Jo Kennedy of Kennedy & Turner Travel Associates recently experienced the blissful beauty of Ratua Private Island with a group of friends. Here, she describes what it is about this special place that makes it so memorable.
It's hard to believe that such an idyllic destination like Ratua Private Island is less than a three hour flight away from Brisbane. From touch down, it's a relaxing 30 minute boat-ride, across crystal clear water, until you arrive at your unique holiday destination.
Beautifully remote, Ratua is protected from Vanuatu's prevailing winds. The 146-acre island is home to 13 Indonesian-style villas and a Luxury Tent. All up, the island can host 36 visitors at one time. The accommodation is spread across three villages: Fish Village, West Point Village and South Point Village.
The old timber huts in South and West Village are 200 years old. Brought in especially from Indonesia, they are rich in character and charm. Interestingly, there are no glass windows on the island; they are all made of timber and when open, they grant refreshing breezes and beautiful views. Their private decks offer gorgeous views and immediate access to the beach, and are beautifully framed by overhanging, native trees.
Inside, eclectic furnishings and historic artefacts wait to be discovered. In my hut was an ice-chest dating back to 1908, which now acts as a modern day bar fridge. I could rest easy; all the creature comforts my heart desired were within reach: comfortable bathrobes, an in-room safe, ceiling fans and sun lounges. If something did come to mind which, unexpectedly, had not been catered for, the staff were more than happy to help. So welcome and obliging, they made us feel right at home. The General Manager Bong and his wife Ailyn, are an amazing duo, leading a hospitable team. They are warm and open, like all the people of Ratua.
The music each night kept us guessing; from the welcome night of 'splash dancing' along the water's edge to the Ratua String Band. Jo's friend Michael said if for nothing else, he would return to this destination for its music. "From the beautiful haunting ballads to the soaring, almost operatic solos, the music of Ratua was as inspirational as it was diverse. How they can produce such an array of musical styles, with nothing more than some guitars and drums, we will never know." The highlight for many was when the Ratua boys choir got together to sing. "Not since the days of the Wallabies playing Wales at Cardiff Arms Park has there been a group of male voices raised as one in such perfect harmony," Michael said.
The island upholds a firm environmentally friendly philosophy and endeavours to provide organic products throughout the resort. The cuisine is simple but fresh, healthy and delicious. Now that I'm home, I miss all the fresh salads! There's no doubt you'll have an appetite, given all the activities you can partake in during your time here: from snorkelling on the coral reef directly outside your villa, to long-boarding, canoeing fishing, horse-riding, walking and bike riding. If you wear yourself out, go for a day visit to Pentecost Island. Travelling by light aircraft, you can view the 83 islands, including the spectacular volcanoes.
On Pentecost Island you can witness Vanuatu's traditional land diving. This extreme sport of bungy jumping, dates back to an old ritual called the 'naghol'. Between April and June every year, on a Saturday, men in the southern part of the island jump from tall towers, from 20 to 30 metres high, with vines tied to their feet. The act is believed to ensure a good yam harvest and fertility for men. Nowadays, it also represents acceptance into manhood.
Chances are after all that excitement, you'll want a few moments to relax. You can take a refreshing dip in the cascading waterfall on Penticost Island or get in a canoe and row to the bright blue waterhole at Malo Island. Try your hand at local or deep sea fishing or enjoy some scenic horse-riding.
My husband and I had an amazing time staying at Ratua Private Island and were thrilled to know the friends we travelled with were equally impressed. One couple, Drew and Leigh said, "Ratua Island Private Resort is a tiny piece of paradise which we want to bottle. We absolutely loved it in every respect. The perfect temperature, the pristine clear water, the beautiful sea creatures, the quaint accommodation, the luscious jungle, the delicious food, the fabulous friends, the happy staff – these are just a few reasons why we would go back".
Another travelling companion of ours, Katie, is addicted to the island and its serenity. "We've been there twice and with any luck, I'll be returning for a 3rd. I love, love, love Ratua Island!" she says. "It's rustic, bespoke style is unpretentious without sacrificing quality. No, it doesn't have air-conditioning, a pool, TV remotes, blinds, windows, bright lights, nor 5 star food but what you do get, is an uncomplicated approach to personalised and caring attention, at every step. The Ni-Vanuatu staff on Ratua Island are gentle and kind, the General Manager and his wife are warm and inviting, the island is a paradise, and by the end of your stay you feel you have been enveloped and welcomed into the arms of the Ratua Island family. Words really cannot express the feeling you come away with from visiting this authentic slice of Vanuatu and the owner's philanthropic touch is pronounced and admirable. I can't wait to go back!".
Our friend Helen reported: 'Wow, what a memorable and happy holiday on a beautiful, and 'very special' island. The warm welcome to the island brought tears to my eyes, the staff were so friendly. I loved everything about the island, it really is paradise. I will always remember sitting on the balcony at Fish Village community room at 7 am and watching through the clear water as several turtles swam very close to me. What a treat."
So if you're looking for a special holiday idea, something truly out of the ordinary, I highly recommend this heavenly yet rustic spot in the Vanuatu archipelago. (Just avoid visiting the pigs so you don't have to confess to customs that you have been to a farm).
To find out more about a holiday at Ratua Private Island, contact Jo Kennedy on 1800 221 270.