Visitors Guide O
Office hours are fast becoming pretty much 8:00am to 5:00pm for tourist needs – photo development, post office, banks, souvenir shops, bookshops etc but most local businesses and government offices still have a ‘siesta’ from 11:30 to 1:30.
The Office Pub recently finished a ‘siesta’ and underwent a refurbish and a change of name to The Port Vila Pub and Flaming Bull Steakhouse but the Office Pub is still what it is mostly known as to the expats. Isn’t the Office a great name for a pub? You could ring home and say, “Sorry darling, still stuck at the office” without lying! It’s a good spot for steak.
Vanuatu is a tax haven and, while much offshore investing is legal, there are a number of ‘banks’ that aren’t totally legitimate and are rumoured to be laundering Russian Mafia money and the like. The major banks, however, keep a close watch on where funds come from and go to. If you have some lazy money to invest though, rental returns on property can realise over 10% tax-free and international companies can be set up in a day. An example of a simple, legal ‘scheme’ – if you had a share portfolio and believed it would continue to increase in value, you could sell it, pay any capital gains tax owing and let your international company buy the same shares. If/when they are sold in the future there would be no capital gains nor income tax on the way, just the cost of maintaining the company (say, US$1000 per annum). A number of Internet gambling operations have run successfully from Vanuatu. Investors who bring 5 million vatu or more into the country are given pretty much automatic residency. The money can be in cash or assets, like a house but, to be recognised by Australian and New Zealand governments as expatriate, you have to live out of the country for more than six months a year.
In 2012 the Olympic had a name change to the Island Time Cafe – it is a fast-food outlet adjacent to Goodies that serves good burgers and fish & chips. The poulet is local fish, the hoki or whiting is flown in frozen from New Zealand. The chips are thick (fat-fat) or thin (bun-bun). People will see similarities in other food on offer, like the ‘Bigfala Burger’, which is two all beef patties, pickle, lettuce, cheese, onion, sauce on a sesame seed bun. Would you like fries with that?
There is an optometrist (French), but for tourists the only reason for calling would be to fix a broken frame or to buy a pair of ‘magnifying’ glasses if you’ve left your own at home.
Most tourists who have limited time will choose side trips to either Santo (for diving) or Tanna (for the Volcano and culture). Epi is an accessible island with friendly locals, great snorkelling and a resident dugong. Malekula has lots of history and culture and the annual Pentecost land-diving is legendary. And for those with more time and a spirit for adventure, there is much to do and see on other islands.
We haven’t checked out all the accommodation facilities, however if you’re after something a little different and looking for that Robinson Crusoe experience, we have put together a thumbnail guide on a few of Vanuatu best kept secrets.
- Volcano day & overnight tours, custom dance demonstrations, magic and sand drawing, organised tours to historical sites.
- Mostly a cruise ship destination – no organised tours however locals are very friendly and helpful.
- Canoe fishing, snake dance demonstrations, overnight trekking tours to the volcano.
- Epi Island Beach Guesthouse: Phone (678) 28225, restaurant, bar, guesthouse, village and garden tour, waterfall tour, outrigger canoe fishing, horse riding, plantation and historical ruins tour.
- Paradise Sunset, Lamen Bay: restaurant, bar, 6 bungalows, (breakfast and dinner or half board), fishing, resident dugong, no credit cards accepted.
- Bush walks and fishing.
- Organised tours to traditional historical sites, Small Nambas & Big Nambas custom dance demonstrations.
- Nangol Bungalows, Salap, South Pentecost: Phone (678) 38327, restaurant, no bar, 3 bungalows, (full board), shared toilet and shower facilities, special Pentecost jump packages available during the months of April and May, no credit cards accepted.
- Bokissa Island Resort: restaurant, bar, fares all with private bathroom facilities, swimming pool and full resort facilities, many organised tours including scuba diving, credit cards accepted.
- Hotel Santo: restaurant, bar, rooms with private shower and toilet facilities, many organised tours, credit cards accepted.
- Aore Island Resort: restaurant, bar, 10 twin/double and 8 family bungalows, many organised tours, credit cards accepted.
- Coral Quays Resort: restaurant, bar, 18 fares with private bathroom facilities, many organised tours, credit cards accepted.
- Deco Stop Dive Lodge: restaurant, bar, 11 units, lockable wash area for divers, organised tours, credit cards accepted.
- Oyster Island Resort: restaurant, 8 bungalows, private toilet and shower facilities, many organised tours.
- Lonnoc Beach Bungalows, East Santo: restaurant, bar, 8 bungalows, (bed and breakfast), shared toilet and shower facilities, beach, fishing, no credit cards accepted.
- Vatthe Conservation Lodge, Matantas, Big Bay: restaurant, no bar, 6 bungalows, (bed and breakfast), shared toilet and shower facilities, forest walks, no credit cards accepted.
- White Grass Ocean Resort: Phone (678) 68688, restaurant, bar, 12 bures, private toilet and shower facilities, private beach, volcano tour, custom village, The John Frum Cargo Cult, volcanic black sand beaches tour, wild horses excursion, credit cards accepted.
- Friendly Bungalows: Phone (678) 26856, restaurant, bungalows, private and share toilet and shower facilities, volcano and custom village tours, no credit cards accepted.
We can’t vouch for all the above properties, but word of mouth tells us that the Epi Guesthouse is great and we really enjoy both Friendly Bungalows and White Grass Resort on Tanna as well as Aore and Bokissa on Santo. Stay tuned, we’re planning on getting out and about soon.
Outriggers give a tropical flavour to the country and are seen on the lagoons with locals casting nets or travelling about. Because of their design, they’re not as easy to manoeuvre as they look. The trick is in the oar motion – rather than paddling ‘straight’, pull the oar through the water in a ‘J’ curve.