Getting off the plane in Santo, the first thing that strikes you is the serenity. Here you are, in the middle of an international airport, yet, the noise level is so low that you can hear the birds singing and the wind in the trees. Be prepared, the moment you arrive in Santo, time slows down and one hour suddenly has 120 minutes, at least.
Later on, as you wander through the broad main street of Luganville, you start to understand that Santo is an island of expansive spaces and few people. Every natural wonder seems to be somehow amplified, thriving in the luxury of the vastness and richness of its own space.
The East Coast is where many of Espiritu Santo’s natural attractions are located. Here you will find electric-blue, crystal-clear ‘Blue Holes’; the gorgeous word-class Champagne Beach; the stunning waterfront and charming fishing village of Port Olry; the road to Big Bay, Matantas and Vathe National Park – and Oyster Island. The ocean is blue, the beaches are white, and the bush is tropical and lush. It is so calm that it is virtually impossible not to relax and it is without a doubt, the perfect detox to a busy life.
Charming Oyster Island Resort is located in Peterson Bay, five minutes from the famous Matavulu Blue Holes. It is an island off an island but the crossing between the two takes less than five minutes in a lovely island-style barge completed with natangora roof. Getting out of the car, you look across the pale blue water of the bay to the island, fringed by coconut palms, a few hundred metres away. As the barge approaches, you walk towards the beach, taking your shoes off if you wish, and step onto the little floating home. You should be smiling by now, big smile, because you are probably realising that this holiday is not going to disappoint you.
The island is 26 hectares and has beautiful big trees and abundant vegetation with lovely bush walks running across it. The resort is located on the southern side of the island and has only eleven bungalows, all absolutely waterfront. There are three types of bungalows for different budgets, from the traditional Frangipani bungalows to the exotic, Deluxe Bamboo Bungalows, all built using local materials such as coral and bamboo, with the classic thatched natagora roofs and private verandas onto the ocean. It is a natural paradise.
After you have dropped your bags and inspected your home away from home (“look honey, the outdoor private shower is so cute!”), you may want to change straight into your swimmers and wander along the coral paths fringed by lovely gardens, towards the restaurant and the pristine white sand beach. With its high natangora roof and opening towards the soft sand of the beach below, Oyster’s restaurant could hardly be more in tune with its ‘tropical island’ surroundings. “You can enjoy our restaurant in a beautiful summer dress, shorts or straight out of the ocean with sand between your toes, there is no code,” explains Olly, Oyster Island Resort’s manager.
Oyster Island Resort is run by Olive (‘Olly’) and David Jonas, a ‘salt of the earth’ kiwi couple with Pacific island roots who came here with their children three years ago. “We were excited at the prospect of a family adventure while we and the kids were still young enough to do it. Back then the potential of the resort was amazing, still is, and I guess we saw it as a project that we could work at together, using the best of our combined skills and still enjoy our family and wider community as well. Olly’s mum and dad manage Mount Hope, a cattle farm here and being able to be in Santo together was a real positive as the grandparents really missed their “mokopuna” grandchildren,” explains Dave.
Since their arrival, Dave and Olly have continued to build and improve Oyster with the construction of a Nakamal and reception area and a new family villa, all in keeping with Oyster’s unobtrusive, organic design.
You are indeed in a natural wonderland and the activities at Oyster make the most of what it has to offer. Kayaking in the calm bay and up the river to the Matevulu Blue holes, breathtaking snorkelling on the island’s pristine reefs, a romantic picnic on your private beach, a walk across the island or just chilling with a book are all things you can do without leaving the island. “The beauty of the landscape is overwhelming; everywhere you look is a shock of azure water, splashes of rainbow through the plants, flowers and wildlife. Being within a Marine Reserve means the stunning reefs are abundant with daily displays of fish life,” explains Olly.
A place is of course about its people and their culture and while providing all the mod-cons for the western visitor, Oyster has tried to stay true to the island spirit. Dave’s Samoan roots and Olly’s Maori heritage share that island big-extended-family spirit so typical of Melanesian and Polynesian cultures. “The highlight of managing Oyster for us has been working with our team and working together. We have nurtured a sense of “whakawhanaungatanga” family within our team. Elder members are Aunty and Uncle, our kids belong to everyone and we sit somewhere in the front, middle or back depending on the situation. That feeling spills out onto the guest experience and we often see tears at farewell and guests who leave with a sense of belonging to the Oyster family,” explains Olly.
Beautiful in so many ways, a tropical home away from home.