It is one of the most polished hospitality jewels of the South Pacific, The Havannah Resort, overlooking Havannah Harbour, thirty minutes north from Port Vila. Sharing my transfer from the airport, a lovely couple from Auckland, who had decided to stay in Vanuatu “to try somewhere new.” We were all warmly greeted by the gregariously effervescent general manager, Frederick Maclean, who welcomes all arrivals to the resort, like long lost friends.
And like me, my fellow vacationers from Auckland were overwhelmingly impressed by the whirlpool of luxurious delights awaiting us at The Havannah. You could not hope for a more dreamy setting, situated on the stunningly gorgeous white sand peninsula of Samoa Point, named in honour of the landing site for the first missionaries who sailed to Vanuatu from Samoa. Havannah Harbour is a serene body of water, once buzzing with scores of Catalina flying boats and battleships, when the US Navy established its base during World War II.
Awakening to the chortles of a frisky rooster at dawn, from my waterfront villa, I marvelled at dugong, dolphins and turtles cruising the iridescent waters. Alongside the vast aquarium of radiantly coloured tropical fish, the dugong would swim incredibly close to the shoreline at dawn, like flippered vacuum cleaners in the shallow water. The Havannah epitomises secluded boutique luxury, with just 17 elegantly designed villas gracing its lush and manicured grounds.
I basked in unfettered tropical bliss in a deluxe waterfront villa, fully air-conditioned, blending traditional style with contemporary comfort. In addition to the spacious separate living areas, indoor-outdoor bathrooms, walk-in rainshowers and private decks with thatched roofs and daybeds, my villa also sported a private infinity plunge pool. Plus direct access to the sugar-soft sand and crystal-clear water. Oh the decadence! Lagoon villas enjoy their own private access to a sublime split level lagoon pool.
All villas feature a ultra-king size beds, Tanna Island coffee, flat-screen TVs with satellite channels and complimentary access to a colossal on-demand entertainment library featuring hundreds of movie choices. Whether you’re staying in-house or not, The Point Restaurant, with its supreme panoramic harbour views serves up gourmet cuisine using the freshest local, organic ingredients. It’s the best spot for lunch in Vanuatu. Book the overwater dining table with thatched-roof, for the ultimate setting.
When in season, plump for coconut crab, a meaty, flavoursome variety of crab which is rightly revered in Vanuatu. You should also try the national dish, laplap, which is a mix of taro roots and yams grated into a doughy paste. That’s slathered on taro, soaked in coconut cream and added to meat or fish. One of Vanuatu’s finest tasting fish is poulet. It’s like a red snapper – very fleshy, not oily and very few bones. At The Point, my beautiful poulet fish was accompanied with delightful nangai nuts.
As an entrée, I selected garlic prawns, which were sensational. Leave room for dessert and don’t go past the irresistible chocolate soufflé. Breakfast is complimentary for guests and the fully cooked breakfast, called kukum, will certainly set you up for the day. The Havannah lays it on thick when it comes to daily activities, from snorkelling, scuba diving and deep sea fishing to kayaking, petanque, and tennis. And they’ll kit you out with all of the necessary gear.
Strictly enforcing an adults-only rule (no children under 16), this seven-year old romantic retreat is an oasis of indulgent seclusion and personalised service. The staff have the most golden of smiles and you can tell that their friendly, gentle, engaging warmth is utterly authentic. Be sure to make time to take a wander to the nearby village of Tanoliu, where many of the resort staff live.
Stop to admire the roadside WWII Museum, manned by dear old Ernest, who has spent his lifetime collecting WWII paraphernalia from the military base that was established here when he was a kid. 78 year old Ernest can still remember waking up to find his quiet bay full of mighty American ships. He proudly shows you his amazing Coca Cola bottle collection, grenades, razors, fighter-plane wreckage and camera cases, accumulated over the decades.
Much of the memorabilia, displayed in the corrugated iron hut, has been salvaged from the harbour floor.
Nowadays Ernest’s grandson Mark is following in his footsteps ensuring that this unique showcase of memorabilia continues to amuse and enlighten visitors. It adds another enriching layer of authenticity to your winning experience in paradise, at The Havannah Resort. Few places in the world have left such a lasting and affectionate impression on me, quite like The Havannah. www.thehavannah.com
Air Vanuatu flies three times weekly from Auckland, departing Auckland on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Just 3 hours away, you’ll enjoy flying on Air Vanuatu’s brand-spanking new Boeing 737-800, with complimentary refreshments, tasty meals, charming service and new plane smell! Bag a great fare at www.airvanuatu.com
May until November sees Vanuatu at its glorious best: the sun-soaked dry season delivers pleasingly low humidity. Home to a staggering 83 islands, this glorious archipelago is ripe for exploration and relaxation. For further information on holidaying in Vanuatu, head to www.discovervanuatu.co.nz
By Mike Yardley.