Good food, waterfalls and gorgeous beaches are great reasons to visit Vanuatu, writes Megan Singleton.
Your holiday helps
If you'd like to make a difference in Vanuatu but are not terribly au fait on the building equipment, then holidaying here is the best thing you could do. You'll hardly notice the remnants of Cyclone Pam, but what the locals are noticing is tourism numbers are down. Planning your winter escape to Vanuatu will inject money back into the economy, keep local staff members employed and you'll have a great time, too.
Try L'Houstalet run by Frenchman Clement for 40 years and whose daughter is a former Miss Vanuatu. He specialises in fruit bats but also has an extensive French menu. Order the butter chicken made by the Nepalese chef at the Grand Hotel. I loved the filet mignon from locally farmed beef at Mangoes and the tapas at Chantilly's on the waterfront. At the market buy roasted peanuts still in their shells or homemade kumara and taro chips.
Since the cyclone Pele Island is even more beautiful than before. A lot of trees on the beach came down and consequently have been cleared away to reveal a huge stretch of white sand. Join this snorkelling and barbecue day out with Evergreen Tours and support the local village on the island. I took souvenir pens for the boys and hair ties with Kiwis on them for the girls and wandered through the village bribing them for photos!
Mele Village is about 15 minute's drive out of Port Vila and here you'll find waterfalls so stunning they look like a film set at Universal Studios. I half expected to find the tap at the top. The Cascade Falls used to also offer abseiling, but Cyclone Pam has stopped the flow of water from that area. What Pam has also done is fell a large amount of trees meaning that you can now see the natural terraces and baby blue-coloured pools as you hike the trail.
For really great snorkelling take a left just before Cascades Falls and take the boat across an almost walkable spit to Hideaway Island. There is also accommodation here - rustic, family style. It's most popular for day-trippers and those who want to mail a postcard in the underwater post box. I've dived down like a mermaid and posted mine, now just waiting to see if it'll make it out.
Getting there: Air Vanuatu has regular services from Auckland.