Vanuatu is a kids paradise, it’s official. Tiffany Carroll asked the most discerning visitors – those aged 12 and under what’s hot in the tropics. Here are their answers.
On the coastal ring road, about 25 minutes from Port Vila heading south east a small sign indicates the Blue Lagoon. This fresh water ‘blue hole’ as the locals call it is just south of Vila’s famed Eton Beach. It’s perfectly simple – a beautiful spot for a swim and the highlight? Tarzan’s rope. The Blue Lagoon has basic amenities such as picnic tables and change rooms, but not much else. And you know what? It doesn’t need anything else either. Gorgeous simplicity.
WHERE: Next door to Eton Beach, about 25 minutes from Port Vila
HOW MUCH: VT500 per person.
Custom village visit
There are few more breath-taking things to do in the world, than meet a culture so truly foreign to your own, yet your nearest neighbour. For kids, it’s got to be the highlight of their trip to Vanuatu. Visiting a local custom village, such as Fanafo in Santo will leave you inspired, with a better understanding of why Vanuatu has twice now been named the Happiest Country on the Planet. Meet the local chief, see the women prepare meals for the whole community, visit the communal gardens and share lunch with the village kids. Don’t forget to take your camera and, if you wish, a small gift of pencils or crayons for the children – it will be most appreciated.
Eden on the River
Adventure. Animals. Freedom to roam. Cascade waterfalls. Pretty much everything a kid could want? Yep – you can find it all at Eden on the River. Vila’s newest attraction and magnet for kids is set on the banks of the Rentapau River, about 20 minutes from Port Vila. Suitable for young’uns and grown ups, guests strap in for adventure, taking on suspension bridges across the glorious cascading Rentapau River. Finish the bridge walk with a short flying fox ride and the kids are ready for a quick bite to eat of local fruit and fresh juice followed by a fun farm tour. Pet the resident sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens and horses. Meet an iguana, flying fox and lorikeet. All are friendly and all kid-friendly.
For mum and dad, take a tour of the Ernst family’s beautiful gardens at Eden. Lovingly tended over many years, Carolyn Ernst has put thousands of hours into collecting rare and beautiful tropical plants, fruit trees and exquisite orchids. The kids may even enjoy seeing how fruits and nuts are grown and play ‘guess that fruit’.
WHERE: Kooyu Farm, Rentapau, Port Vila
HOW MUCH: From VT1800 – VT4800 per child depending on tour.
It’s no surprise to those who have visited Tanna’s Mount Yasur volcano that it is Vanuatu’s number one tourist attraction. It may be a surprise to know kids (over the age of six – but we suggest eight plus) are welcome to climb Yasur too. How cool will the kids be at Show and Tell? “What did you do on your holidays?” “I climbed the world’s most accessible, active volcano.” The lunar-like appearance of the ashplain ensures the kids will have an out-of-this-world experience and learn a bit about science too! The climb up Yasur is easier than you think – in fact you can drive to all but 50 metres away from the crater. There are handrails and steps carved into the mountain for the last part – but do ensure your tour operator has packed adequate lighting for the trip home. We took our eight year old up and know it is an experience she will never forget.
WHERE: Tanna, 45 min flight south of Port Vila
HOW MUCH: Air Vanuatu Island Tours has package deals including flights, accommodation, entry to Yasur and return transfers from VT36,500 per person.
Shopping at the local markets
The Port Vila market house, located right on the harbour is open six days and nights a week and is terrific for kids. The locals love kids and kids love seeing all the different fruit and vegies not found at home. They’ll be amazed at the size of the produce here – from enormous pumpkins and avocados to cucumbers the size of a bread stick. Mum and Dad will love the prices too – when was the last time you paid 50 cents for a bunch of bananas? It really is a must-see on your visit to Vanuatu. Further along the seafront area next door to Nambawan Café is the local Mama’s market. Kids will love the souvenirs here – but please do try to buy locally made handicrafts rather than the not so local plastic fantastic available.
Saturday morning is the busiest time of the week, if you can battle the crowds you’re in for a wonderful, technicolour overload of all things fresh and bright.
Zip on over
For older kids, the Jungle Zipline is an adrenaline packed day out. Strap in to world-class safety gear and soar through the air along six ziplines. Breath-taking scenery, fun guides and a rush that will have the kids on a high for the duration of their holiday. With six ziplines (including a 200 metre-long zipline 80 metres above the canyon) and a flying finish across a secret waterfall, the kids will sleep well. The Zipline is located at The Summit, one of Port Vila’s most beautiful properties (the garden is open to the public) Mum and Dad might just enjoy the zipline location too – even if it is just taking a garden tour while the kids spend an hour soaring through the jungle.
WHERE: Vanuatu Jungle Zipline, The Summit, Port Vila
HOW MUCH: VT4000 for kids, VT9500 for adults.
Make your own pizza
I’ll admit it – I dread taking my toddler out for dinner. With an attention span shorter than it takes to say ‘no thanks’ to those pesky dinner-time insurance-selling callers, my little treasure is a nightmare to keep still at meal times at the best of times. Dining in public? Just forget it. However there is one place I know that has thought of everything to not only make mealtime easy, but enjoyable. Chill restaurant, next door to the market house has everything from portable DVD players to make-your-own pizzas for the kids. There are colouring books and plastic cups – not to mention an array of sugary desserts that are fabulous as bribes for good behaviour.
WHERE: Chill Restaurant and Bar, next door to the Market House, Port Vila
HOW MUCH: Kids meals from VT500.