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Vanuatu: Gorgeous, decadent and better yet, your friends haven't been yet

Vanuatu will be one of your always-remembered, true paradise destinations.

Many savvy travelers are exuding "diamond in the rough, smiles from everyone, unspoiled, tropical forests, many active volcanoes and remarkable cultural diversity." When do we leave?

Another advantage -- it takes a while to get there, so as with the Maldives, Reunion Island, Darwin, Sri Lanka, Zanzibar and many other places on our globe, most of your friends and family haven't been there. During World War Two, the islands inspired James Michener to write Tales of the South Pacific.

Then came the play and the film.

Words he wrote as a young lieutenant in Santos - Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean, Reefs upon which waves broke into spray and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description. I wish I could tell you about the sweating jungle, and that full moon raising behind the volcanoes.”

Ready?

Though far away, this pristine collection of islands has luxury accommodations, fascinating shopping and fabulous food.

The main town of Port Vila, where 35000 of the islands' 250,000 folks live is a colonial gem -- left from the history of being run by both England and France. When independence arrived in the 80s, there remain two languages, two police forces, and two of most government agencies. There are also over 100 native dialects just to make things more fun!

There is no quick way to get there.

The fastest is to take Continental from LAX to Honolulu and on to Fiji where you will change to Air Pacific or Vanuatu Air to Port Vila. That takes about 12 hours in the air. A less expensive option is to go via Sydney or Brisbane, Australia, but it will take nearly 22 hours. But for that true adventurer in you, it is well worth the trip.

Once you settle in a your beach resort, you will be tempted to not go anywhere. Pool and beach time is what you will adore about these islands. Many place have activities such as tennis and even golf, but most just provide a gorgeous spot to relax.

The Botanical Gardens are a must. They are not your big city garden, but they are gardens with a heart. You will start with a quick tour of the whole place and then you can return to experience your favorite pieces all by yourself.

Mele Cascades in certainly one of the “must-do” attractions if you actually leave your resort. It is about 15 minutes out of Port Vila by taxi or bus. These is a waterfall where you will get up close and personal. You cannot just climb it you must swim in it. The water comes from an underground spring so the water is cool and refreshing. This is a great place..bring a picnic lunch.

There are dozens of major celebration ceremonies through out the island. Make sure you attend one while you are on Vanuatu. They revolve around clans history, sex, family, aging, death, and hunting and fishing. Visitors are invited to most of them. You will not forget these experiences.

A tour may be ideal for a couple of days away from your hotel. Ecotours. They will easily take you to fabulous locations and visit various of the Melanesian villages. You cannot get closer than this to the real Vanuatu. See them at www.vanuatu-ecotours.com.vu.

There are dozens of great hotels. The Eratap Beach Resort is clearly a place you might not leave. See this new boutique in its glory at is one of the best here and in the world. See it at eratap.com. The Palms Resort and Casino is another lovely lagoon side place with everything to offer.

There is no real gay scene here, but like all over the globe, we are here and out. Most everywhere, folks are gay friendly. The site www.gayvanuatu.com recommends four resorts that are four adults only. Reportedly there are. Mangoes is great. It is a four-star place with fine dining a 29 bungalows steps from the beach. See it at www.mangoesresort.com.

The Iririki Resort is on its own island. It may be the country's most expensive. This is a place where you just may not want to leave. Lovely facilities and lots to do. Check them out at www.iririki.com.

The Sunset Bungalows come highly recommended by local Palm Springs world travelers. Check them out at www.sunsetbungalows.vu. They are built in Melanesian style complete with native timbers, cathedral ceilings and built right on the water. They, like the rest, are great places relax and discover this real no world. And like the last three above, no one younger than 18.

Vanuatu is the real deal. If you watched "Survivor Vanuatu," we are talking about a whole different experience for you.

So, put Vanuatu on your list for your next real escape. Friendly people, great water sports, fabulous hiking, fishing, along with an amazing ancient culture, great food and total relaxation. It is not an easy place to get to, so a trip to your local travel professional might be in order to smooth your trip plans.

For this and other trip ideas, e-mail George at zander44@aol.com