An island caretaker guides us and our three young horses out into the sapphire blue waters of Ratua. We’re traversing a spec of palm tree-covered land in the north of the Vanuatu archipelago, barely a square kilometre and almost impossible to see on Google Earth.
In a little under 10 minutes we go from riding across Ratua’s hot white sand to slipping gently into the sea. As we slide off each horse’s back, we hold on tightly to their manes and almost instinctively they start gliding through the water in a way that feels strangely natural.
Ratua Island Resort and Spa is an exclusive luxury getaway that’s wedged between the twin islands of Malo and Aore off the south-east coast of Espiritu Santo (Vanuatu’s largest island).
Paradise Is Just A Short Flight Away
We arrive into Santo’s capital Luganville on a steamy, humid morning and make a beeline for Ratua’s private dock before we’re whipped off the busy mainland in a hurry. The island’s team has us transferring seamlessly, but it’s the 35-minute boat trip that heightens the sense of remoteness.
The resort is made up of just 15 hand-crafted Javanese teak villas, each dotted around the shoreline as if they were washed ashore like driftwood.
There’s an indescribable barefoot luxury about Ratua that makes you feel as if you’ve been shipwrecked on a deserted island, but at the same time you’re comfortably at home. The uniquely designed villas are a big part of this and while the floors might be uneven and the windows don’t close properly, that’s part of the allure. Perfectly imperfect and effortlessly beautiful.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served around the resort’s comfortable central village, while a well-appointed deck with undercover lounging areas help to establish a community feel amongst a maximum of just 38 other guests.
Fresh local produce is sourced from the island and when you speak to staff or management, they all take pride in their commitment to sustainability. Often, you’ll find them foraging in the huge organic garden as roaming goats, pigs and cattle are reared on the island and prepared in the daily menus.
A no-plastic policy also ensures you leave a gentle environmental footprint during your visit.
“By coming to this island you become part of a noble endeavour. Thank you for choosing to be here,” Ratua’s general manager Wilber ‘Bong’ Sariment says as the Ratua string band serenades us at sunset.
Bong tells us about French philanthropist and winemaker Mark Henon, who originally founded Ratua as a private resort back in 2005. A big part of his endeavour was to also give back to the local ni-Vanuatu. As such, proceeds from the resort still go to funding their local education charity, the Ratua Foundation.
But sometimes to truly experience the magic of a place you need to look back on it from a distance.
At Ratua, you can do this by lying beneath the shuttered windows of its world class spa, which extends out into the sea like a giant finger gesturing you in for a massage. Or ponder your surroundings as you cruise back to the shoreline from a private kayaking discovery tour of the nearby Malo Island blue hole.
Forget clean lines, chlorine pools and air-conditioned hotel rooms. Ratua is a place that redefines what we know of luxury. It’s Pacific island perfection right on our doorstep.
Words: Jeremy Drake – https://www.mercedes-benz.com.au/passengercars/experience/lifestyle/travel-food-wine/stories-vanuatu.module.html