My family loves to travel and we have holidayed all over Australia and abroad, but this has to be one of our absolute best holidays to-date. My husband and I took our two boys (11 & 9) for two weeks this December to Oyster Island Resort and fell in love with Vanuatu, Santo, and the community on and around Oyster Island. The weather was brilliant - fine most days (and if it rained it never rains all day), hot (but with a breeze blowing off the water most of the time), and the water was always super warm. Santo is incredible - a pristine, untouched island paradise which caters to both those who want to get away from it all and return to a simpler lifestyle (we brought no computers, iPhones, DSs or "screens" of any kind - and there are no TVs on Oyster Island) as well as those who want some old-fashioned adventure. My boys thought they'd died and gone to Bear Grylls heaven - climbing waterfalls, floating down rapids, riding horses, snorkelling coral reefs & Million Dollar Point with its tanks & jeeps & cannons, kayaking to pristine blue holes through pouring rain, swinging from ropes tied to trees, riding in the back of trucks, playing in the village with the local kids, fishing, turtle-watching...the list goes on. And when they weren't having some astonishing adventure, they were reading or learning how to play canasta.
Oyster Island Resort proved to be a wonderful home-base for the two weeks, central to everywhere on Santo we wanted to go, and with super friendly staff who were always engaging the kids (Tour Leaders John & Daveson were spectacular with them, and Paul showed them how to get the coconuts from the trees, let them see the fresh fish coming in, and let them help with the burn-off fires) and looking after us. Marie, Chris, Aaron & Casper (the FOH staff & Duty Managers) happily helped us organise our trips, washing, special celebrations, afternoon drinking coconuts, fruit snacks for our trips, and anything else we wanted. The dining room/bar staff (Richard, John, Sabrina, Christina, Fiona & Lolina) were always smiling and ready to talk about Vanuatu culture & customs, their lives growing up, and so on ~ adding a real personal touch to their service. The food, overseen by Head Chef Jonas, was really great - huge kids meals (my boys often had leftovers for the next day's lunch) and lots of variety. The Santo beef & Chocolate Ribs lived up to their reputation, and we also really enjoyed all the fish dishes as the fish is caught fresh daily. Kids meals are all VT1,200 (around Aus$14) and mains are VT1,800-3,200 - on average VT 2,400 ($28) ~ pretty much the same as other restaurants on Santo. A bit more than we'd budgeted for, but breakfast is included, which is a bonus, and it was all great quality.
The bungalows are delightful (we stayed in #8), with the water lapping under them through the night - very relaxing. We paid VT19,000 ($218) per night for all 4 of us - great value compared to some of the other resorts (several of which don't even cater to children), esp. when you consider breakfast is included. The kids loved the hammock on the balcony and you can snorkel directly out from your room if you like (there are small steps leading down to the water's edge), and my husband and I loved the wall of glass louvers overlooking the ocean as well as the open-air bathroom where we could see the stars as we showered:) We took a plug-in mossie repellent which we left on in our room and had no problems at all with mosquitos. The beds were firm and great for our backs so we slept like the dead, only very occasionally being awoken by (distant) 4am roosters on Santo. My son was incensed to discover they don't make the cute "cockadoodledoo" sound, but are in fact more like "strangled cats" in his opinion:) There's also a small fridge so you can get some (limited) supplies from the supermarket in Luganville and keep them in your room.
The whole resort is carefully overseen by New Zealand Managers Olly & Dave, who do a great job mentoring and taking care of their staff and who are deeply investing in the local community ~ they are currently helping build a new school in the Turtle Bay area. Olly circulates daily to meet all the new guests, and is fascinating to talk to because of her depth understanding of Island cultures. Her son warmly welcomed our boys and proceeded to initiate them into island life, which they loved. Other fabulous local characters with great stories to tell include Fabrice (who runs the fishing/snorkelling/turtle & dugong watching trips) and Megan (who runs the horse ranch and takes lessons & trail rides).
The highlight of our trip, however, was being invited to Kaito's (one of the staff members) wedding in the local village - a rare privilege and an indication of just how welcoming and generous the people are when you get to know them. A day we'll treasure for a long time.
HOT TIPS: Bring reef walkers (shoes), aerogard & travel insurance:) Our underwater camera got a lot of use too. Thursday nights are great (with the string band, the buffet & the bon fire on the beach!)
RECOMMENDED TRIPS/ACTIVITIES: 1/2 Day Snorkelling; 1/2 Day Mount Hope Waterfall Trip (not for the feint-of-heart but we LOVED it); Kayaking to the Blue Hole (around 45 mins each way); Horse Riding with Megan; Snorkelling & Turtle/Dugong Watching with Fabrice; Full-Day Champagne Beach & Million Dollar Point Tour + lunch at Velit Bay Plantation with Paradise Tours. All the tours & activities range from VT2,500-4,500 per person ($28-$51) - with some kids' discounts. You can also pop across to Lope Lope Resort for the day (where Megan has her horses) and they have lots of other kid-friendly activities including catamarans, quad bikes and paint pall in the jungle!
We left a little bit of our hearts in Vanuatu...but you can be sure we'll be back.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Set on a private 25 hectare island just 2 minutes crossing from the mainland. Oyster Island Resort resides within a Marine Reserve, abundant in marine and wild life. Sandy beaches, tropical rainforest, coral reefs and war plane wrecks make for fantastic snorkelling. Bungalows line the waters edge, each with private decks or patio's, enjoying stunning views out over the calm lagoon waters. Family Vila allow room for parents and children to enjoy the large grounds and gardens and are set off the water for safety. Skilled Chefs serve the very best of local and western cuisine from our waterfront restaurant. Only 20 minutes from the airport and township. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Oyster Island Hotel Luganville
- Oyster Island Resort Vanuatu/Luganville