Organic Chocolate Bliss at Freshwater Plantation in Vanuatu
I ate chocolate bliss balls on a tropical island and it was divine.
It wasn’t on my bucket list, more of an awesome spur of the moment decision. However, now that you know about it, it should be on yours!
I won’t publicly admit to how many I ate *cough.. four maybe five.. cough* but I will tell you that they were pretty big, immaculately presented, incredibly sweet and were dripping with an extra layer of melted chocolate.
The best part? The ingredients were organically grown and processed about 200 metres from where I was sitting. I’m not ashamed to admit that I shoveled them in my mouth with my eyes closed in pure chocolate heaven, enjoying every single bite whilst the kids were mucking around under the table.
Eating this way ensures I don’t have to share the good stuff. If you have young kids, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
When I sat down on the wooden bench seat of the small boat earlier that morning, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. With the wind in our hair, sun on our faces, and the deep blue green colour of the waters beneath us; it took us five minutes to cross the channel between the island of Espiritu Santo and Aore Island in Vanuatu to reach Freshwater Plantation.
Freshwater Plantation was once a derelict coffee and cocoa plantation. In 2013, owners Maria and Klaas came to Vanuatu and revived it, turning it into the unique eco plantation that it is today.
There were some plastic chairs on a floating pontoon near the small jetty. The chairs were facing back towards the green mainland of Santo. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to relax in the chairs or jump off the pontoon into the warm water like a big kid. I know what Mr four and his daddy wanted to do!
We set our bags down at the restaurant and organised ourselves for the much anticipated ‘Plantation Ramble’, a walking tour of Freshwater Plantation that includes a visit to a bat cave.
There is only one dirt road on Aore Island and it was made by the US Army in WWII seven decades ago. We walked across it and stepped into the cocoa plantation.
I was expecting to see rows upon rows of cocoa plants and coconuts trees. Instead, I was treated to an almost jungle like setting, with cocoa and paw paw trees lining the side of the walking track.
Freshwater Plantation takes the term lush green to a whole new level.
James, our local guide, showed us a weedy looking plant called ‘signal grass’. When touched, its small leaves wither and curl up before your very eyes. It was apparently introduced by the Americans during the war to see where the Japanese had been walking.
Miss nearly two took the task of torturing the signal grass to extremes whilst we cracked open a ripe cocoa pod.
The jungle like greenery thinned out as we started walking on an incline. This is what Mr four had been waiting for; the bat cave. The first part of the cave is pleasant and there are some antique bottles in a crevice at the back of the cave.
The second section of the cave is connected via a slightly swaying suspension bridge. Flash lights were handed out and the unmistakable smell of guano became overpowering as we crossed over.
Bats swarmed noisily over us and when I felt something wet hit the top of my foot, I began to regret wearing sandals instead of closed in shoes. Shining the torch at my foot to inspect the damage, I was surprised by the amount of cave cockroaches on the ground. It didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, they seemed to be keeping to themselves. I didn’t mention it to anyone else; some things you are better of not knowing.
The walk took us higher up to a lookout and lining the side of the path were organic coffee plants. In an earlier era, the chief would remain in the cave whilst others stood post at this look out to watch for intruders. I relished the faint aroma of the coffee plants after leaving the bat cave.
Now wearing a child with tired legs on my shoulders, we made our way back down and followed the circular route of the walking tour.
We visited an impressively large banyan tree that is estimated to be around 70 years of age; and also stopped to admire the beautiful vegetable and herb garden.
The produce grown here is used at the restaurant and by the staff living on site. I couldn’t wait to get back and eat a true fresh farm to plate meal; or plantation to plate meal in this case.
After a quick visit to the hut and concrete tables used for drying and processing the cocoa into a usable form, we entered the animal enclosures. A nanny goat had recently given birth and the local children were only too happy to catch a little kid for us so that we could have a cuddle, along with some ducklings and chicks.
I don’t usually eat at restaurants (you know….kids), especially nice ones. I’m usually happy with fish and chips in a paper bag on my lap so I am certainly no expert or claim to be a foodie. However, the meal we had at the restaurant was truly spectacular and well worth the splurge.
Even if you don’t take a tour of the plantation, it’s worth visiting just to dine at the Freshwater Plantation House Restaurant.
So….this is how I came to be stuffing organic chocolate bliss balls in my mouth on a tropical island. I can’t think of many things more enjoyable than this. Except for topping it off with a few jumps from the floating pontoon and a quick snorkel in the warm Vanuatu waters before heading back over to the mainland.
Visiting With Kids
Freshwater Plantation is easy to visit with kids. Children are enjoyed everywhere in Vanuatu and here is no exception.
At the ages of nearly two and four years, my kids were able to do most of the walking tour themselves with assistance in the cave. We had to carry one each towards the end when their legs were tired. Older kids will manage it with ease.
The bat cave and the baby animals ensure they won’t be bored on the 90 minute walking tour. The tour is fairly self paced and kids can move with freedom. There is none of that urgency and rigidness that usually comes with a tour. You can also hire a bike or explore on your own.
The restaurant has outdoor seating and a HUGE grassy area right in front. Any anxiety you have about eating somewhere nice with kids can be layed to rest. If the kids are having trouble sitting still at the table; you can let them loose on the grass right in front!
The ocean waters are warm and calm but the kids will need reef shoes to swim as its quite shelly underfoot.
Freshwater Plantation is located on Aore Island, a short five minute trip across the water from the main town of Luganville on the Island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu.
Contact Klaas or Maria on (+678) 37366 or email: email@example.com for information, bookings and to organise a time to catch the boat over. The boat runs on demand and is complimentary, so you will need to phone first.
Air Vanuatu flies regularly from Australia to Espiritu Santo. Direct flights can be taken from Brisbane otherwise; you can visit Port Villa on the island of Efate first before heading over on a short flight to Santo.
Want To Learn About More Awesome Places?
For more blog posts, photographs and information on my travels through Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu with kids, please check out this page: Vanuatu.
For more information on ALL of my travels, check out this page: My travel destinations
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