As a food and travel blogger, it is an absolute privilege that I get the chance to visit places around the world and share my travel stories and insights with my readers through this blog. However, it is also my responsibility to raise awareness when these places need help and support after suffering from a devastating natural disaster.
I am talking about Vanuatu.
On Friday 13th March 2015, a devastating Category 5 Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu. It was the worst storm to ever hit the island nation with wind gusts up t0 250km/h leaving widespread damage. 11 people lost their lives in the cyclone and leaving many without shelters.
Tourism plays an important part of Vanuatu’s economy and it sure had been affected badly. I was very fortunate and got to visit this beautiful Oceanian nation in the South Pacific Ocean last year and had a fabulous time. But when I looked through all the photos that I took in Vanuatu, it saddened me to think that all the beautiful villages, beaches and forests are destroyed and probably take quite some time to recover.
But Vanuatu is resilient and slowly recovering since the cyclone. Having said that, they still do need our help and support so they can get back on their feet. Islands left brown in the aftermath are slowly turning green. Houses are repaired and rebuilt, beaches are debris free, they are ready to welcome visitors back to the happiest country in the world once again.
Here is a recollection of my trip to Vanuatu.
Iririki Island Resort is paradise away from paradise. This resort is exclusively located on the Iririki Island, away from the hustle and bustle of Port Vila. The only way to get to the island is by boat. The resort is currently undergoing renovation after the cyclone, it will reopen in December and it will be bigger and better.
Every time I think of South Pacific, I think of gorgeous sunsets. The best way to marvel the amazing sunset here at Port Vila is to join the Meridian Charters sunset cruise. The boat will take you out and sail around Mele Bay, you will enjoy a glass of champagne and some nibbles while admiring the warm glowing sun and it slowly disappearing over the horizon.
The Port Vila markets is the best place to catch an authentic glimpse of local everyday life. Melanesians from different islands gather here everyday (except Sunday) to sell all different kinds of fresh produce harvested from homes. From exotic fruit, vegetables to tropical flowers which are so strikingly colourful that you simply have to see it with your own eyes to believe that they are actually real flowers.
Coffee lovers will definitely need to pay Tanna Coffee Factory a visit. The coffee beans are locally sourced from Tanna, a remote island in the southern part of Vanuatu which is also famous for Mt Yasur, the world’s most accessible active volcano. I found the coffee here is extremely strong and robust, a short black was enough to keep me caffeinated and buzzing whole day!
You can’t come to Vanuatu and not try any local Melanesian cuisine. The best way to experience an authentic Melanesian feast is to join a cooking class. Votausi Mackenzie-Reur is well known as the Queen of Melanesian Cuisine, to me, she is the Maggie Beer of Vanuatu! We followed her to the morning market to learn about local produce, followed by a cooking class Lapita Cafe where we cooked food over a fire pit at the outdoor kitchen. Votausi is also an experienced nutritionist and very passionate about bringing island food back into the locals’ diet, to encourage them to avoid fast food.
Tamanu on the Beach was simply stunning when we visited and we had a great lunch overlooking the white sand beach. Sadly this piece of paradise is no longer. The resort is currently closed until further notice. It is heartbreaking to see this resort totally unrecognisable after the cyclone. I do hope they will recover and rebuild this resort back to its former glory.
How can you help?
1. Book a trip to Vanuatu
Recovery efforts are moving quickly, many accommodations are back to normal operations. Tours are ready for booking and even the beautiful foliage you’re used to seeing here is starting to re-bloom. Check out Discover Vanuatu website for the list of accommodations that are available.
Flights: Frequent direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Port Vila. A direct flight operates every Tuesday from Brisbane to Espiritu Santo with return on Monday. Air Vanuatu: Schedules available here.
Virgin Australia also fly to Vanuatu three times a week from Brisbane to Port Vila with connecting flights around Australia. www.virginaustralia.com
2. Make a donation
Clean water, hygiene kits and shelter will be critical if we are to save lives in the wake of this disaster. You can make a donation to help get emergency relief to those most affected by Cyclone Pam through this charity organisations: