When it comes to accommodation in Port Vila, this is going to be our favourite place from now on and we will come here again on our next visit. Island Magic Resort ticks all the boxes:
1) Resort-style accommodation without the resort-kind of clientele. No rowdy crowds while we were there, in fact, we had the whole place to ourselves! It was bliss! The bungalows were huge and spacious. Where else could you comfortably fit 5 adults in a beachside bungalow with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in Port Vila? There's lots of room to spread out both inside and outside. The shower spaces are huge, you can literally have a party in there! The kitchen is well equipped (gas cooktop, a microwave, full size fridge), it made catering for 5 people very easy. No more having to get up at a specific time to go for breakfast as in typical resorts, the family can get up in their own time and make whatever they wanted for breakfast. We went on a provisioning trip to Au Bon Marche 2 on our first day and stocked up on our favourite fare: croissants, pane de coco, raisin escargot, jam, tanna coffee, bacon, eggs etc, we didn't find ourselves hungry, in fact, we had to give our unopened tins away to the gardeners! All the creature comforts of resorts are available: TV (4 channels, including ABC Sydney, a 24-hour movie channel, Ch10, Imparja), DVD player; and more! There's a full-size washing machine and iron and ironing board - excellent for getting fresh clean clothes daily (you will be grateful for it as you sweat alot in Vanuatu due to the humidity). It is basically set up as a home away from home and boy did we settle in well! The managers Jane and David are excellent, the best managers we've encountered in our travels (and this says a lot). Friendly, efficient and ever so helpful, but never in your face. They're like nice neighbours who are always there when you need them, but will leave you alone to live your life. They're awesome and very down to earth!
2) Peaceful location away from town but still accessible. Located on the Mele side of the bay, along Devil's Point Road, we were far from the madding crowd on cruise days and enjoyed peace and quiet throughout our stay (having said that, Hideaway Island is across the water and there are nights when you can hear the duff-duff of their beach parties. So glad we decided not to stay at Hideaway!). Being close to Mele Village, IMR is still on the local transport route and it wasn't too far for tour pickups and dropoffs. It seems like everyone we know lives in Mele! Pretty soon we were part of the local scene as we waved and said hello to folks passing by. Yet alot of Vila's attractions are actually close by, within 5minute bus ride (150vatu per person max). We went on the Jungle Zipline and visited the Summit Cafe (they come and pick you up, it's just 5 minutes up the road, thought i'd hike up there one day till i saw the road, whew, it IS steep! Saw some young girls jogging down, must be hell on their knees!). Mele Village is also a great place to visit, just to get an insight into a typical niVan way of life. One morning Joe from IMR took us to visit his family home and showed us his garden. We loved chatting with him about village life and hanging out with his kids. The Secret Gardens is also nearby. We did the Melanesian Feast one night (once again they picked up up) and on our last day, my husband and I borrowed the resort bikes and cycled to Secret Gardens to buy more wood carvings (a lovely 15-minute cycle by Mele Beach!). My daughter and her boyfriend also cycled to Tanna Coffee for more coffee. Other nearby attractions which we didn't bother doing (maybe next time) were the Cascades and Hideaway. I know they're must-do's for most Vila visitors but we are not fans of touristy places and tend to avoid them. Mind you, the city and everything it has to offer is not too far away. Just 15 minutes on a bus (too easy, Joe or Jane will call one in for you), we visited the city fruit market several times during our stay also dining at Chills, Jill's and Waterfront Bar & Grill. In the end we befriended a local driver who we just arranged directly to pick us up whenever we needed transport (300-400vatu per person one way, you can have multiple stops along the way if you wish - we often used ABM2 as our first stop for some quick provisioning, then back to the fruit market).
3) THE REEF HERE IS EXCELLENT. I left this to the last as this is the biggest drawcard of IMR for us. My husband, a fish biologist, is absolutely delighted to find the reef off IMR to be so accessible and in such good condition that the fishes are so abundant and diverse, comparable to what one would see on the outer Great Barrier Reef. As a testament to the fantastic snorkelling opportunities off IMR, we were in the water an hour after arriving in Vanuatu, and almost every day of our stay. I couldn't keep our kids off the water, even if we were scheduled to go on a tour that day, they'd still fit in a quick snorkel! We flew home with wet cozzies as we just couldn't resist one last snorkel before going to the airport. The fishes, oh, they're so awesome! In the end they were like our friends, they never shied away from us, happy to share their habitat. Flamboyantly coloured wrasses, cheeky damselfishes, bossy surgeonfishes, beautiful butterflyfishes, triggerfishes, hawkfishes, parrotfishes etc, they were everywhere! So glad that Jane and David have made extra efforts to conserve the reef off IMR, no fishing is allowed. By the way, no problems if you can't swim or not a confident snorkeller, just throw some bread off the jetty and the fishes will come! The water is so crystal clear you could see right to the bottom and of course, the fish! Next to snorkelling, this was my favourite activity at IMR. Early each morning I would be the first one on the jetty, to say hello to my fishy friends and feed them bread. Cheesy this may seem but I had names for some of the regulars already! There's that big red bass (I called him Bohar, that is his species name anyway) that comes up from the deep and gobbles up the larger pieces. There's Quinkie, the orange wrasse, Squiggly, the orange-lined triggerfish, Bluey1 and 2, a pair of blue and yellow cleaner wrasse, the abudefdufs (yes, these are stripey ones, so plenty out there), and oodles of rudderfishes and mullets. My husband estimates 100s of species on this reef alone and each day he would add to the list. The best thing he says is that in Australia you would need to go on a boat for hours to see these fishes on the outer face of the GBR, but here at Island Magic, you simply swim off the jetty and within a few meters you're at the drop off! One day I didn't even have to swim much, I just sat on the reef edge and watched the 'fish show' in the deep! This is the reason why we will come back to IMR again and again. I am so glad we discovered this place. We have been to Vanuatu before and we have stayed at the other side of the bay in Pango. I have also written a glowing report of the reef off our accommodation there. But honestly, the one in front of Island Magic is so so much better! And it is sooo close!
Overall, Island Magic Resort is a perfect base for anyone who wants a comfortable, peaceful and utterly distracting holiday. Yes, the views are awesome but you can get that in other seaside resorts too. What sets this place apart though is its peaceful ambience, its self-catering option and of course, the excellent reef system in front. For a truly relaxing holiday, what more could you ask for?
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Luxury resort with self-contained apartment accommodation with ocean views, tropical gardens, guest bbq areas, swimming pool, and jetty to access spectacular snorkeling. Ideal for wedding and family groups. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Island Magic Hotel Port Vila
- Island Magic Resort Vanuatu/Port Vila