January 26, 2008



frank linn

YOU can hear the gales of laughter now.

You've just told mates you're heading off to Vanuatu and a resort
that's promised you'll have the choice of seven restaurants and cafés,
five bars, a nightclub, three pools, a couple of tennis courts, a
private beach with a watersports centre, a gymnasium, a day spa, and a
secluded cove for dipping into coral viewing and snorkelling away from
the crowds.

And all within a kava's kick of some of the best duty-free shopping in
the South Pacific.

Pull the other one, the mates will tell you, this is Vanuatu… where
the main street through capital Port Vila is a wonderfully-titled
montage of potholes called The Walter Lini Highway, where until
recently 3-storeys was considered skyscraper stuff, and where
fast-food is looked upon as something that arrives at your table
within 30-minutes of ordering.

But now two of Port Vila's best resorts – one of them one of the
oldest, and the other one of its newest (although in true
island-tradition it took seven years from turning the first sod to a
guest turning the first key) – have decided to allow guests in each to
use all the facilities of the other.

And when they knock up any costs for meals, drinks, spa or other
services, all these guests have to do is say "Charge it," so that
those costs go back to their own room account.

The first, Iririki Island Resorts & Spa opened in Port Vila harbour in
the mid-1980s on a private island that had been the home of the
British Resident Commissioner in Vanuatu's pre-independence days, a
time when the country was called the New Hebrides and administered
jointly by the British and the French as a condominium.

To the locals, however, this resultant confusion of policies and
cultural clashes, was looked upon somewhat bemusedly as "The

And while Iririki's opening was to much fanfare as a sign of
confidence in the new nation, its foundation years weren't without
drama: within a year of opening, 1987's Cyclone Uma virtually wiped
the idyllic seventy-two bungalows and a dreamy restaurant and bar off
the map.

Our second resort directly opposite the re-born Iririki Island Resort,
and just 3-minutes away by ferry on the "mainland," is 6-storeys of
indulgence that was built by investors eight years ago, but stood
empty until bought by an Australian consortium last year; that
consortium then contracted the Mirvac group to manage it under its
prestigious Sebel banner.

Today the waterfront Sebel Vanuatu provides a grand retreat with 74
luxurious rooms offering spectacular harbour views, private balconies
off every room and marble bathrooms.

Its Crystals Restaurant boasts 5-star silver service in a smartly
relaxed ambience that embraces its waterfront setting, with menus
featuring international, island and French Provincial signature
cuisine; there's also a laid-back Lobby Lounge Café and a Pool Café
for snacking and cocktails.

And on the sixth floor, the Hemisphere Lounge is arguably one of the
South Pacific's finest hideaways of unexpected indulgence, coupled
with stunning views for that very special occasion.

Across the bay amid Iririki Island Resort & Spa's lush tropical
gardens is Vila's premier Michener's Restaurant, named in honour of
the author who conceived Tales of the South Pacific when was based in
Vanuatu during the Pacific War. Here one indulges in spectacular
dining on fresh-caught fish, tender local beef and pork, market veggies
and the most wicked desserts in an adults-only environment.

And immediately adjacent, Iririki's poolside Bali Hai Café and Bar is
also a zone mercifully free of ankle-biters.

Iririki has a total of 126 individual Bungalows, DeLuxe Rooms and
Penthouses, two pools, two tennis courts, a gym, one of Vanuatu's
finest day Spas, a casual beachfront Watermark Restaurant & Bar, a
Sunset Bar & Café, a watersports centre, and a private-beach
snorkeling and coral viewing area.

And the laid-back little island can claim royal patronage: the Queen
and Prince Philip stayed there during their last South Pacific tour.



IRIRIKI Island as it was after Cyclone Uma roared through Port Vila just a year after the resort's opening.

AND as Iririki Island Resorts & Spa is now, an idyllic haven of peace in Port

Vila Harbour that includes an child-free adults-only precinct.

THE grand new The Sebel Vanuatu, the country's first high-rise resort offering new dimensions in escapism.

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