Vanuatu is one of the South Pacific's most popular destinations. Just ask Jason Dundas! He had a look around the main island of Efate and then took a flight 30 minutes north to the island of Epi.
The island is 43km long and 18km wide. Its economy is largely dependent on agriculture. There are extensive coconut plantations along the west and north-east coasts, and smaller plantings of peanuts and kava. Most people live around the coast and there are few roads.
For such a small place with around 3000 residents, Epi Island has a wide variety of languages, including Bieria, Maii, Baki, Bierebo, Lamenu and Lewo, each spoken by just a few hundred people. They all form a branch of the Austronesian languages of Vanuatu.
Life on Epi Island is pretty basic and relaxed. People grow what they can and wait for the arrival of cargo every six weeks. It's a peaceful island with beautiful sandy cover, some white, some black and inshore reefs.
The island's interior is rugged with lush rainforest. There are several small lakes for swimming and fishing and lots of wild birds, pigs and cows.
Off Lamen Bay's 1.5km beach is one of the island's main drawcards. Beneath the surface is a world of shallow coral and fish like something from another planet. You can snorkel with grazing sea turtles and dugongs.
Ten minutes across the bay, Lamen Island is home to a traditional village. Locals make the water crossing in canoes with palm frond sails, but visitors tend to hire a regular boat. The people of the island welcome visitors with quite a cultural show and proudly show off their pigs a sign of wealth and power and sing and dance for you.
Back on Epi Island, Jason had many memorable experiences with the locals. There was much singing, dancing, laughing during the warm reception, and scented tropical flowers were used in abundance.
Epi Island Guesthouse
Epi Island Guesthouse is in five hectares of lush tropical gardens with a tranquil lagoon cooled by a mountain stream and private white-sand beach.
Once you've completed a bit of a rough one-hour drive across the island, the guesthouse is an oasis at Valesdir Plantation on the south-west coast of Epi.
The owners had the guesthouse built from scratch using local timbers. It's large, cool and comfortable. It's powered by eco-friendly micro-hydro electricity and has all modern conveniences. Local meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables are all local.
Epi Island Guesthouse's main focus is on tranquillity and relaxation but there are some activities. You can walk to neighbouring villages, the mountains and coast. The two-hour scenic coastal drive to Lamen Bay is a must-do.
Jason really felt he was staying with friends, and he's not at all surprised that Vanuatu has been named the Happiest Country on Earth.
Epi Island, a 30-minute flight from Efate Island in Vanuatu.
Epi Island Guesthouse rooms are around $115 a night. All meals, transfers and snorkelling are included.
Pacific Blue flies to Port Vila.
One-way fares from:
- Sydney and Brisbane $199
- Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra $249
- Perth $369
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are subject to change.
Prices correct at March 25, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
Epi Island Guesthouse
PMB 9070 Port Vila
Ph/ fax: +678 28225
Visas: Australians do not require a visa to stay in Vanuatu for up to 30 days. An extension of up to four months in a one-year period is possible.
Electricity: 220 to 280V at 50Hz using Australian-style plugs.
Time zone: GMT +11.
Currency: The vatu.
International dialling code: +678.
It is recommended travellers to Vanuatu see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.smarttraveller.com.au.
To find out more about the hot deals mentioned on the show, check out Holidays for Sale.