A place where nothing but treasured memories are made. The capital and largest city of Vanuatu is situated on the south coast of the island of Efate. Our fourth visit to this small but flourishing city was once again, nothing short of spectacular and what we’d come to expect from Port Vila with it’s warm hospitality and friendly locals.
It’s been nearly six years since our last visit to this port so we expected a fair bit of change especially after the devastating Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015. Some of the cruise passengers headed off on tours of the island and others caught a taxi to the famous Cascade Waterfalls. We decided we’d walk into town and then head over to the pristine waters of Erakor Island Resort, about a five-minute taxi ride from town. Once we had disembarked the ship, we began our long walk into town. We could see new buildings in the distance and construction all over the place…though not on the same scale as we’re used to back home.
Iririki Island, a short ferry ride from town, looked as beautiful as ever but we noticed a few boats and a rather large ferry that had been swept up onto shore during the cyclone. We asked a local if these would ever be removed and he, in true laid-back island style, commented that it would be too expensive, so for now, that’s where they’ll stay. The main road into town is getting an upgrade, though don’t be fooled, this road will only ever just, be wide enough for two vehicles. Pedestrians walk on the side of the road wherever they can find their footing. There seemed to be more taxis than people in this town so it’s never hard to find a ride. There will be 20 ships docking in Port Vila this month, great for the locals, especially since only 2 will dock in Santo.
On arrival in town we found that the local market hadn’t changed at all. A feast for the senses. A crowded and vibrant atmosphere where the locals come together to eat and buy their fresh fruit and vegetables for a fraction of the nearby supermarket’s prices. A mandarin will cost you a mere 6 cents. Beautiful flowers and fruit adorn the tables, live crabs tied together, spread out on the floor, the unique bags of potatoes, each individually hand-woven for you to carry home. We meandered through the souvenir market before catching a taxi to another secret little hideway, Erakor Island. Our taxi drive cost us $10 but when we got there we realised we didn’t have any small notes. Our taxi driver suggested giving him the $20 note we had and vowed to return to pick us up later. He was there, 6 hours later, to take us back to the ship. His kindness and honesty really impressed me.
The taxi will drop you off at the wooden ferry terminal, at the end of it you’ll find the little boat that takes you to and from the island. The daily entrance fee of $15 for adults and $10 for children is paid at the rather delightful bamboo hut on the right. The daily rate can be used as a credit in the restaurant or towards water activities at the resort. We were the only cruise passengers there all day so we’d successfully managed to escape the crowds and at times had the entire beach to ourselves. Three steps in to the crystal-clear water and you’re spoilt with different coloured starfish and sea cucumbers. As my daughter and I entered the water to snorkel, a black and white striped sea snake swam past, narrowly missing our legs. Some squealing and much laughter ensued for some time after that. We spent the day building sandcastles, watching the locals sailing by and enjoying some spectacular snorkelling. The marine life is fantastic here with a fair bit of reef located about 20 metres offshore. I was spoilt by the ocean again, lucky enough to spot a Moray Eel, almost in the same spot as last time. My husband missed it on our last visit so he headed back into the water for one last look before we had back to the ship. He saw 2! Having dived a fair bit in my past life I do get a bit excited when I see interesting and ‘not so easy to spot’ marine life.
Whatever you do, don’t leave Port Vila until you’ve a spent a day at this astoundingly beautiful and family friendly island resort. If you do decide to stay longer, they’ve got magnificent villas spread out over the island with the waves lapping right outside your window. Henry and the other locals working on the island do an amazing job looking after you and the restaurant has a glorious view of the lagoon, perfect for a memorable family sunset dinner.
Our next stop will be Port Denarau, Fiji. The last time I was here I was pregnant with my son and my daughter was nearly 2. I feel so lucky to be going back to this part of the world with my family and making new memories.
“The greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories” Og Mandino