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Located 1750 kilometres North-East from the mainland of Australia rests an archipelago of islands in volcanic origin - the islands of Vanuatu. It's an untouched utopia of pristine beaches, electric blue lagoons and plenty of warm smiles. Vanuatu consists of eighty-three smaller islands and is easily accessible via a 2.5-hour flight from Brisbane or 3.5-hour flight from Sydney. It's incredible to think that a paradise so raw and rich in natural beauty hasn't succumbed to the hands of commercial tourism.
You'll likely fly into Port Vila or Espiritu Santo, dependant on your flight origin. While islands such as Efate and Tanna have their own set of unique natural and cultural beauty, it's the island of Espiritu Santo that's bound to capture your heart. Herein, lies some of the world's most pristine and untouched stretches of coastline - how much or how little you choose to explore during your stay is entirely up to you. Here are some of the top experiences that first-time visitors to Vanuatu should look to discover.
Espiritu Santo is scattered with some of the most incredible natural sinkholes you've ever seen. Sporting an iridescent blue hue, these limestone-based sinkholes are some of the most inviting natural swimming pools on earth. The Matevulu Blue Hole is a must-visit, and the perfect place to cool off when the humidity starts to kick in. Cost is approximately $5 AUD to visit the Matevulu Blue Hole and payment can be made to the landowners upon arrival.
Consistently voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Champagne Bay is a palm-fringed paradise that is sure to impress even the most selective beachgoer. Situated on the Eastern coastline of the island, Champagne Bay is often deserted, leaving you feeling a complete sense of freedom and seclusion. You'll find a few locals herding livestock here and there, but other than that, you've got one of the world's best beaches all to yourself. With the exclusion of cruise ship passengers, expect to pay the local farmers upwards of $10 AUD to visit.
There are very few travel experiences that leave an everlasting and profound effect on the mind more so than this one - a canoe trip down the Rhi Rhi River. It's worth hiring a local guide to get you to the Rhi Rhi River and set you up with a traditional canoe tour. Dangle your legs over the edge of the traditional Vanuatu canoe and listen to the sounds of the jungle as you glide through the water. What waits at the end is an experience you'll likely never forget. Expect to pay around $10-15 AUD for the experience.
Upon disembarking from the safety of your traditional canoe, you'll step foot onto a wooden platform overlooking one of the most striking natural swimming pools in the world - the Rhi Rhi Blue Lagoon. A plethora of dark green jungle overwhelmingly surrounds the most exotic and vividly coloured blue lagoon. Rope swings are at the ready with timber platforms enticing you to the water's edge. While the Rhi Rhi Blue Lagoon is often quite busy, look to arrive early mornings to experience this wonderful natural pool all for your self.
Previously titled Moyyan: House by the Sea, the award-winning Barrier Beach Resort serves up a delicious array of meals right on the beach. A few steps from the decking at Barrier Beach and you'll find yourself ankle-deep in the calm waters of Barrier Beach Cove. Barrier Beach boasts some of the finest and most secluded accommodation on the island, offering its guests a superb all-around travel experience. It offers everything from massage, kayaking, fishing charters, local food and adventure tours to snorkelling. If you happen to be passing by, consider stopping in for lunch and soaking up one of the most exclusive views the island has to offer.
Port Olry is the second largest village in Vanuatu located on the North-Eastern coast of the island. The village still heavily relies on fishing and produce trade to survive. Recognised for having one of the most stunning views on the island, Port Olry is an approximate one-hour drive from Luganville. At low tide, take a walk to Malet Island and enjoy your very own secluded paradise.
The most noticeable feature of Port Olry is how removed it appears to be from anything else on the island - if not, the entire Pacific region. The village appears to be stuck in time, almost refusing to adopt the way of the western world. While hygiene, education, medication and structural improvements have been implemented over the more recent years, it's certainly something that makes this village so distinctive. It almost feels like an entire world apart from the rest of the island - something truly incredible and unique to experience.
While we've already taken a look at some of the more well-known beaches on Espiritu Santo, you're bound to find you're very own slice of paradise if you look a little further. If you have the time, ask a local if they'd be happy to show you around to some of the more hidden locations. There's an incredible array of bays and beaches to discover around every turn. The best way to travel the island is on the back of a local truck that is often filled with local produce and artisan pieces. There's no better way to experience the island than with the wind rushing past your face and the excited cheers of locals as you pass by other families and villages on the road.
One thing that's noticeable on the drive from Luganville to Champagne Bay is the number of coconut plantations that exist on the island. Best viewed at sunset, these seemingly endless pastures of thousands of coconut palm plantations are a sight to behold. As coconuts are one of the main exports in Vanuatu, be sure to pull over roadside and experience one of many plantations that Espiritu Santo has on offer.
If it's isolation you seek, then you'll be rewarded perfectly with an escape to the South Pacific's most incredible islands. If you're searching for a balanced combination of creature comforts, while still feeling slightly removed from the western world, Espiritu Santo has got you covered.
While the island maintains it's rich heritage and charm, you're still guaranteed to find a fantastic meal, beautiful beach or stunning blue lagoon to fulfil your castaway fantasies. Look to travel in the dry season to avoid prolonged periods of rain. Most afternoons experience the occasional storm due to its geographical location. Drop the travel predispositions and reward yourself by soaking up the beauty one of the most naturally refreshing islands the world has yet to discover.
Scott is travel writer, photographer and videographer from the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Travelling extensively to many remote island locations, Scott aims to present destinations in such a way that evokes a passionate and strong desire to travel further and explore far and wide. You'll often find Scott enjoying the sun while photographing tourism and lifestyle campaigns by the beach. Follow him on Instagram or visit his website.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.