words: Niamh McCarthy

Since having kids I’ve tried to remain positive about travelling and seeing new places – this is hard – there have been many times when I wondered why we all didn’t just stay at home. Back in 2016 we did manage a surprisingly relaxing holiday in Rarotonga with our first daughter. However, when my husband mentioned the idea of returning to the Pacific with number two in tow I will admit I was not keen.

Our second baby was only a few months old, and so far, getting three women out of the house in under an hour has proven almost impossible. We carry a bag everywhere that looks like we are about to scale Everest – how could I pack luggage for three females for a week in the tropics?

It was then that he produced his trump card. He had found a resort in Vanuatu that had nannies – complimentary ones – that worked from 7am. “Count me in,” I said. “How long can we stay?”

The resort is called the Aquana Beach Resort – a boutique, family-oriented resort overlooking a very calm and sheltered manmade lagoon, located about 20-30 minutes’ drive outside Port Vila. I say between 20-30 minutes as it really depends on how fast you approach the potholes.  The Aquana has won numerous accolades from Trip Advisor for its approach to looking after the wee ones while Mum and Dad get some well-earned rest (especially Mum!).

After a long journey and a 2am arrival our first morning started off in chaos -everyone was tired, and our bungalow floor was full of unpacked luggage. My husband decided to take our girls for a quick walk while I sorted out the unpacking. He returned five minutes later with no children! He had wandered up to the reception/pool area and the nannies had swooped into action, were entertaining our children and told us to head off to breakfast.  And that was pretty much the pattern for every morning of our holiday – we would get the girls ready then bring them up to the kids play area while we had a leisurely adult breakfast.

Our 5-month-old was one of the younger babies at the time and was just adored by the staff – I suspect because she was very fat and white so somewhat of a novelty! I would change her and feed her and then she would happily spend her awake time with the nannies, who seemed to love parading around the resort with her or having the odd nap in a hammock. Possibly she got far more attention on holiday than she does in her own home…

The service really was a godsend – with both girls having naps, a nanny would come and sit in our bungalow while we sat by the pool or had a drink. I actually managed to read an entire book on holiday, which I really didn’t think was possible with two young children. The nannies were also on hand at mealtimes to take the kids away while we finished our meals, and at night there was always entertainment to distract the toddler while we ate. The odd night we would put the kids to bed and then eat dinner childfree, while the nanny sat in our bungalow. I should also point out that the food was absolutely amazing – so fresh and tasty – although obviously on the childfree nights we would have happily eaten a microwaved pie with our wine!

Thanks to the service of the nannies we also spent a lovely half-day in Port Vila with our toddler while the baby stayed with the nanny at the resort. We took the complimentary shuttle bus in and wandered around the amazing food market in the town centre. Our toddler was amazed by all the unusual fruit, not to mention the odd runaway chicken making an escape through the stalls. A brand-new playground has just opened up on the waterfront, so she ran around while Mum and Dad had a coffee and some of the very tasty French pastries that Vanuatu is known for.

All in all, it was a great family holiday. If you do fancy a Pacific holiday in a family friendly resort, then the Aquana is definitely the place to do it. Our toddler in particular had some amazing experiences and Mum and Dad had plenty of cocktails, cold beers and the odd snooze in a hammock. The only downside was that I couldn’t bring one of the lovely nannies back to NZ – I did ask!!




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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.