Having visited the islands many times with many different experiences - all treasured! - Vanuatu is a destination that is close to our heart and conveniently close to home. It's a little haven of tropical pleasures, with so many islands to explore, where cultural and tribal traditions are alive and well, where the people have the biggest smiles and a very chilled out manner that is contagious. Life is slow paced, and the environment is so pristine, picture-postcard perfect!
One of my all time favourite memories of Vanuatu was swimming in an impossibly crystal clear blue lagoon that was hidden to all but in-the-know locals on Espiritu Santo, one of the largest of Vanuatu's islands and a well-known paradise for dive enthusiasts. The island is dotted with breathtaking lagoons, white sand beaches (floating in the waters of Champagne Beach is another intoxicating memory!). And - luckily for us - Espiritu Santo has a great mix of raw luxury and budget friendly properties to stay at.
One such place is Ratua Private Island, located off the south east tip of Espiritu Santo, which provides a unique and authentic eco luxury experience. Ratua Private Island is limited to 38 guests at any one time to preserve its natural surroundings,with one bedroom villas available for $420 per night, family two bedroom villas for $460 and master two bedroom villas for $660 per night. For those looking for complete privacy, private villages, which accommodate up to 12 people, are available for $1,500 per night, and for the ultimate in indulgence the entire island is available to rent out, accommodating 38 guests for $7,000 per night. Imagine having your own private island to enjoy with family and friends ... perfect for a destination wedding!
These rates include airport transfers, fully cooked breakfast, welcome drinks and fruit platter on arrival and resort-based activities including horse-riding, snorkelling, exploring the lush island surrounds by electronic buggy, and canoeing in the nearby unspoiled waters. Extremely tempting to escape the winter chill and head to a warm, exotic island, isn't it?!
But it's the adventure aspect of Espiritu Santo that remains the biggest draw card for travellers wanting to get off the beaten track ... literally! Try a kayaking trip up Espiritu Santo’s stunning rivers to swim in deep fresh water blue holes hidden by the thick foliage of dense jungle, or take a trek to Millennium Cave and walk through a 50 metre high cave before swimming out through a river in the middle of a tropical gorge. For a taste of the Ni-Vanuatu lifestyle, visit the local markets in the main town of Luganville, or take a day trip to a custom (Kastom) village to learn about the long held traditions.
Air Vanuatu flies six days a week from Sydney to Port Vila, three days a week from Brisbane and once weekly from Melbourne. Onward connections are available from Port Vila to Espiritu Santo. Air Vanuatu also offers once weekly flights directly to Espiritu Santo from Brisbane and from Sydney via Port Vila.