Vanuatu adventures – part 2

In Part 1 of our Vanuatu adventures I covered our first few days staying at the Ramada in Port Vila. We’d enjoyed plenty of sunshine, swimming, snorkelling and kayaking and Astrid had turned 8, thoroughly enjoying her first ever warm weather birthday.

It was now almost half way through our stay and Sunday (the day after Astrid’s birthday). We had again woken up to a lovely sunny and warm day. Antony had organised to go out for a days diving while the kids, Granny and I stayed at the resort for some swimming and relaxing.

I’d come down with some horrid gastro bug the night before (unfortunetely during Astrid’s birthday dinner) and hadn’t had the best night. I was still feeling a bit under the weather and not feeling like eating or doing much, so was ratherr glad it was Anto heading out on a boat for the day and not me!

Part way through breakfast Astrid declared she ‘wasn’t hungry’ which seemed odd….. and then when she declined to swim and wanted to lay by the pool, rather than swimming, I was even more worried. Fingers were crossed that she was just a bit tired after her birthday activities and it wasn’t anything worse. While Astrid read some of her new books, Zinnia was happy to play in the warmth by the pool, while Granny and Soren swam.

We again had the pool pretty much to ourselves and didn’t have to worry about annoying other guests.

Meanwhile, Anto had been collected from the resort by 8am and was off for a few dives near Hideaway Island and off the a rather nice looking boat.

He reported the diving was fairly good and had a rather peaceful day without the chatter of kids…….

Unfortunately things didn’t go so well back at the resort. Astrid succumbed to my virus and was soon vomiting and unwell, needing to spend most of the day resting and looking particularly unhappy. I was feeling better than overnight, but still not keen on doing much (or eating). Soren and Zinnia were thankfully still well and spent the day playing in the sand, and hanging out with Mum and Granny, while spotting pretty fish that swum by.

While Granny was off having a massage, everyone else had a quiet afternoon and were starting to feel a little better. After a short snorkel and swim we enjoyed the sunset while waiting for Anto to return.

Jut on dark Anto returned and we all wandered down to the pool bar for another round of happy hour cocktails for the adults. Then it was dinner back at the apartment cooked by Anto as we’d been out for dinner the previous 2 nights.

After 4 days of hanging out at the resort we’d convinced the kids that it would be nice to go for an excursion snorkelling on Hideaway island, assuming everyone was feeling well enough. Of course our luck with the weather ran out and it rained heavily overnight and we awoke to a wet and gloomy day.

Luckily it was still warm, and we didn’t get too wet getting to and from breakfast. The rain was quite heavy in the morning so we spent some time playing in the apartments before reorganising our planned activities for the day.

We decided to catch a bus into town (we have walked every other time but it was very wet and very muddy) for some souvenir and duty free shopping and lunch at a local cafe.

We had a successful few hours wandering the wet streets, making several souvenir purchases and scoring the cheapest duty free alcohol of anywhere we’ve come across in the world. After a nice lunch of fish and chips and burgers we bussed back to the hotel, hoping the weather would have cleared like it was meant to. But alas, more rain!

Undeterred it was off for a snorkel. The rain was light and intermittent now, and it was still plenty warm enough to jump in the ocean. It wasn’t quite the snorkel trip we planned for the day…….. but plenty of fish and star fish were still spotted.

The kids were happy to work on their giant sandcastle out in the rain. We had plenty of spare clothes by this stage of the trip, so were happy enough for them to be outside playing, getting slightly wet than cooped up inside driving us mad.

The sandcastle was constructed over a period of several days and was being worked on by other kids as they passed by. It ended up having an impressive moat and bridge, covered in various shells and plant matter, and being large enough that the groundsmen had to rake around it or face the wrath of hordes of young children!

We’d hoped that the forecast of clearing showers would be correct and we could do our planned excursion the next day (Tuesday), but we again woke to a very wet day. Unlike the previous day it did look like it may clear so we spent the morning hanging out in the apartment building sandcastles and playing Uno. The Uno cards had been popular during swims and snorkels!

There was also plenty of time for eating. Zinnia had decided she should get to eat all day long, just like her siblings!

The afternoon was still on the rainy side so we decided not to risk going out to another island and being wet and miserable. With the inclement weather the pool had been pretty quiet and we had a lovely long afternoon swim with no one annoying us……..

The water wasn’t super warm but we’d obviously gotten used to it and made the most of the time in the water. There was also no line at the pool bar!

Zinnia had been happily spotting fish in the water, and the ocean was slightly warmer than the pool so Granny and I thought we’d see if she would like to dip her feet in.

Zinnia wasn’t really sure about this seaweed and wave thing. It was water that she loves to splash…… but it was all a bit cold, so after a little splash, and mostly getting us wet, we wandered back to the apartment to see how the sandcastle building was going and get ready for more snorkelling.

The rainy days did result in some slightly better visibility for snorkelling and the kids were increasing in confidence. Even if Soren only lasts 10 minutes at a time due to having no body fat and getting cold!

I was finally feeling a little better today, so even enjoyed a kid-free snorkel. Anto and I spotted quite a few great fish colonies a couple of metres under the surface.

Soren loved the safety sausage to float on while snorkelling. Not what we planned to use it for but definitely a good addition to his snorkelling kit.

The rain never did fully clear so we made the most of our last full day at the resort, and did plenty of playing, swimming and relaxing……..

As luck would have it on Wednesday morning we woke to brilliant blue skies and no sign of rain! We had considered going out for a short excursion but having an afternoon flight we decided we’d have to leave the sight-seeing until another trip. I had been valiantly trying to convince the kids to do some sight-seeing earlier in our stay but they’d been having too much fun swimming and snorkelling at the resort.

Not to worry, our last breakfast we had lovely sunny views and plenty of attention from all the staff. Zinnia had been the star attraction over the week, and all the restaurant staff had to give her lengthy cuddles to say goodbye!

Zinnia had definitely enjoyed all the attention!

The kids had requested one last snorkel, so we headed out in the brilliant sunshine. Adults tag-teaming snorkelling between looking after Miss Zinnia.

Our last snorkel was certainly a great one, with plenty of fish spotted and a few new corals. The kids well and truly have the snorkelling bug so I’m sure there will be more of it in our future!

Eventually we were all cold so it was time to get out and head down to the pool for our last swim.

We cracked the best of the weather for the last day, beautifully warm and sunny, and great for hanging out by the pool!

We’d long since given up putting Zinnia’s swimmers on, as she found the water too cold. As it was so warm by the pool this day, we thought we’d again try and put her feet in the water. Well, today she thought that was fabulous, and was soon splashing and ready to get thoroughly wet!

Pretty soon we had to strip her off as she was insisting on sitting in the pool, splashing and chatting to the other kids. After a full week in Vanuatu she waited until the last 2 hours at the resort before she wanted to go in!

Despite the water still being cold, Zinnia was undeterred and Anto was sent back to the apartment to fetch her swimmers. The grins and splashing got even bigger as she was taken for a swim around the pool!

A full hour of splashing and having fun and it was back to what she is like in the heated pool (and bath) at home! By this stage she was starting to turn blue as it really wasn’t that warm, but there was no way she was going to let us get her out!

Eventually we had to drag both Zinnia and Astrid away from the pool under protest, so we could shower and finish the packing before check-out time.

There was time for one last photos on the beach together to remember the great time we had enjoying some June sunshine and warmth in the tropics!

All packed up, our buggy arrived to transport us and our luggage back up to reception. The kids enjoyed their last buggy ride, Soren customarily up with the driver and Astrid riding at the very back.

Leaving wasn’t made easier by the beautiful sunny views as we waited to check out. We did spy a few storm clouds on the horizon so were consoling ourselves with leaving before the next lot of rain. The kids weren’t overly happy about having to leave the lovely rooms and friendly staff though!

Soon we were in the bus on the way back to the airport for our 2.30pm flight back to Brisbane. We made it to the airport by about 12.20 and beat the rush checking in. We managed to make it through immigration fairly efficiently (well as efficiently as you can with 3 small kids) and had some local currency we had to use up so the kids scored a few last minute souvenirs.

No one had been hungry for many of the left overs we had for lunch before leaving the resor,t but by now everyone started getting hungrier. Of course our flight kept getting progressively delayed as the incoming flight was delayed by storms between Brisbane and Port Vila. Poor Zinnia was well overdue for sleep and a feed, but hung in there with some entertaining.

We finally took off, well over an hour late, and flew out to some pretty spectacular views of Port Vila and definite storms on the horizon.

Zinnia was quickly asleep and the other kids settled into reading and playing.

Unfortunately the flight back to Brisbane was also delayed in the air, and we were worried about missing our connection back to Canberra as it was the last flight of the night. Our planned nice and relaxed 2.5 hour layover in Brisbane, which was going to give us time for showers and dinner in the lounge, was reduced to less than an hour by the time we landed. In this time we had to clear immigration, collect luggage and change terminals.

On rechecking our bags the ground staff zoomed us ahead and weren’t sure we would make the connecting flight as it was already supposed to be boarding but was (perhaps fortunately) also late arriving into Brisbane due to the very poor Brisbane weather.

The kids were exhausted, cold and hungry. There had been no time to put on warmer clothes or get anything to eat. Our bums didn’t touch a seat as our flight was being called as we arrived over at the domestic terminal, and with the quick addition of a jumper or two we were in the air to Canberra. Astrid and Zinnia again napping, and Soren somehow talking non stop.

We landed well after 9.30pm in Canberra with tired kids and were met by the Uncle Mikl taxi service. It was another cold Canberra night so the kids were glad to be home and tucked up in bed asleep by 10.30pm, Vanuatu adventure complete except for all the unpacking and washing which fortanutely for them was left to the adults!

The Vanuatu trip wrap-up

June 19-26, 2019 (8 days).
Temperature range was a pleasant 19 to 28 degrees Celsius.
Accommodation: Ramada Port Vila (inter-connecting junior suites. Flights: Canberra- Brisbane, Brisbane – Port-Vila, Port-Vila- Brisbane, Brisbane – Canberra (Virgin Australia)

Overall impressions of the Ramada were that it was in a fairly decent location, with a 10-15 minute stroll into restaurants and town with supermarkets and fresh food market. Buses and taxis are cheap and would take you to and from the resort, although there was sometimes a wait. We generally preferred to walk for some exercise but it was an uphill walk back to the resort and a walk along roads and often on dirt. It was fine with the kids but we used the ergo for Zinnia, rather than a stroller.

The resort was quite nice, although on a hill and spread out, so in our opinion the best rooms were the ground floor ones near the beach, pool and restaurant if you have kids. Being up near reception would have been a nightmare for us, carrying stuff back and forwards. We were also glad to not be on an upper level floor and have to deal with stairs. It would not be a good choice of resort if you were mobility impaired.

The pool was on the small side compared to other resorts we’ve stayed at but perfectly nice and never crowded. They could have done with more lounge chair cushions, there were only ever 4! Plenty of lounge chairs just not enough cushions.

We did find the water in the pool (and ocean) wasn’t super hot in June as it wasn’t heated (the ocean was actually warmer) but it was fine once you got in. The kids tended to get cold at times, but didn’t really complain.

The resort had plenty of single and double kayaks we could use and Bob who was in charge of the pool and water-sports was excellent and always friendly.

The snorkelling was accessible straight off the beach, and the stairs in front of our room and there were a good range of small fish and some larger ones near the boat moored off the restaurant. There were also plenty of starfish and some bommies with a better selection of fish and coral a metre or two under the surface.

It was hardly world-class snorkelling but convenient and easy for the kids who were beginner snorkelers, and pleasant enough for the more experienced snorkelers when we had time to search out more fish and coral. The visibility wasn’t great on many days but was clearer a metre or so down.

The food at the restaurant was both expensive and not fabulous (a fact we were aware of from reviews before booking). We did have breakfast included and it was acceptable and had a reasonable variety of hot and cold food, if mostly the same every day. There was a good omelette station and they were happy to make fresh cappuccinos for us to order.

We were glad we’d booked apartments with kitchens as food was generally expensive in Vanuatu and it was easier to cook and have dinner and lunch in the aparrtment with the kids, especially as it got dark early. We ate at the resort for 1 dinner (the first night due to tiredness) and out at local restaurants 2 other nights. We also had 1 lunch at a local cafe, but cooked all other meals.

The staff were all very friendly and helpful and loved the kids. We enjoyed chatting to the restaurant, pool and cleaning staff and nothing was ever too much trouble. They weren’t great with organising things, we often didn’t have buggies turn up, the cleaning staff would forget to refill items in the apartments and there were constant mix up with appointment times. We had massages included in our accommodation package and had a lot of trouble booking them and staff turning up at correct times due to miscommunication with the staff on the desk and the spa staff (who tended to come in from a spa in town). However, the massages were excellent and staff very friendly but nothing happened fast or when we expected it. As long as we didn’t worry about how long things took and didn’t stress about details everything got sorted out in the end.

The rooms were spacious, clean and comfortable, with good bathrooms and comfy beds. The kids liked the space and being on the beach so they could play in the sand and quickly walk down to the pool was fabulous.

The resort was very pretty, with fabulous views of the lagoon and beautiful sunsets.

Overall we enjoyed our stay at the Ramada and had a very pleasant holiday. Astrid and Soren both thoroughly enjoyed Vanuatu and have asked to go back. Zinnia also enjoyed her first overseas adventure and is probably hoping her passport will get more of a work out in future!

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