Barefoot luxury is a tricky balance, but we found it there in the palatial proportions of Tiger, its private jetty, outdoor and indoor showers, abundant daybeds and absolute ease – no room key and nothing but cool, smooth timber, rugs, soft grass or sand beneath your feet.
Instead of garish, artificial objects, Arden would play among the natural, jewel shades of the tropics. In the warm shallows, she toyed with bobbing coconut shells and floating leaves. She giggled at navy blue starfish and wriggled her fingers and toes in the white sand.
On our first night we wandered, still barefoot, down to the deck of the island’s Yacht Club restaurant for dinner and as we selected Taittinger champagne from an impressive wine list, Arden was lifted onto the hip of a waitress and carried, beaming, around the bar area while we toasted my birthday.
Nearby, two little boys were curled on a sofa with books while their parents sampled a red from the owner’s vineyard. A honeymooning couple occupied a quiet corner. At the next table a veteran jazz musician, holidaying solo, struck up a chat with us.
I gazed around at the eclectic guests, the starry sky, the cocktails being expertly mixed and my daughter sleeping peacefully in her stroller, and raised my glass to Fon. “You pulled it off,” I said.
As days passed, Ratua proved that travelling with a baby could be as indulgent and off-the-beaten-track as we’d always liked. When we ventured off the island to kayak to a remote blue hole or visit the postcard-perfect Champagne Beach on Santo, we pre-arranged a babysitter but on any day, the staff would spontaneously scoop Arden up and whisk her off wherever they were heading: on a fishing boat, up to the staff village, to the shade of a coconut tree for a nap. She was welcome everywhere. “We met your baby in the spa,” a fellow guest would say. Or “Arden was having fun in the kitchen.”
Sometimes with her and sometimes without, her father and I enjoyed blissful massages at the spa, rode the island’s native horses, snorkelled, chatted to new friends or simply lay on our jetty, savouring the silence.
We partied, too. On Saturday night the local string band played while we all danced and sipped kava. Arden, squealing with laughter, was rocked to the beat in the arms of her ni-Vanuatu friends in their floral finery.
She’s supposed to be too young to retain these memories. But I suspect that Ratua’s gentle rhythms, colours and creatures, and the smiles and welcoming arms of the Vanuatuans will travel with her – wherever we take her.
More private islands
Above: The Yacht Club
All images courtesy of Ratua Private Island