We left Wellington on an early morning flight after leaving home at just after 4 am. Had just enough time to do a quick bit of duty-free shopping in Auckland before boarding our AirBus A320 heading to Port Vila, Vanuatu.
We landed and straight away the heat was noticeable after leaving Wellington at 4 degrees. Tiki Taane was sitting just in front of us on the flight heading to the Island of Espiritu Santo to perform at a charity performance for The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ. The driver of the Bus (van) that was taking us to the Resort told us that it was a public holiday in Vanuatu, Assumption Day, which celebrates the ascent of Virgin Mary to heaven.
We got dropped off at the wharf to get the ferry across to Iririki Resort, on Iririki Island in the harbour of Port Vila. Lucky enough we got upgraded to a Deluxe Ocean View Room which had an amazing view out to the bay.
We had a lovely dinner at the resort restaurant Michener’s. I was still very sick with the flu so it was a pretty early night.
We went on our first pre-booked tour with Buggy Fun Adventures. It was a two-seater buggy powered by motorbike engine.
The tour started off driving through the town, this in itself was crazy, trying to get a handle on the rough buggy plus driving on the right-hand side of the road BUT the locals are very aggressive drivers and there is also no age restriction on the age at which you can drive.
The tour continued to a small village just outside Port Vila. This was an eye opener for us, with houses made of corrugated iron with mud floors and leaves for roofs. The kids were very cute and some of the others on the tour had tennis balls and balloons to give to kids which they played with. A girl with very good English gave us a platter of local fruit and cooked vegetables, they were delicious. We walked around the village where they had pigs in little pens and chickens roaming. In one hut there was a woman working on making Lap Lap, a traditional Vanuatu dish, the process of which takes her all day.
After visiting the village, we went out to the beach and then on through to a farm, where we ripped through mud and shit quite literally. This was fun and a chance to give the buggy’s a bit of a push. I shortly found out how rough they were, going up a hill I lost all the gears. Some quick bush maintenance from the operators got it rolling again albeit a few gears short. The farm was very interesting as it was a massive field with bulls, cows, and calves just mingling around together.
Later on (after cleaning ourselves up from the mud & poo) we had a quick walk around the market back in Port Vila.
Headed back to Iririki in time to see some local performers and their fire display. A talented bunch of people as the following photo and video will show.
We had a relaxing day at the resort. Jenna went snorkeling and had a very close encounter with a few of the fish. I didn’t head in because I still had a rough cough, so decided to get some sun while Jenna swam with the fishes.
Went to dinner in Port Vila at Anchor Inn. The meals were huge, Jenna ordered the T-Bone Steak (left), but found out part way through there were two – excellent value for money but it could have fed us both. I had the Maui Maui special and the fish was very fresh.
I found the local beer Tusker very sweet, almost like it had a touch of honey added. Overall it was OK just because it helped deal with the heat.
An early start was waiting so we could get the Havana Harbour for the day cruise on board the Coongoola.
I highly recommend the cruise, it was a great way to see some amazing snorkeling areas and to get up and close with some turtles – Jenna’s special request for our trip.
The cruise started by heading out to Tranquillity Island where at the Tranquillity Resort they are doing all they can to try to save the Hawksbill Turtle. The locals collect the turtle eggs, which previously they would make all into an omelette.
The team at Tranquillity have convinced the locals to instead split the eggs with them, so they now receive half of all eggs collected to try and raise turtles to later release. The locals get the benefit of tourism and donations, but they still enjoy their half of the eggs for omelets for the moment.
The turtles stay at Tranquillity until they are at least 25 centimeters long and then get released back into the wild.
We were lucky enough to view a Turtle being released by an Ozzie family who paid to release one. They are very fast in the water and Jenna saw another one from the boat.
Next stop was Hapi Tok beach in Sun and Moon Bay of Moso Island. The snorkeling was amazing around here since I have not done a lot of snorkeling previous Jenna and I stayed around the beach.
We ventured out to the beach and it was stunning.
We had a BBQ lunch and after a beer, Jenna and I went out with the others to a massive reef structure. Unfortunately, the sun had disappeared behind a cloud so it was a little dark, but it was amazing.
Our last day at Iririki started on the Finding Nemo glass bottom boat.
This was nice had a bit more of a history lesson from the local operators. It was interesting to learn that up till 1980 Vanuatu was governed by both the French and the British. They told us that there were two currencies, and people needed a passport to move between different islands, and even two loaves of bread – one French and the other British.
After the snorkeling went and had lunch at the Nambawan Brewery Bar. The beer was OK, also brewed in Vanuatu, and the food filled the gap.
After lunch went shopping at the local waterfront market. There were a lot of little stalls selling all sort of wares. We ended up with a stock of sarongs. Some local statutes made out of coconut wood and volcanic rock, coconut bowls, little-carved turtles and a glass fish. The people were very nice and even gave Jenna a sarong and a little fridge magnet.
We headed off from Iririki Resort and arrived at The Havannah for our last two night in Vanuatu – what an amazing place.
Had a relaxing day reading on the outside day bed.
We had a lovely lunch and dinner, and after dinner, the staff had made a towel dog using Jenna’s sunglasses with a lovely note.
While having breakfast some Dugong turned up unfortunately, neither Jenna or I had our phones or camera on us. But here is a photo from the Internet. They were amazing to see, and apparently really rare – a special treat.
After breakfast, we walked to the nearby village of Tanoliu and visited the museum where a local man displays the remains of WWII he has collected. His display consisted of mainly coke bottles which have the place of manufacture stamped on the bottom, mainly from California but very interesting. Very surprising the weight that is in these old bottles.
He was very passionate and had a nice talk about the relics. There were bottles from ABC (Auckland Brewing Company).
We headed back to The Havannah and went snorkeling just off from the jetty – it was a very nice place and the water was very clear. The drop off next to the reef was huge and we were definitely unable to touch the bottom. Lots of different fish from Trevally to Piper and lots of reef fish.
Around the wharf, some fish were quite aggressive with them chasing you and sometimes running into you. But I’m sure we were pretty safe – they were about the size of my hand.
After snorkeling, we sat in the sun-chairs in the pool, reading and having a drink, relaxing and enjoying the scenery.
Jenna had booked our last dinner on the jetty, which was very romantic. The jetty had a glass bottom underneath the table which we saw a small Squid and a Lion fish. It was a very lovely final dinner in Vanuatu.
After dinner, we returned to our room and we were greeted by another lovely gift of a towel Elephant – such talented people!
We had time for a nice leisurely breakfast and finished packing our bags. Did some more shopping at The Havannah for a couple more souvenirs.
The people of Vanuatu are very friendly and I can see why Vanuatu has been voted the happiest place on earth twice.
Thanks for Reading
Gareth (and Mrs. Faulkner :P)