A mermaid’s guide to Vanuatu

Published September 20th, 2012

So I might not actually be the real-life equivalent of Ariel, but I do like to live my life under the sea as much as possible. Give me a pool, lagoon, ocean or beach and I’m a happy girl indeed. Throw in a snorkel and you won’t hear from me for hours. So as you can imagine, I was in my element in Vanuatu over the weekend. It was a quick weekend getaway but it provided this wannabe-mermaid with the ocean-adventure fix she needed, not to mention the most beautiful swim I’ve ever had.


I’d read a lot about Port Vila’s Mele Cascades, but nothing could quite prepare me for how beautiful it really was. Walking 1.5km up to the top at first seemed daunting but I easily made it in sandals, stopping every so often to snap yet another waterfall. Once we reached the top we dumped our bags, stripped down to our swimmers and headed up the water covered path. At first I was petrified I’d slip on the water covered rocks and end up in an unflattering splits position, or worse, rip my swimsuit, but it was much easier than it looked. For the most part, the rocks weren't slippery, and had solid grooves to help the climb. Along with the help of the rope to hold on to, I made it up to the top rock pool sans embarrassing slips. Once there, I wandered into the pool and looked up at the spectacular waterfall. With water plummeting 50 metres from the top into the pool, the pressure is quite strong to stand under. Almost like a natural massage. It was exhilarating being completely surrounded by nature, greenery everywhere and nothing but the sounds of falling water and happy swimmers.

Mele Cascades

Waterfall after waterfall at the Mele Cascades

SF's Lauren swimming at the Mele Cascades

Playing mermaid in the rockpool

I could have happily spent the entire day there but with another adventure planned we took our happy snaps, enjoyed one last dip in the crystal clear fresh water, slid down a few falls (Mother Nature’s answer to Wet ‘n’ Wild) and made our way back down. The next activity on the agenda involved less water but a lot more fun – and speed. Cross a golf buggy with a quad bike and add some Viking-style helmets for good measure and that was our transport for the evening thanks to Buggy Fun Adventures. The Jungle Safari tour involved speedy bumps, flying dirt, lots of high fives from the island’s beautiful children and even more laughs.

Buggy rides

Our colourful dirt buggies for the day

Local kids in Vanuatu

Along the trail we were given high fives from the local kids

Along the track we stopped off at a picturesque beach where I took yet another dip with some smiling local kids,  followed by another pit stop where we enjoyed some local produce at a village. With fast speeds, picturesque terrain and killer smiles, I couldn’t imagine a better way to see Efate.


SF's Lauren and Clair swimming in Vanuatu

A quick dip between drives

After a night of delicious seafood, steak and tropical cocktails, the next morning was dedicated to sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the perks of our picture-perfect accommodation at the Holiday Inn Resort.

Holiday Inn Resort pool

Poolside at the Holiday Inn Resort

Cocktails at Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu

Pina Coladas by the pool

For me this meant fresh coconut juice and blueberry pancakes from the breakfast buffet, followed by pool-side pina coladas and swimming with the starfish in the lagoon, found just a few steps from the pool. Complete bliss!

Lagoon at Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu

The Holiday Inn Resort's spectacular lagoon

I also had a go at the non-motorised sports on offer, paddle boarding past the resort’s over-water bungalows and discovering that it’s harder than it looks to actually get on the board. See, I told you I’m a mermaid.

Paddle Boarding

Paddle boarding in the lagoon

Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.