As I stood at the edge of the Matevulu Blue Hole, it felt like I’d found a slice of paradise.
Thanks to the natural filtering effect through multiple layers of limestone, the blue hole gives off a jewel-like hue and the sight practically begs for you to dive in.
With the sun dazzling on the deep cerulean water, it was easy to see why Vanuatu has become one of the top destinations in the South Pacific.
And it’s no wonder that Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett has one of her family holiday homes here.
Delivering more than I could imagine with its tranquil tropical ambience, welcoming residents and mouth-watering food, the islands of Efate and Espiritu Santo in particular made for a truly memorable break.
While some destinations can disappoint thanks to overcrowded beaches and bustling towns, Vanuatu is a laid back location where you can truly get away from it all.
In 2016 it was voted the fourth happiest place in the world and this was apparent when we were greeted by countless waves and warm smiles as we drove past the locals.
We instantly fell in love with the secluded Oyster Island resort which makes guest feel like they’ve castaway on their own private island.
In March 2015, the winds of Cyclone Pam took its toll on Efate in Port Vila, as well as Erromango and Tanna island.
The archipelago, which consists of 80 islands, was left in the path of the category five storm when it unexpectedly changed direction.
The storm crossed the main island and damaged up to 90% of homes, with the highest fatalities in the island chain’s southernmost province.
However, the people of Vanuatu have bounced back and the damage from the cyclone is already fading away.
Santo island was untouched by the elements and has returned to normal.
Surrounded by the protected waters of Peterson Bay, staff took us via a ferry boat to the idyllic resort.
Every bungalow sits at the water’s edge and our deluxe Bamboo Bungalow came complete with a hammock and deck providing an ideal spot to enjoy the cooling breeze.
The beachfront restaurant served Ni Vanuatu, Melanesian and Western cuisine made using only island grown produce including sustainably caught fish and the world famous Santo aged beef, which has become a top delicacy in Tokyo.
When we could bear to tear ourselves away from the calming resort, we joined our guides to experience the popular Mount Hope river float tour.
The river is yet another location to take in the serenity as you float towards a calming waterfall.
I’m not the strongest swimmer, but I popped on a life jacket and was helped through the tricky parts by our kind tour guides until we finally reached our destination.
We were encouraged to climb and sit in the middle of the waterfall, allowing us to enjoy a wonderful massage straight from the calming hands of Mother Nature.Next we drove to two of Vanuatu’s most spectacular beaches – Champagne beach and Port Olry – both of which are worth are worth a visit.
Then it was off to the Riri Blue Hole, which gave Matevulu Blue Hole a run for its money.
The water was almost fluorescent as it glowed back at us and I only had to peek over the edge of the diving block to see stunning creatures swimming beneath us.
Vanuatu joined the Commonwealth in 1980 after being granted independence from the joint rule of France and the UK.
Prince Philip has been worshipped as a god by tribesmen on Vanuatu’s island of Tanna since his visit there in 1974. Locals believe he is the son of a mountain spirit.This is the perfect spot, for braver travellers than myself, to swing off a rope above the hole.
Our final morning on Oyster Island saw us hop onto the resort’s speedboat for a tour of some of the surrounding resorts and diving areas.
Again the water was clear and enticing. I could see a marine wonderland and even a deserted ship unfolding below us, while still seated on the boat.
Santo was an important base for US troops during WWII but once the war was over, supplies were dumped into the water.
Ever since, divers have flocked to Million Dollar Point for a chance to swim to the wreckage of vehicles, furniture and clothing in the famous diving site, as well as to explore some of the more natural highlights under the sea.
After a quick flight to Port Vila, we settled down at the Moorings hotel – a delightful waterfront accommodation which is nestled right in the heart of Port Vila, overlooking the harbour.
Vanuatu doesn’t boast the usual mega-resorts and globally known chains but instead treats guests to personalised experiences at boutique hotels.
Following a leisurely overnight stay, we hopped on a speed boat and made our way to the Breakas Beach resort.This adults-only location offers both water-front and garden-view bungalows nestled amidst swaying palm trees on a private beach.
The accommodation is built in a traditional style and staff at the reception desk can help you with booking tours while the resort hosts nightly activities like a traditional fire dance so guests can sample the island’s history and culture.
Even though the South Pacific boasts some of the most magical islands in the world the Republic of Vanuatu is undeniably one of its jewels.
Home to the happiest and most hospitable people on the planet, there is no better time than now to discover the mesmerising charm of Vanuatu.
Standard waterfront room from £97 at Oyster Island.
Standard queen room starting at £115 per night at The Moorings resort.
Garden view room starting £113 per night at Breakas Beach resort.
Air Vanuatu, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways all fly to Vanuatu from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. For more information, click here.
Vanuatu is an 83-island archipelago and is one of the top holiday destinations in the South Pacific b-error
Water sight: Stunning blue holes like this simply scream ‘jump in!’
Nola takes in the sheer beauty of a blue hole before launching herself in
Mount Yasur volcano on nearby Tanna island rumbles away – it’s a view that makes the area all the more exotic
It’s fair to say that Vanuatu is a jungle paradise par-excellence
The waters around the island that lap onto the beaches are some of the most inviting anywhere in the world
Nola travelled to the Matevulu Blue Hole located on Espiritu Santo island, Vanuatu
There are few views in Vanuatu that aren’t scintillating, as this eye-catching image shows
Nola experienced accommodation that was in total harmony with the surrounding vegetation
Riri Blue Hole is the perfect spot for travellers to swing off a rope above the blue hole
Riri Blue Hole features fluorescent blue water and is perfect to film rope jump clips from the diving board
The island is a long journey from the Western hemisphere – but the reward for enduring it is a decidedly dreamy island
Vanuatu doesn’t boast the usual mega-resorts and globally known chains but instead treats guests to personalised experiences at boutique hotels