The Republic of Vanuatu lies in the sparklingSouth Pacific Ocean.
While it’s only a short flight from Australiaand New Zealand, chances are, it’s a world away from whereveryou are right now.
Like a handful of shells cast upon 5000 squaremiles of pristine waters, this Melanesian archipelago remains relativelyuntouched by the waves of mass tourism.
This is a nation where traditional customsremain strong, …a place where the people live in harmonywith the moods of the waters and the land.
In Vanuatu, the opportunity for adventure, and the chance to relax, await at every turn.
This is a place that will challenge the wayyou think about happiness, and what it means to truly live in the moment.
Most visitors to Vanuatu arrive at the nation’s capital, Port Vila, situated on the main island of Efate.
Vila, as it’s affectionately known, sits at the edge of a magnificent naturalharbor filled with corals and sea life.
Visiting yachts and inter-island traders bumpand sway at anchor, evoking the romance of times gone by.
While around the harbor, beaches, islands and resorts welcome weary 21st centurytravellers looking for a chance to reconnect with lovedones, and themselves.
Like many South Pacific ports, Villa is wonderfully laid back and relaxed, so leave your designer gear at home, pullon some flip flops and slide into island time.
Wander the markets filled with handicraftsand produce from across the archipelago.
For those fussy shoppers used to checkinglabels, relax, everything here is organic.
Explore the beaches of Mele Bay, …and send a postcard home to loved-onesfrom the underwater mailbox at Hideaway Island.
At sunset, enjoy the cool sea breezes andwarm hospitality of your resort, or hang out with sailors, expats and locals at the bars and restaurants along the waterfront.
If you can drag yourself away from your deckchair, Vila is the perfect jumping off point foradventures all over the island, from sunset cruises, .
to kayak adventures, …forest walks, …to zip-lining.
Just a ten-minute drive from port Vila, and then a five-minute walk into the heartof Erakor Rainforest, is Ekasup Cultural Village.
Here, proud villagers are waiting to sharetheir centuries-old customs, crafts, music and stories with you.
For a day trip that many rate as the highlightof their Vanuatu adventure, take a 35 minute drive north from Port Vila, then climb aboard a boat to nearby LelepaIsland.
Cool off in a pristine aquatic wonderland, …or simply glide over coral gardens in atraditional outrigger.
Enjoy a beach-side barbeque, then take a cultural tour across the island, learning about traditional bush medicine and soaking up the local smiles along the way.
Before you leave however, quietly enter sacredFels Cave, once part of the domain of Roy Mata, the great 13th century chieftain who unitedVanuatu’s many tribes.
Tiny Lelepa Island is just one of Vanuatu’s80 islands.
The largest, is Espiritu Santo, just a 50-minute flight north from Vila.
At the island’s sleepy capital Luganville, stock up on supplies at the markets, before venturing off to explore the naturalwonders of Santo.
Vanuatu is dotted with incredible blue holes, a geological phenomenon that results in purewaters of jewel-like quality.
Take a dip in one of the best, at Matevulu, just a 30-minute drive from Luganville.
Follow the coast north though the coconutplantations and farms of Santo, to some of Vanuatu’s finest beaches.
Stay a few nights in a bungalow at Lonnocor neighboring Champagne Beach, and wake each morning to some of the whitest, footprint-free sands in the world.
A little further north, hang out with local families and enjoy theidyllic waters of Port Olry.
After exploring mainland Santo, explore the islands off its southern coast.
While away your days enjoying the pristinemarine environment of Aore Island.
On tiny Bokissa Island, let one of the localsmassage out those 21st century knots.
While on neighboring Ratua Island, why notstay right on the water and let the outgoing tide carry your stressesfar out to sea.
Two miles off the coast of Santo is Malo, an island of exceptional natural beauty.
Join a kayak tour and gently paddle up thepristine waters of the Malo River.
Just as the river narrows and the forest closesin around you, it opens out again, revealing yet anotherof Vanuatu’s remarkable blue holes.
After the islands of Efate and Santo haveworked their soothing magic on you, get even further away from it all, on TannaIsland.
Just a 45-minute flight south from Port Vila, Tanna is fringed with beaches ranging frompure white, …to black volcanic sands.
The island offers a range of accommodations too, from simple beachside bungalows, …to stunning eco resorts with all the mod cons.
But away from the coast, time has stood still.
Many of the hillside villages on Tanna remain largely unaffected by the trappingsof the modern world, and that’s the way the locals prefer it.
At Lowinio Village, the residents proudlyshare their way of life, which they call “kustom”.
This isn’t just a show for tourists, here, the welcome and the smiles are amongthe warmest you’ll ever receive.
Tanna means Earth, and after kicking up thedust together, you’ll feel completely grounded too.
You’ll certainly feel the earth shake onMt.
Yasur, one of the world’s most active and accessiblevolcanoes.
In 1774, Captain James Cook changed courseto Tanna after seeing the volcano’s far-off glow.
Cook attempted to climb the volcano, only to be turned back by locals who consideredthe mountain sacred.
Yasur’s custodians invite visitorsto stand on the caldera’s fiery rim to witness one of the greatest spectacleson the planet.
As lava shoots into the evening sky, some tremble, most are awestruck, but all are humbled.
In fact, you’ll feel humbled wherever yougo in Vanuatu …by the incredible natural beauty, …by the richness of the culture, …but mostly, by its people.
In these islands, the true measure of wealthis how much a person can give away.
After experiencing the warmth and generosityof Vanuatu’s people, it’s easy to feel that Vanuatu could be, one of richest places on earth.