Vanuatu - Island Time

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Oceania » Vanuatu » Efate » Port Vila
August 16th 2008
Published: December 19th 2010
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Vanuatu is a great place. It is only a two and a half hour flight from Brisbane, it is a tax haven and has been voted the happiest country in the world – as the sign in the customs area of Vila airport reminds us.

Unlike the brochures in a travel agency, the 8km drive from the airport to the city of Vila does not drum up feelings of idyllic beaches and happy locals – rather it made me think that it is more like a third world country. One thing to learn about Vanuatu and the south Pacific is that things are generally done on island time. Places close down between noon and 3pm daily for siesta and Sundays are purely a day for church gatherings.

I stayed at the Sebel, a beautiful hotel on harbour. Vanuatu is not the place you want to come to if you are like to keep busy and as such there wasn’t a lot to do. You can walk from one end of the town to the other in twenty minutes.

As part of the trip we received a free meal or something at the Nambawan Café – also situated on the harbour it is the most popular restaurant in town. They serve drinks, pizza and one night even had an outdoor screening of Kung Fu Panda, which everyone gathered to watch. Of course being on island time, by the time I got my pizza the credit were almost rolling.

As far as food goes, this was one of surprisingly many places you could eat. One night I ate a beautiful steak at Shooters, another had a meal of Chinese food where I became ill. I enquired about a McDonalds and was told a small chicken and rice store was it. They didn’t serve French fries here. My favourite restaurant was one right next to the hotel – we were waited upon by a lady named Nora. The restaurant has a flag for every tourist who has been there. As this was when the Beijing Olympics were on it was easy to get patriotic and see everyone else doing so. Most of the other tourists were Australians.

Vila is situated on the island of Efate – another island in the archipelago is Tanna, which is famous for having the most accessible volcano in the world. We didn’t have enough time to get down there so our tour experiences were limited to Efate.

Hideaway Island is a famous diving spot in Vanuatu and you can catch the bus from Vila – takes maybe fifteen minutes. Hideaway also has the worlds only underwater post office. Here I was able to get certified by PADI as a scuba diver.

Another tour we received was a cruise around the islands. Although the cruise was quite slow we did manage to see some beautiful islands in and around the harbour.

The highlight would have to be an impromptu trip we took to the other side of the island one-day. Accompanied by a couple who were Swiss/American we got to see some turtles in tanks, coconut crabs and big turtles in the pools. We go to feed sharks in another pool – no five star safeties, one slip and we would have been eaten. It began to rain as were greeted with refreshments before we kayaked between the islands.

When were kayaking, one of the locals, Kali got talking to me about Australia. After we were dropped off at the hotel he said he would pick us up in half an hour and show us how the locals lived. He took us to some local bar where we began to drink kava. The bar seemed a bit dingy – Kava is a traditional pacific drink which is made from the roots of the kava plant. After a few of these you are left feeling a little hallucinogenic. Perhaps this is the reason why I decided to try my hand at blackjack at the casino after this!

It was pretty cool though to hang out with the locals. Vanuatu is an interesting place and I think I managed the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure for the place. A lot of people say that Vila is the nicest city in the Pacific – their hospitality makes me want to come back again one day.


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