I’ve just finished-up a shoot at Papaya Villa – a remote bed-n-breakfast nestled in palm trees on the north-east coast of Efate in Vanuatu.
While its location would have to be its biggest drawcard (you feel like you have the entire coastline to yourself), its unique selling feature is that it caters to foodies – handsomely. In fact, it has a cooking school for guests and it stages lunchtime feasts – think long tables of Greek, Italian, Spanish or Indian cuisine, which brings in an enthusiastic crowd of locals from around the island.
Here’s a small selection of some of the photographs captured during my stay:
The Italian cooking class begins with a Sangria (in fact, several) and the mellifluous voice of Dean Martin crooning Amore’ in the background. First-up is the sauce (“never fry the garlic first, always add it later to bring out the flavour”). Then it’s on to making the Tortellini, “Be careful not to roll the pasta too thinly. It needs to be thick enough that it doesnt break when its made into parcels.”
After the cooking’s done and you’ve savoured the fruits of your labour, this is where you’re likely to end up (below) – floating in one of several emerald pools carved by time into the ancient reef, and feeling like you’re the only one on the planet.
Of course, there’s the welcoming smiles and laughter of the Ni-Vanuatu staff….
Beyond playing in the water, there’s the coastline walks that weave through magnificient pandanus forests (below) where you can focus your attention (and your camera) on the pristine beauty of the location.
Shoran and Marcus decided it was time to “get out of the rat race” so they left Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and bought a remote parcel of land about 12 years ago on the north-east coast of Efate and set about building a funky, two storey home characterised by scolloped walls, colonial shutters and decks looking out towards the ocean. Since then, they’ve added the cooking school and turned Papaya Villa into a popular bed and breakfast which, at least occasionally, brings the world to them.
A flick through their guest book makes apparent the enviable lifestyle they have created for themselves (below), and the appreciation of those who have come to share it.
..and then there’s the feast. Today it’s a Greek theme, though there’s Italian, Indian and – Marcus’s favourite – Spanish/Portuguese which features his mouth-watering seafood Paella (hence the photo). A day of preparation sees the long table under the nakamal showered with food as up to 20 guest eat, drink and get very merry before finding a place to sneak off for a dip, that much-needed nano-nap, or a reef walk.
In closing – accepting food and relaxation are two of life’s great pleasures – you’re likely to be amply rewarded by stopping in to Papaya Villa. That said, I should warn you: If you’re a photographer looking to lose a few kilos, you might want to go elsewhere. Said I to Marcus when we met at the airport. “You won’t have to worry too much about feeding me. I’ve just started an intermittent fasting regime.
I didn’t last the day.