My Island home is calling to me. Well it is not my home but after five days at the wonderful Iririki Resort and Spa it felt like our home. Let me explain.
Being the wife of a pilot you would have thought I get to live a jet set life style but it is far from the truth. With two young kids and a husband who is often away we don’t often get time away, let alone out of the country, so when an opportunity to visit Vanuatu came along, we were keen to grab it.
The kids were excited about our first overseas holiday and so were we. The flight across was great with Air Vanuatu though we were greeted with overcast skies and drizzle (are you sure this is a tropical paradise?). You know you “are not in Kansas anymore” when you step of the plane and head for the small shed of a terminal. Here we obtained our first glimpses of what is affectionately know as “Island Time” (nothing is hurried, it happens when it happens). It was humid, the kids were anxious to get to the hotel, but the immigration queue was slow BUT we would remain calm.
Our journey was not over as we boarded a complimentary bus (Melakasa Transport) for the ten minute drive to the dock. Our son thought it was great as he got to ride up front with the driver, me I tried not to notice all the pot holes while I hid in the back. At the dock we were warmly greeted by Iririki staff with shell necklaces and helped onto the ferry boat. The boat runs 24 hours and only takes a few minutes to make the crossing.
The warm hospitality continued on arrival at the island, with fresh tropical juice and information packs for us while our bags were taken care of. A mini bus then transported us to our poolside apartment. Now the fun could begin.
We were accommodated in a Deluxe Pool View apartment on the 1st floor. First impressions are important and this didn’t miss a beat. The apartment was spacious, clean and comfortable. We had worried about getting under each others feet but with some much space it wasn’t a problem. The balcony had a very enticing view of the lower of numerous pools that just made you want to jump in. On the balcony was a large spa bath for further relaxation, in case you hadn’t managed enough by the pool.
The room was set up with a huge, and I mean massive king size bed that was so comfortable that I could have slept for days. It also had a fold out sofa bed and a third single bed so the kids didn’t need to share (handy with one who likes to fidget, even in his sleep)
The apartment is all a family could need. There was a small kitchen with microwave, fridge, stove top, dishwasher, toaster etc., perfect for snacks on the run. Also a good touch was a washing machine and dryer for the swimmers. The ceiling fans were great for keeping us cool during the night and air conditioner was great during the day.
If I had to give one draw back it was that it gets light early and the room is very light. With no curtains in the kitchen or bathroom a lot of light floods into the room early in the morning, helping restless children to be convinced it is time to get up long before the parents do. This may be better on the lower floor with more bushes to block out the light.
The resort offers multiple types of accommodation which all looked good from the outside. The ocean view rooms appeared quite new and would have had a fantastic view of the setting sun but were a short walk from restaurants and pool. Fares are located near the entrance to the Island and also look good for those wanting a romantic get away.
The Pool View Rooms are located on the far side of the Island but is great for access to the best areas for kids; pool, games room, tennis courts, playground, sunset bar (o.k that's more for adults than kids). It did mean a ten minute appetite building walk for breakfast (though the Island has transport that will come and pick you up).
Meals and Cocktails
Where to start, for me it is with a frozen cocktail at happy hour at the Sunset Bar. These little beauties are the perfect way to set up your evening.
The resort has two restaurants, Michener's and Watermark and two bars where food can be ordered as well as room service. A buffet breakfast is served daily and it certainly serves up a feast to set you up for the day, and keep you going until evening. Every taste is covered with hot and cold food, pastries, cereal and a great selection of tropical fruits and coconut. For me the coffee was a highlight, though the two men in my life loved having a chef on hand to cook eggs of their liking every morning (they wont be getting that when they get home).
We tried all the eateries. Michener's is the location for breakfast or a more upmarket dinner, which was very elegant and high class. It offers a menu of local ingredients and buffets on some nights including local dishes and entertainment. Hubby was a little disappointed no coconut crab on the menu but understood why when he saw the pet one ‘Pinchy’ outside in a cage.
The Watermark offers a range of Asian inspired dishes and again was tasty and beautifully presented.
The Bali Hai bar also offers food, but children are not allowed. It does however have access to free internet (as does Michener's) so is perfect to make your Facebook friends jealous.
The Sunset bar has a simple bar style menu of burgers, pasta, salads etc. I can highly recommend the Melanesian curry as we had it several times, certainly a highlight of the menu.
The kids menu is full of things to entice the little ones. The food is all reasonably priced with similar meals in Australia and with kids eating free of the kids menu when you order it works out very economical to the family budget and leaves more for cocktails!
Activities and fun stuff
“Can we go swimming now?”, it was a daily call from our little ones, and with multiple pools the answer is Yes! The pools are great and cater for all. The infinity pool is at one end of the island and really seemed to be aimed more for the adults and hubby loved the view from it.
Next to our room were the other pools, five in fact, tiered down over several levels with swim up bar. These pools were great. The lowest starts ankle deep and gently slopes down to 1.4m so allows those who can swim and those who cant to still have fun. We spent most of our time here as our kids are still learners. The pools are surrounded by chairs and loungers for those that want to soak up the rays
If the pools aren’t enough there is ocean as well, Mele Bay to be precise. There is a spot aptly named Snorkelers Cove which allows swimming with the fishes. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have equipment as the resort will happily loan you some. A note of caution - there is sharp coral, shells and stonefish in the water and on the beach - foot protection is a must.
The beach is also a great for relaxing and watching the watercraft go by, and the sea plane park on. With Kayaks, catamarans, bikes all available there is plenty to do. There is also tennis courts, basketball, a gym to keep you occupied. The staff also run daily activities if you want to meet other islanders.
For the kids the games room is fun though more suited to older kids with table tennis, pool and air hockey (our kids loved this) all free of charge.
The playground is handily located near the pool and our room. You can also make your own fun, collecting shells, watching boats or feeding fish from the jetty.
Magic words to any parent. The resort offers a kids club allowing parents some alone time to relax. Here I will admit we didn’t make use of the facility as the kids weren’t interested and wanted to stay by the pool (and who could blame them?). We did however stumble across a work colleague of Hubby's whilst there, whose kids had tried it out. It is run daily, though you need to book twenty four hours in advance during the holidays to ensure a spot. There are different activities each day and the staff are extremely friendly. You can book the kids in for short periods or all day (baby sitting also available). The kids that had been, had had a ball. My only concern was that it was a little expensive if the kids didn’t want to be there - but then again what price for some peace and quiet to enjoy your holiday?
I should be tourist guide now. Iririki is next to Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu. The people are very friendly, the shopping is great, and the town though small has everything you need. Although colonised by the French, English was spoken everywhere we went as well as the local language, Bislama. There are plenty of activities to do and trips on the Island. Compared to Australia, taxis are cheap and buses (small vans with B on the number plate) are everywhere. You can hire a car but remember they drive on the right and the roads are very rustic. We used Vatu, but many places accept Australian dollars or credit card (expect to pay a 3% service fee). We had changed money in Australia but the rate seemed much better in Vanuatu. There is also a Westpac and ANZ bank in Port Vila and numerous cash machines.
Highlights in town were the markets and Jill’s Cafe for fantastic thick shakes and American style food.
Firstly the staff are fantastic. They are always smiling, greet you hello and want to make your stay as fantastic as possible. They are great with the kids and patient with them. In fact the staff are one of the highlights of the hotel.
The Island is trying to move away from being a “couples” or “honeymooner”, resort and they’re getting there. Much of the literature says children under 12 cannot use many areas which, which we found to be incorrect upon asking. There was definitely are larger percentage of adults to children staying there – though this could be because it wasn’t NSW school holidays yet.
How to phrase the next bit... There is wildlife on the island. If you or your kids, do not like lizards or small four legged furry long tailed creatures, be back in your room by dark.
The island is small, about twenty five minutes to walk around. The boat across to town is great and the kids love it (you could just go back and forth for fun all day). There is plenty to do to keep you occupied. We went to town a few times and the resort can organise any number of the tours for you to enjoy.
For a family holiday you cant ask for much more. You feel safe, and feel that you don’t need to keep an eye on your children the whole time. It is definitely child and parent friendly. Everybody will bend over back wards to make your stay as comfortable and pleasant as possible.
We have certainly brought back so many happy memories, many photos, souvenirs and made new friends. I guess the question you must ask to know if a place is good is would you go back? Well obviously the answer is yes, we didn’t want to leave.
This trip would not have been made possible without Iririki Resort and Kidspot – so, from all of us, it’s a HUGE GIGANTIC thank you!!
There will be more posts / photos / details of our trip on my blog at www.sameliasmum.com. Feel free to stop over there and say hello :)