Image credit: Vanuatu Tourism
More and more families are heading for Vanuatu, with is gorgeous beaches, glorious weather, and friendly locals. Cathy Wagstaff and her two daughters, Cara, 10, and Lisa, 9, also found that there was plenty for kids to do as well.
The family’s trip was off to a good start with a flight that was actually an enjoyable experience. Kids can get bored on long trips, but this 3½ hour trip went very quickly with the rare omission of the “are we nearly there yet” syndrome.
For Cara and Lisa, the highlight of the flight was being taken up into the cockpit to chat with the pilots. The kids’ meals also hit the right note, being well presented and delicious. The crew were very friendly and took time to make sure all their little passengers were well looked after.
Off the plane and into a different culture.
From the moment we stepped off the plane we felt part of a different culture. We arrived to a greeting from a traditional band and were quickly through customs and into a taxi to our resort.
On arriving at Le Lagon Resort, we soon found out that there were plenty of activities and entertainment for children of all ages. For starters, there is a free ‘Kids Only Club’ for 3-12-year-olds that operates from 8am to 10pm every day of the year. Children can try their hand at a diverse range of activities including basket-weaving, coconut harvesting, mask making, dancing, pool volleyball and riding on the two resident ponies.
The success of the club is best summed up by the enthusiasm of the kids. On day one, Cara and Lisa insisted they were not going to the Kids’ Club, but by day three – after seeing what the other kids had been doing – it changed to: “Please can we go to the Kids’ Club?”. Once at the club, Cara and Lisa got to paint a sarong, ride the ponies, make grass skirts, play pool volleyball and were totally worn out by the end of the day.
Their comment was: “This isn’t like other kids’ clubs – we want to go again tomorrow. The staff are really fun to be with”.
For older kids and adults
Resorts target families of all ages so there’s plenty for older kids and adults as well. Le Lagon offers free access to catamarans, outrigger canoes, surfskis, windsurfers, kayaks, snorkelling gear – all non-motorised water sports. The absence of noise from jet skis and motor boats adds to the resort’s serenity. We took advantage of the equipment one day, borrowing canoes to row across the lagoon to Erakor Island. While the girls played volleyball, the adults enjoyed cocktails on a deck built over the water. They also enjoyed a walk around the island before returning to the resort; the girls hitching a ride on a speedboat with one of the resort staff.
Le Lagon has its own 12-hole golf course and tennis courts. There are also two other international 18-hole golf courses on Éfaté. Le Meridien has its own casino and there are many restaurants in town to choose from.
Buddy for a day
Le Lagon caters for babies, and children up to the age of 12, with the ‘Pekinini Buddy’ service. The service gives each child their own ‘buddy’ to do whatever the child wants; even if it just brushing their hair! Each family receives 12 hours free and after that the hourly rate is Vt250 (about $3) or the weekly rate is Vt$8800 for 44 hours (about $110). - please check current rates with the resort.
Even though Cara and Lisa are 10 and 9, they still enjoyed the novelty of this one-on-one attention. Both of them had a buddy for four hours and they loved it! The Ni Vanuatu people are very caring and children are naturally drawn to them.
At Le Lagon, everything is free for children, including their laundry! We were there when the resort was fully booked and all the children were amazing. We didn’t hear one child crying or complaining.
Couples can really get a break too, whether it’s to read a book, lie by the pool, or enjoy a meal together every night. Adults can basically spend as little or as much time with the kids as they choose, safe in the knowledge that the kids are having their own fun. Many of the other parents I spoke to felt that they were almost having a child-free holiday!.
On our second day, we took a trip to Hideaway Island, a marine sanctuary and a snorkeller’s heaven. Walking about two feet out from the shoreline you are surrounded by beautifully coloured tropical fish that can be hand fed. The resort has snorkelling equipment for hire, and it’s a good idea to take some shoes to wear while paddling.
That same day we went to the Mele Cascades and hired a guide. It was about a 25-minute walk up an often slippery and tricky track, but well worth the effort. Once at the top we swam at the base of the waterfall where the spray hit so hard it was almost painful, so we moved down to the pool on the next level where we were able to swim without moving! The guide even played in the water with the kids until they were ready to get out.
Some words of advice
There are so many things to do at Le Lagon we didn’t get to them all! Other activities include the ‘Round The Island’ tour, scuba diving, the Tiva sunset cruise and visiting Ekasup village.
We also loved the fact that no-one hassles you for anything. The people of Éfaté are friendly and fair; no-one is trying to sell you anything or over charge you. The only word of caution is with the price of meals; some guests expected them to be cheaper than Australia but the costs are actually very similar, making the free children’s meals a real bonus. Getting around was also economical; we hired a taxi on a day rate and found it very economical. The trip was a wonderful break for us all!
Air Vanuatu operates direct flights to Port Vila from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland. Kids’ meals can be requested at the time of making your booking or up to 48 hours before your flight. Contact Air Vanuatu in your state or city for further information.