The village of Pango on the island of Efate, Vanuatu is a patchwork of banana trees, coconut palms and coral. The houses are built on foundations of calcified bones of the reef out front and the water delicately colliding with the land could be drawn on with highlighter. In the afternoon high-tide kids play in the shallows, backs shiny in the evening light – their affinity for the ocean all too obvious. There were moments in my short trip there that I had to pinch myself at the dreamy perfection of the forgotten Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu and here's five reasons why you should go there:
1. It only take 2-3 hours to get there from Australia. Yes, you heard me. Less than three hours from the east coast of Australia, a direct flight from Brisbane or Sydney with Virgin or Air Vanuatu. When we look at a map of the world when brainstorming ideas of where to head for our next slice of paradise we easily trace to Indonesia or the Philippines, quickly forgetting about our close Pacific Island neighbours.
2. It’s not that built up and definitely not overrun by tourists. Whenever I mentioned I was going to Vanuatu while I was still in Australia most people said something about Fiji. “Have fun in Fiji” the guy in the dive shop said. Vanuatu is not Fiji. In fact, many people don’t even know what or where Vanuatu is. This is great for sharing perfect beaches with just a handful of locals, people don’t try to rip you off and there’s no groups of sunburnt Australian’s wearing alcoholically branded singlets striding drunkenly between clubs. It’s quiet and the clock seems to tick a whole lot slower on island time.
3. Ocean is crystal clear. Like, really clear. Surfing often feels like you are levitating over a giant reef garden and the diving off the reef is gorgeous for the transparency. I was often in disbelief at its clarity – something that makes it pretty inviting to spend long days playing in the ocean. There are also a bunch of fun water falls close to the capital of Port Vila which also have swimming pools of the most transparent shades of blue. The waterfalls are a must do for the long hot days.
4.The waves are fun. Just because it couldn’t get any more idyllic the surf is also good. There seems to be an onshore afternoon trade wind, but the mornings are glassy and there’s a huge number of breaks. Lefts points and A-frame peaks – they all break over some pretty shallow live coral though so pack your lime juice and be wary of low tide. There’s a variety of wave types as well, take a fun board or a longboard as well as a shortboard as you’ll need to mix it up.
5. Not the resort honeymoon destination you imagine.There’s one or two resorts hemming the coast, but in no way does it give you the third wheel feeling of being on someone else’s honeymoon. There’s little places to stay and markets and venders that will give you what you need for a solo or buddy adventure. It’s also pleasant to have a beach front resort occasionally in proximity for a happy hour cocktail or the odd infinity pool.