. Rose behind the bar at Eratap makes a mean cocktail!
Another walk along the beach and down the road a few kilometres just to get the blood pumping. The local villagers walk everywhere with machetes – which can seem a little disconcerting – but it’s only fresh fruit and veges they’ve got their eyes on.
The last mention must go to Save The Children, Rotary Auckland, UNICEF and Red Cross who are all still in action everywhere here in Vanuatu, So if you want to spend your tourist dollars well, get bang of your buck and help these stunning islanders rebuild their lives, pack your bags and fill your boots for sunshine, colour, fishing, warmth, swimming, healing and beautiful fresh food and relaxation in sunny Vanuatu.