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Putting together the finest Vanuatu itinerary for your family

The tiny archipelago of Vanuatu can be difficult to find on a map - this collection of idyllic islands is located approximately 1,750 kilometres east of Australia's western tip and, as such, often feature highly on the list of holiday destinations for the intrepid Aussie family. Once your aeroplane lands in the island's small but vibrant capital of Port Vila, you may just be wondering what this peaceful South Pacific island can offer your family in the way of new and exciting experiences, and the answer is plenty. Make sure that your camera is fully charged and has plenty of memory for almost endless photo opportunities - you are going to need it!

Discover The Secret Garden 

More of an outdoor museum, The Secret Garden is not really so clandestine at all - it is found about 20 minutes north of Port Vila and is well served by the local transport. It is especially worth exploring if you have the little ones in tow, as, by taking one of the small tours provided by the locals, you and the family will discover a whole raft of interesting history and facts about Vanuatu's past.

Melanesian culture encircles a great many different aspects, so to discover some how the Vanuatuan people used to live (and how some still do) will provide a fascinating insight to everyone involved. The tribal history of Vanuatu will prove especially intriguing to your children - all the way through cannibalism (don't worry, the tour guides are not too graphic), the sacred power of the volcanoes and land diving - an early form of bungy jumping where a natural vine is used as opposed to elastic.

As well as learning about the island's culture, you'll be able to walk freely in the beautifully kept tropical gardens, as well as getting into close encounters with the local wildlife. Flying foxes are common, as well as other fauna such as iguanas and the gigantic coconut crab. Additionally, every Thursday, the 'Chief's Area' of The Secret Garden is opened to visitors, and you'll be able to sample the indigenous cuisine for a small fee. Kumala, taro and many other different foods are cooked on a traditional campfire - there is no better way to sample these delights.

Immerse yourself in the Mele Cascades 

Waterfalls are, by their very nature, one of nature's most elegant sights, and the Mele Cascades are among the very finest you can find on the entire planet.

By walking up the gentle rope-lined slope of the mountain, you'll pass exotic tropical gardens replete with endemic, colourful plant life, eventually coming to the freshwater pools that have formed as a result of the falls themselves. Take your shoes and socks off and get your feet wet in the refreshingly cool waters, before heading to the eponymous Cascades.

The Mele Cascades are made up of two main waterfalls, one of which you can slip behind as the water rumbles and tumbles mere centimetres from your eyes. Many choose to take an impromptu shower under some of the smaller falls, the pounding streams therapeutic and awakening as you stand under a fall that has been flowing for thousands of years.

Though the paths between falls are roped for guidance and balance, along with carefully-placed stepping stones, care must be taken on a few of the rocks. They have become smooth and slippery over the years, so watch your feet, or you may end up taking an early bath!

Locate the bargains in Port Vila

Don't come to Vanuatu looking for the latest Prada purse or Gucci glasses - Port Vila's main shopping bag is all about practicality and food. The hectic markets along the capital's main street will offer you everything from soaps to Hawaiian shirts, so pick through this wild assortment of everything, paying the baying proprietors before making your way to the food quarters.

Good, honest food is available very cheaply at the fresh food markets. Every food group is accounted for, with raspberries, yams, crabs and local fruit and veg up for grabs. Better still, all profits from markets go right back into the local village economy, so you'll not only be getting a tasty bargain, but you'll also be helping the sustainability of this island paradise continue.