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Eschew more popular tropical boltholes for this archipelago that serves up raw beauty, French flavours and a tribe that worships Prince Philip.
Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Since influencers have named Bali their motherland, we’ve been in search of a tropical hideaway that’s less, well, all over everyone’s Instagram feeds. Tucked between Australia and Fiji, Vanuatu is a cluster of 80 islands that are less well-coiffed but decidedly more beautiful. Shell-strewn sand meets water bobbing with rickety fishing boats, mangrove-dense forests reveal freshwater pools (equipped with pre-strung swing ropes), cascading waterfalls spill through bushy rainforests and active volcanoes erupt in nightly shows that spew molten rock metres into the air.
Although the beaches beckon, it’s not really the destination for lounging around and topping up your tan. There’s a rawness to the island that suits active travellers. And having once been an Anglo-French colony, there’s a thriving food culture that’s a mishmash of french flair and local, exotic produce.
Among piles of tropical fruits at Port Vila’s dizzying market, you’ll also find rotisserie chicken slung into just-baked baguettes, frog legs topped with taro and escargots sold as snacks.
The Blue Cave. Plenty of destinations market theirs as the best and the boldest, but Vanuatu’s blows them all out of the, er, water. Partly because reaching Port Vila’s Blue Cave requires taking a blind leap of faith off a fishing boat to locate your guide who’ll be somewhere on the horizon treading water.
After a deep, deep breath, you’ll emerge into a natural colosseum surrounded by water so blindingly bright you’d wished you kept your Ray-Bans on. Team it with an evening diving trip. Coral and exotic fish take a back seat here, as eerie First World War shipwrecks can be found teetering on the edge of reefs.
Who to bring with you
Someone who’s bored of beach clubs and bottle-serviced daybeds. Vanuatu is as unpolished as it gets.
When to go
Where to stay
Bed down in one of Iririki Island’s beachside thatched bungalows – the water’s hypnotic, so be sure to wake up early for a morning swim.
Most likely to bump into
Prince Philip. There’s an entire tribe that worships him after their chief became convinced he was the descendant of a spiritual ancestor.
Essentials to bring with you
This Tohum shell necklace will help nail the lo-fi island look.
How to get there
Unless you’re coming from Oz – where there are four-weekly, four-hour direct flights from most major cities – the journey is a long one. Fly from London to Brisbane via Hong Kong, then to Port Vila with Via Vanuatu. If you leave on the morning flight from Brisbane, you’ll be on the beach by lunchtime.
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