In 2004, we decided to sail around the world.
After one year spent in the Atlantic ocean we crossed the Panama canal to face the immense Pacific and visit some of its archipelagos–the Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuamotu, Cook, Samoa and Fiji.
In June 2005 we arrived in New Caledonia, where our friend Patrick Durand Gaillard had been living for 20 years. Patrick immediately told us about the Vanuatu archipelago, and one place in particular–a jewel-like island whose location was kept secret.
Our voyage across started on July 6, 2005. From its southernmost volcanic island, Tanna, we sailed north to Etafe Island, the capital and its port, then to Epi, Ambrym, Malakula and finally, Espiritu Santo.
One after the other each island put us under a spell; here time stood still, intact tribal communities had kept their ancestral ways, nature was unspoiled, consumerism had yet to reach this part of the world.
Finally, nestled between Aore and Malo, south of Espiritu Santo was our destination, Ratua. This stunningly beautiful isle, in its green setting, welcomed us, a preserved sanctuary, wild yet accessible. Right away we decided to adopt the island, and after a few meetings the local elders entrusted their treasure to our care.
Safeguarding a Sanctuary
We pondered during the long hours sailing back to civilization on the necessity of preserving Ratua without concession, on how to live there harmoniously whilst avoiding its destruction. We recreated a living environment without compromising the integrity of the place by renovating forty houses in total respect of their ancestral architecture.
Two years later each house had been carefully blended into its natural surroundings so as to preserve the sense of our first encounter and the uniqueness of the place. All aspects of life on Ratua are derived from this concept–transport on horseback, return of indigenous fauna, sea links using traditional crafts and organic cooking.
Tribal Life and Self-sufficiency
The fact that our approach had to be environmentally friendly became quickly evident, yet this would not be enough to be in harmony with the local tribal communities, who have always lived of gathering and subsistence farming.
The life we aspired to required that we shed our usual consuming habits and learned authentic living again without taking too much from our environment. Thus, our entire fishing and farming will be local. In our workshop, we work with coco wood, which, together with Natangora palm thatching, will be the base of our future construction.
We use bore water, and make our own coco based soap, shampoo, lotion and cleaning products. It is a start and maybe one day we will cease to buy industrial products and manage to preserve the best quality of life locally.
Sharing the Dream
Were we allowed to keep the secret among our families, our friends and ourselves?
Obviously not, as we wanted to share Ratua with others. In this way, you will contribute towards the protection of the site and the preservation of neighbouring communities, you can select and finance some projects, and help protect the fragile balance of this sanctuary.
We have carefully, yet selfishly disrupted this place, our duty eventually will be to give it back, and to this end we have to be vigilant and ethical.