Pango, Vanuatu

We’re in the middle of winter now at home. Not that you’d know it most days, but that chill in the morning air makes us long for the warmth of Vanuatu again. And after a month filled with long work days/nights, study, surgery, and a few other health issues, we find ourselves reminiscing about the lazy days of reading by the ocean, surfing the Pango reef break and Breaka’s left, and chilling on the beach, surrounded by the local pups, watching the sun set.

Pango surf 1

We spent the last few nights of our honeymoon at Breaka’s Beach Resort. The resort was stunning: bungalows, hammocks, cocktails and a pool. But, we are simple creatures, and after spending the previous few days on Pele Island, we felt slightly awkward around so many people dressed in nice resort wear. Breaka’s, though, is a perfect place to stay if you enjoy a surf.

After carting a surfboard around for the whole of our honeymoon, hubby finally got to indulge, testing out both breaks. The swell was fairly small during our stay, but that didn’t stop him – and a bunch of others – from enjoying the fun little waves rolling in as the tide rose. And when the waves were too small, I’d catch him in the shallows pushing the local groms on to the waves, cheering them on as they stood up and high-fives when they paddled back out ready for the next wave.


It was at Pango that we met John (local pro-surfer, surf coach/guide at Surf Vanuatu, and involved with the Vanuatu Surf Association – VSA). John shared a few tips of local breaks around Pango, Eratap, and Pele and how the local community is encouraging kids to get into surfing. There are no board shapers in Vanuatu and the kids cannot afford to buy new boards. All of the surfboards used are donated by visitors. The VSA, John or other surfers help repair the boards and then give the boards to kids as prizes in the local surf contests, as well as to those who show enthusiasm and positive sportsmanship on the water.

Every afternoon, kids of all ages would ditch their school uniforms and head into the ocean. Many shared surfboards, most of them had no wax or leg ropes, but they would take turns paddling into waves until the sunset. I’d spend most of the afternoon chilling on the beach, kept company by the local dogs, alternating between sleeping in the shade and watching hubby and the other surfers hanging out waiting for the next set to come in, cheering each other on with each wave caught, and finally emerging from the ocean – smiles plastered across faces – salt wrinkled skin as the sun disappeared behind Breaka’s.

Pango beach 2

Me and my mate just chilling on the beach

The surf may not have been huge, but the experience was different to surfing at home. There was no aggression, no sense of ownership, just joy for being in the ocean, and a whole lot of fun as everyone was stoked for each other and for every wave caught. It ignited a flame in my hubby, one that had been snuffed out under the pressures of work and the lack of surf time back home. The thrill of seeing someone stand up for the first time on a board. The fun of surfing together and having a whole lot of laughs. A reminder to not take life so seriously, but simply enjoy being in the water and in the moment.

Pango beach

We are planning a return trip to Vanuatu. One filled with surfing and time spent in the ocean having fun. Next time though, we’ll return prepared… with a bunch of extra boards, wax and leg ropes, so that a few more kids can join in the fun too.



Pele Island, Vanuatu

Nestled between the islands of Nguna and Emao  lies Pele Island, the smallest of the three, just a short boat ride off the north-east coast of Efate. Between 200 – 300 Ni-Vanuatu people live in the four villages on the island and each village has at least one guest bungalow, an income generating project that also encourages visitors to Vanuatu to stay with and learn more about the local people and culture.


We were greeted at the jetty by Enoch Takaue, the chief of Werearu village, and our host for the next few nights at the Sunset Frangipani Bungalow. The island has a small primary school (students board on the mainland to attend secondary school) and we made a quick stop to pick up Enoch’s two boys and their cousin on our way to Werearu.


As Pele is quite small, you can easily walk around the island in a day. If you decided to stop on a beach for a swim anywhere along the way, it’s customary (and polite) to ask the village chief for permission. Before arriving we’d been keen to go exploring, but after dropping off our bags in the bungalow we settled into a couple of chairs to take in the view. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, to me, there is something quite magical about sitting in the shade of a palm tree, the sand between your toes and the gentle lapping of the ocean lulling you into an almost comatose state of relaxation within minutes.


For the next two days we moved between the shade of the palm trees and dips in the ocean. And I wrote. Pages and pages and pages. I wrote about where we were and what we were doing. I wrote down ideas for stories, ramblings, and thoughts. None of it was important, thesis related, or for anyone else. I wrote because there were no distractions. There were no meals to cook (Enoch’s lovely wife, Joanna, made us three delicious – and massive – meals a day), no Facebook to check, emails to answer or tv to watch.


In between writing, and hubby reading and sleeping in a hammock all day, we waded out into the shallows for a snorkel. The effects of Cyclone Pam are still evident on the reef. But, one year on and the coral is building itself back up. Little reef fish are moving back in and the clams, which are a local delicacy, create a patchwork of colorful fleshy lips woven into the growing coral bombies.

Two days were not long enough. I would’ve happily chilled out in the ocean, written, played with the kids and chatted to Joanna, swapping recipes, by the fire each night. Now we know about this gem of a place, we’ll be back for sure.


Takaue Sunset Frangipani Bungalow Details

  • Accommodation: 3500 Vatu per person per night
  • Boat ride: 500 Vatu per person each way
  • Includes three meals a day, plus tea and coffee
  • Accommodation sleeps 5 (1 x double bed, 1 x single bed, 1 x bunk bed)
  • BYO snorkel gear
  • Bucket flush toilet and cold wash bathing facilities
  • Solar power LED lights hooked up in the bungalow and to the bathroom block outside


To Do

  • Island walk
  • Snorkel
  • Surf (there are two breaks on Pele, one a short walk North to the point/reef break and one on the South-Eastern side of the island. The wind and swell were all wrong while we were there with a 1/2 – 1 foot wave breaking on the reef.)
  • Walk through the village and meet the locals/hang out with the kids after school
  • Read
  • Laze around in a hammock

To book contact Enoch on 5348534 or 7118360 or contact Evergreen Tours to help you connect with Enoch and book a stay.





Mele: Kava, Cascades & a Karaoke Bus Ride

About a 10 minute bus ride north of Port Vila lies the calm crescent bay of Mele. The area of Mele is home to several villages stretching from just behind the volcanic and coral mix sandy beach back to the airport. The largest village (7000 people) on the island of Efate starts from the main road – behind The Beach Bar and a private housing estate – and spreads inland toward the dense green hills that have formed with many years of Volcanic activity.

One of the first things my husband wanted to do on our honeymoon was try Kava. He’d heard stories and was itching to get out and find a Nakamal, Kava bar. By the time we’d ordered our second round of drinks on our first day in Vanuatu (having arrived late the night before), he’d asked the staff at the resort about where we could go for good Kava. And this led us to John. John was keen to have some Kava after work. He would meet us and we could go with him.

There are rules to drinking Kava and everyone will remind you of these rules… And I advise that you listen to them.

Kava Drinking Rules:

  1. Do not drink alcohol or eat from about lunch time onwards if you are going to drink Kava at night.
  2. Drink water and eat a small snack after each shell of Kava.
  3. For your first time, maybe drink 1 or 2 shells, but don’t think you can drink Kava like beer.

The excitement got the better of my hubby…

Holidays + no work + the impending Kava drinking = Beer drinking on the beach all day.

Rule #1 broken



We arrived at John’s uncles house where they had prepared a really strong batch of Kava (see pic above). Kava is just really muddy water. Made from grinding the fresh kava root, mixing it with water and straining the liquid through some sort of mesh or cloth. It numbs the lips and mouth and then relaxes the body and mind. It’s not typically a drink made for getting drunk. But, that night, my hubby and John gave it a good crack. Rule #2 was kind of abided by – well they consumed a small packet of Twisties between them and their 3 shells of Kava each. That works out to about 2 twisties each after each drink. And Rule #3, yeah, well, that one also went out the window.

As hubby spent most of the night hugging the toilet bowl, I was really glad I spat out the tiny little sip of Kava I’d tried – after all, it really is just muddy water. He was convinced the chicken in his dinner had given him food poisoning… until we ran into John later that morning. John looked at us both and said “I want to die.” Turns out no one gets away from the consequences of breaking the Kava drinking rules.


After spending a few days at Erakor Island Resort for our honeymoon, we packed up and headed north to stay in Mele Bay. The rain had settled in on Saturday, but by Sunday the clouds cleared and the humidity was back. We walked along the beach early Sunday morning, and after missing the turn off and walking halfway around the bay, we back tracked and found the road leading to the Cascades.


Chilling at the cascades

The Cascades are a series of pools connected by small waterfalls and rocky overflows. The walk takes about 30 minutes, starting from the bottom pools and following a path up a set of stairs, through the dense overgrown hillside and then criss-crossing the middle section of stream and pools before reaching the actual cascades.


Mele Waterfall

The 35m waterfall at the top is a spectacular place to cool off after the humid walk. Go early in the day though. The pool at the base of the waterfall is fairly small. There was a family of 3 there at the same time as us and we all had enough space to swim and chill out. Five people were plenty,  I couldn’t imagine sharing this spot with a bus load of people, but then I’m a bit of a hermit and don’t like being in crowded places anyway.

Settling in to enjoy a beer on the beach as the sunset that night, we met Antuan – the only surfer in Mele. There are no waves in Mele, unless there is a cyclone or tsunami warning. So the boys planned a surf trip for the next day out at Pango.


Game of pool at one of the Nakamals in Mele village.

As the break at Pango is shallow at high tide, and the reef is out of the water at low tide, a surf wasn’t possible until later in the day. We headed into Mele village for a few hours for a game of pool, an ice cream from the local who sells 3 scoops for the price of 2, and for me to indulge in chasing the pigs that roam freely alongside the dogs and chickens, all to get a photo of a pig (If we had land at home a pig would be the first animal added to the family, well after chickens anyway).


We came across the local English primary school (there are French and English schools in Vanuatu). Almost 12 months on from Cyclone Pam and part of the school is still operating out of UNICEF supplied tents. The local community worked together to raise money and then with locals, volunteers and NGO organisations rebuilt one of the buildings in two days. Other organisations have supported the rebuilding of other classrooms, but there is still a way to go.

After hitching a ride, our last visit to Mele was for the famous Beach Bar Fire Show. But, it was the drive back to Pango that was the real entertainment of the night. We jumped in a bus (mini van) and the driver’s cousin, Sharon, offered us beers. A couple of minutes into the drive and we stopped for Woodstocks. The driver, Pete, turned off a few streets early in Port Vila and headed to a bar/restaurant. Here he shouted a round of tequila shots and the bar shouted a free round of home-made caramel vodka shots. Not being a big drinker anymore, and having already over indulged in happy hour cocktails earlier in the evening, I’d stopped partaking in the drinking and watched all of this unfold like some strange throw back to our younger days. We climbed back in the bus and Pete reassured me, as he reversed out of the parking lot, not to worry he’d only drunk a carton of Tuskers beer that day. We continued driving along roads leading away from Vila and our destination in Pango, eventually ending up on a hill full of mobile/cellphone towers overlooking the massive harbour of Port Vila. Sharon cranked up the stereo and under the glittering lights of the towers and stars we all danced and sang barefoot beside the bus to Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”. A few songs, and a few beers later, Sharon was asleep on the front passenger seat and Pete drove us the rest of the way to Pango, singing to songs ranging from popular electronic dance music to country and western, and driving at 20km an hour along the side of the road.

Pete was right… I had nothing to worry about at all.


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