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Island in Paradise

Vanuatu, an island paradise that lies in the South Pacific Ocean is just a short flight away from Australia and New Zealand. This island is still in its pristine environment where cultural way of life and tranquility of the place is very much in existence.

There is a lot to LOVE about Vanuatu. Charming locals, stunning natural beauty and friendliest people on earth – it is the “Island in Paradise”. One thing I love about, everyone is so welcoming. You feel like you’re on a different planet. This tiny island still holds a lot of options for laid-back and great value for money holiday destination. More and more tourists are discovering this hidden paradise island. I have discovered that everything is cheap (especially exotic local produce) here. It is safe to travel anywhere, less crowded and not being hassle by locals to bargain like most populated Asian destinations. Little wonder tourists flock here in their droves, especially mega cruise liners.

I first visited Port Villa, capital of Vanuatu in the early 90’s for holidays, an adventure that had been on my bucket list since childhood. I have decided to come back again to re-visit this beautiful island to explore what it is like today. After taking a short comfortable flight from Sydney to Port Vila airport, I checked myself in at the hotel for a detox evening from jet-lag and refuel for my next seven days of adventure and exploration. The nations capital, Port Villa is the main entry point to Vanuatu and most visitors arrive there. It is situated on the main island of Efate which sits at the edge of a magnificent natural harbour filled with corals and sea life.

Air Vanuatu
My comfortable seats

History in brief: Vanuatu is officially the Republic of Vanuatu is a Pacific island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. This archipelago nation consists of 83 islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, north of New Zealand and east of Australia. 

Leaving all my traveling bags and suitcases unpacked, I took a late evening stroll along the waterfront after a relaxing afternoon. Staying in this seaside hotel in the heart of Port Villa, means that everything was within walking distance. I was facing the waterfront with a private walled balcony over looking the best view in town. It was just surreal. Yes, the view from my hotel room was undoubtedly a “million dollar” view and unlike most places in Australia, most million dollar views comes with a price-tag. As I looked out of my hotel balcony, my eyes immediately connect to this magnificent view of the island with glittering sunrise, just like a magnet. It certainly created an atmosphere of a perfect holiday destination and I was certainly in my glory. It was truly an amazing experience every time I looked out of my hotel room.

View from the hotel balcony
View from the hotel below
View from the hotel balcony at sunset

Like many South Pacific islands, it is always relaxing and just put on your casual cloths and thongs and blend yourself into island time. As I enjoyed the evening walk, almost every locals greeted me as I walked past and felt like I had known them before. With this greetings of friendliness, I already felt the vibe of a friendly people and place. I love this laid-back lifestyle even though I was on the island only just for few hours. I must say, it was a perfect start to my Vanuatu adventure. The people are really lovely, friendly and very happy people. I just felt great and it certainly ticked a lot of boxes for me: safe holiday destination, friendly and happy atmosphere, great beaches, restaurants and bars, not too noisy and with a more mature and well-behaved people. I think I am happily settled here and won’t look back. It was definitely the best of Port Villa for me and it has never changed since I last visited this island many years back.

Local Market

Living in Vanuatu must be very cheap. I have seen local people living quite comfortably in their own safe environment. The next day, I decided to go to my favourite place to enjoy in this island paradise was the local market. I love visiting local markets in every destinations I visit. I always find the local markets fascinating, interesting and always see and smell something new. It is no exception in Port Villa main market. It is packed with local stalls with local produces with exotic fruits and vegetables, at the same time enjoying the exotic views of nearby islands and mountains.

Exotic vegetables
Coconuts and other fruits on display

Away from the markets there is always something new to explore and see. That is what I love about this place. It is peaceful but vibrant in its culture and a pick of places to go if you want a chance of pace.

Cultural Experience

One of the “must do” on my activity list in every destinations I visit is taking time to engage myself in their traditional way of life with the locals. One way of understanding the traditional or cultural way of life is visiting a Cultural Village Centre. In Vanuatu, cultural way of life is still active and strong in most of the islands. Within 10-minutes drive from Port Villa township is Ekasup Cultural Village Centre. This is the closest where you get to know their way of life where proud villagers share their centuries-old customs, crafts, music and stories. As I listen and observe during my self-guided tour, I began to reflect not only on my culture but what I have seen in Cairns – Tjapukai Cultural Centre where Australian Indigenous share their dream-time stories, painting and Digeridoo throwing skills. Natives cultural way of life is very different throughout the world and that is why I find it very fascinating and interesting.

Kava tasting at hotel where I was staying
Local dancers entertaining the guests at the hotel

Land Diving Experience

After spending few days in Vanuatu capital, Port Villa, it was time to take a detour, a change of scenery to explore some of hidden treasures of this island paradise. From Port Villa, I took a short flight to Pentecost island which is one of the 83 islands that make up the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Many of the islanders live in small rural villages, surviving by subsistence agriculture and growing cash-crops. Many of the hillside villages on Pentecost remain largely unaffected by the trappings of the modern world and it has some of the most stunning scenery and the Land Diving is almost entrancing to watch. 

All aboard the plane
Island airport
Children learn from young age, their duties
Ritual Ceremony for the jump
Top of the man-made tower from vines and sticks
The jump
Half-way down with twist
Almost there
Close to the ground
Made to the ground

Yes, Pentecost Island has become famous throughout the world for being the spiritual birthplace of the extreme sport of bungee jumping. This land-diving is a ritual since time began which occurs between April and June.

In witnessing this magnificent land diving ceremony, I must say, it was truly an once in a lifetime experience and without a doubt that was highlight of my Vanuatu journey. It was terrifying and excruciating to watch but what a thrill it was to watch using just vines as ropes. There is no such word that I could find to describe and express the feeling of the ground vibrating under the dancing and stomping of villages and the excitement of sitting beneath the man-made tower waiting with unease for the diver to jump safely to the ground.

After experiencing this warm and generosity of Vanuatu people, it is easy to feel that Vanuatu could be one of the most beautiful and top holiday destination places on earth if no exploitation of mass tourism and development is to occur.

From a personal perspective: After seeing what I have seen, you will get to know, understand and truly appreciate the pristine environment and the friendliness of the people that you will never see anywhere else. You only experience this when you travel to other destinations.

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