Posted by: Anna | September 30, 2011

Paradise on Earth – Tuwoc Bungalows

Seeking sun, soft white sand, and serenity, we headed to Champagne Beach. We had made arrangements with Lonnoc Bungalows to stay with them, but they would not pick us up until 3 PM. When we woke up on departure day, sitting around the hotel, we lamented our lost day waiting for transportation. The hotel manager came to the rescue, calling the Champagne Beach truck, who agreed to pick us up….now. We hadn’t even packed yet, or showered, but hey – better to go at 9 AM and have the whole day rather than wait around.

We threw our things into bags and hopped into the back of the pickup truck (standard transportation in Vanuatu). We were off, thrilled to be able to enjoy the day. Less than an hour later, we had arrived, but at the Tuwoc Bungalows, owned by the son of the chief who “owns” Champagne Beach (land in Vanuatu is village controlled, thus local chief controlled). We sighed with pleasure at the view: shocking turqouise water, soft white sand, fringed with palm trees. Just what we had hoped for.

Forgot to mention the local kids playing soccer on the beach...

The proprietress, Jeannette, shook our hands with a smile and asked if we’d like to stay in one of her two bungalows. We discussed prices, and found out that it would be much less expensive to stay there, with the bonus of being slightly closer to Champagne Beach. We piled our bags in our bungalow and immediately changed into swimsuits and gathered our beach supplies. As soon as we emerged, Jeannette started to supply us with everything we could need — chairs, a table, and a hammock. After she got us situated on the beach, she offered us our lunch options (fresh caught fish and sweet potato fries), and of course we agreed.

The day was looking good – we had an entire day to enjoy this tropical paradise, with the beach to ourselves, Jeanette to look after us, and not a worry. We played backgammon, read our books, and listened to music. We had a local beer, Tusker, with our lunch, which was delicious. Vanuatu just kept getting better and better…and Santo was high on our list of great places – cool diving, chilled out bungalow / beach time, and some really friendly people.

We spent our entire first day like that, watching the cows walk across the beach (in addition to the bungalows, Jeanette’s family also raises cattle, pigs, and chickens, all of whom occasionally wander across the beach or through the bungalow yard, adding a charming family farm aspect to the beach time — there’s something really funny about watching a cow run through the hoof high ocean at high speed). She made us a beautiful dinner of local organic steak. We were in bed by 8 PM, happy as clams.

Time seemed to slow down, and yet passed quickly at Tuwoc. With only two bungalows, a building that served as the restaurant, and a little outhouse / shower (no running water – bucket shower and bucket flush), life is pretty simple. The family built everything there themselves – the bungalows, the furniture, and the paths. A truly local experience where the tourist dollars we spent go directly to the people who put in the work. It was definitely the smallest little resort I’ve ever seen or visited.

Our second day we packed it all in (compared to our first day). We walked five minutes to Champagne Beach, which was stunning – just like a postcard. We lounged in the sun, snorkeled, swam and played in the ocean. We played more backgammon and frisbee. Eventually, we got hot and were ready for some shade (not much at Champagne Beach) and a beer, so we headed back to Tuwoc, where we promptly got shade and beer. While we had been gone, Jeanette had gone into our messy bungalow (traveling with a backpack, our stuff tends to look exploded because we basically have to take everything out to get to anything, unlike a suitcase) and created a lovely, orderly space. She put our snack food in plastic bin to protect it from ants and hung our wet clothes carefully in the sun (we had them inside the bungalow).

We had another tasty lunch – steak sandwiches and more sweet potato fries (the best I’ve ever had, totally addictive). We played a long round of gin. Then it was time for our big afternoon activity, snorkeling the blue hole. The red truck picked us and a group of local kids up and took us about fifteen minutes down the road. We walked down the short jungle path to the blue hole. It was as striking as we had read – a bright blue freshwater lagoon, completely clear. Snorkeling it, you can see every fish and rock crisply, with a lurking bright blue always lingering just ahead. When you swim into what had been the bright blue, it is clear, and the blue surrounds you in all directions again. The kids showed us how to swim through a narrow little pass to an even prettier lagoon slightly further on. Tommy and the kids climbed trees and leaped off into the water, dove down to the bottom, did flips to show off, and other tricks. I enjoyed the peace and beauty. At the end of the lagoon, the ocean flows into the lagoon, and the water becomes brackish. Through the narrow rock passage where the ocean enters, we could see out into the wide, flat blue of the ocean.

Our last night we had another delicious dinner – more fish – and more cards. It was so simple, and yet so perfect. Jeanette did everything she could to make our stay great, and it was. I wish we could have stayed longer — a week might not have been enough.

Representative of our time at Tuwoc Bungalows - sunglasses on the table, reflecting the family built bungalow and the beach.

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Responses

  1. sounds like a perfect beach get-away! Take care of each other. xoxoxo, Kita

  2. Love the sunglass photo – really creative. Champagne Beach – with a name like that it should be lovely.

  3. Hey there,

    My boyfriend and I are hoping to stay at Tuwoc in October for a week. They just look fantastic!! I wasn’t entirely sold on them over Lonnoc until I read your post. Do you mind if I ask how much you paid per night?

    Catherine

    • Catherine,

      I don’t remember exactly how much we paid at this point. However, I do remember feeling that compared to our other options, we found it a good value. Hope you enjoy it!

      Anna


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