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“Get a sense of the real Vanuatu”

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Jungle Oasis Bungalow
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
62 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
“Get a sense of the real Vanuatu”
Reviewed January 28, 2013

My partner and I stayed here for 2 nights, towards the end of a month long Vanuatu trip. By this time we had grown accustom to sleeping without a fan, bugs in our room, outside bathrooms, cold showers, bumpy rides and dirty feet. We had learned to go with the Vanuatu flow.

We found Jungle Oasis to be reasonably comfortable, and the meals quite nice and good value in comparison to the prices in Port Vila. At one point the water pressure in the shower had reduced to a trickle, I simply asked Kelson and he pointed out an alternative one that worked perfectly (all cold though).

For what you get it might seem quite expensive, but just double check what is included and what is extra to avoid nasty surprises. We never felt like we were getting cheated anywhere in Vanuatu and when you learn how much people earn as a wage you don't mind staying at the locally owned places and paying a little extra, rather than the foreign owned and more comfortable places around the airport. There is also no public transport in Tanna and the roads are quite rough, this adds up to expensive transfers and lack of western materials and non local foods.

Tanna was an amazing experience for us, and that wasn't just because of the volcano. When we stayed at Jungle Oasis it felt like we were staying with Kelson's family. Sam and David were our guides and driver, and they were very joyful to be around. Kelson's daughter AJ and her friend Ivy were adorable and I had a great time playing with them on the beach and around the bungalows. They taught me how to sing songs and play games. We only ever saw other westerners at the top of the volcano. We really felt like we were seeing Vanuatu like it was 100 years ago!

Sam made sure to get us to the airport on time and was right there waiting when we arrived (which didn't happen for some other people I met who stayed elsewhere), they asked us what we'd like to do during our stay and we worked it out on the first night. Vanuatu works on different time to Australia: try and go with the flow! We only really looked at our clock to make sure we'd be up in time for breakfast ;) the rest of the time we would chill out and read or nap until someone came and told us it was time to get ready and go. Just because an activity isn't exactly time tabled and adhered to on the dot, doesn't mean that it won't happen!

It was surreal staying at the base of the volcano and feeling the hut shake when a particularly big blast went off, really a once in a life time experience!

If you don't think you can live a couple of nights without electricity, or handle the ash and dust then this might not be for you. But if you want a more authentic Vanuatu experience definitely give it a go!

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
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1 Thank Ginevera
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
9 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed June 2, 2012

Although the Jungle Oasis facilities are pretty basic (cold shower, outdoor loo, simple huts and no electricity after 10pm), I loved the fact that we were staying in what was essentially Kelson's own village and right near Mt Yasur - it is amazing to hear the regular rumble of the Old Man belching through the day and night. And the facilities were generally clean and tidy, Lucian's food was delicious and plentiful and Phillip was absolutely delightful to my mother and I. He took us up Mt Yasur and kept my mother company while I went further up the mountain; he took us to a Kastom village to see the local women dance and the small fee went directly to them. Clearly the smaller children had not seen many westerners/tourists and it all felt very authentic. The trip back across to the west side of the island is a treat in itself - rally driving at its best - and we stopped at Lenakel to go to market, where Phillip bought us fruit to eat - at his cost. We found everyone to be wonderful and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Jungle Oasis if you want an authentic Tanna experience.

  • Stayed May 2012, traveled with family
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1 Thank Kaele S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Copenhagen, Denmark
Level Contributor
16 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
Reviewed March 4, 2012

If you like adventure stay near the volcano. There are a few good places on the east side of the island. Jungle Oasis is definetely one of them. We found it well managed (by Kelson and Philip), clean and tidy and found the food to be nice (tasty and filling chicken / beef / omelete with rice and sauce cooked by sweet Lucian). We payed less here for accommodation (4500 Vt a night in bungalow) and food than we did in Vila so I do not understand some of the reviews below. All prices were as agreed. Best thing is to arrange your own flight and airport pick up and stay a few nights near the volcano - to go up more times and see the brillant Kastom villages.

It is however a jungle lodge with cold water and electricity only at night. For us it was part of the experience. If you want luxury stay at the other (airport) side of the airport for a much higher price, with less adventure and a very long and expensive and bumpy transfer to and from the Volcano.

We went with two small children. I went up to the volcano with Philip twice and my girlfriend went up once another night with Joseph (we did not want to bring our children). Both were excellent and knowleadgable guides. Volcano is spectacular and a little scary (now in level 2, rocks very unlikely to hit you but they do sometimes go over crater rim so do as your guide tells you...). Guides at east side seems to know much more about the Volcano than guides from west side since they have been going there for years. You can walk up in 45 minutes and just have to pay a small fee for a guide and the entrance to the volcano (now 3350Vt first time half price second time).

Philip and Joseph took us to 4 Kastom (Imayo, Tapau men, Tapau women and Yakel) villages. They see very few tourists. People performed dances for a small donation. They were beuatifully decorated and very hospitable and friendly.

Our last night we spent in the treehouse - not as comfortable as the bungalows but a fantastic experience and a night view of the volcano from the porch! - and when do you get a chance to stay inside a Banyan tree?

I usually like to do things on my own without a guide but Philip was a real ace. Tentative, helpful, intelligent and arranged everything to perfection - even a new truck when we got stuck going up to Yakel on muddy roads in rainy season without him we wouldn't have seen half as much and had such an excellent time.

We are travelling through 7 Pacific countries and our 4 nights in Jungla Oasis has been the unquestionable highlight of the whole region so far. If you are into photography there is surely no better place to go than east Tanna.

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled with family
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Helpful?
4 Thank jakob1971
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
bangkok
Level Contributor
57 reviews
30 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 55 helpful votes
Reviewed January 21, 2012

I'm surprise to read so terrible reviews about that place. We spent 3 nights in this accommodation, spending days in a series of amazing experiences and nice relationships with friendly and interesting people.
But for a first travel in Tanna Island maybe an "information note" is needed for "rigid mind tourists".
In Tanna Island, you need to do a compromise solution :
1) Stay west coast, nearly the airport; Good international standard accommodations, very clean, nice food, wine, happy hour, service, electricity, credit cards payments ( + high commission),... and all you'll need ( e.g. Tanna Evergreen Bungalows - White Grass Ocean Resort w/ swpool - for both rooms around us$ 100 with bathroom attached ). Those places provide a large range of activities and charge substantial prices for them ( e.g. volcano excursion, about us$100-120/p.head ). Note : it takes about 2 hours driving (1 way only) to reach Mt Yasur volcano from west coast.
You'll get polite and professional relationships with all the hotel's staff as well as with drivers and guides but don't expect genuine exchange of views;

2) Try to touch the everyday reality of Tanna Island and book an accommodation INLAND where ALL accommodations provided are basics, with "local standards" maintenance ( = very poor for international tourism standards ), just like
food standards (variety/quality), only few hours of electricity evening time and no internet/roaming coverage .... AND GET IN RETURN as follows :
If you choose to book an accommodation at JUNGLE OASIS, you'll be at only 10 Mn walking till the volcano's entrance (where you have to pay government fees = us$36/p.head and 1/2 price for the day after if you decide to come back ). From the entrance, about 1 hour easy walk to Mt Yasur's top . Then you don't need to spend any money for a car ride to the top. If you want to go back night time to the volcano ( huge volcano's show !!! ) and don't want to walk into the dark, you can arrange a ride with JUNGLE for less than us $50 for the car ( not per head ). Driver and guide (one guide is compulsory, I think - charges us$5 only ).Driver and guide will wait for you all the time you decide to spend on the top.
Our volcano's experience was huge and strong !!! and we appreciated to be free to go up and down by ourselves ( free for transport, not for government fees, of course ! )
Besides, we've met different people in JUNGLE OASIS. Marc, in particular, teacher, guide during school's holiday and when he has free time. A sensitive person, clever, moderate, affable, communicative We've learn so much about Tanna's culture, customs, traditional way of living, actual trends of the young generation,.... and so much more. Never tired by our thousand of questions !!! Thanks so much, Marc ! Still think about you !
With him, we visited 2 customs villages. i.e. traditional ritual dancing executed only on demand for tourism. Marc guides us on small paths going through the jungle to reach those villages. That moments were serene, friendly, exempted of any kind of "damages" from any" heavy touristic business machine pressure" .... only Marc and both of us ... walking through the jungle... meeting people from Tanna's villages ... discovering different traditional dancing shows ... small donation to thanks the community (the range is about us$10 for a small group of 2-4 tourists. If you want to offer a little more, buy one of their handicraft : amulet - bag - all in natural material - it could be about another us$10 donation for the community).
Apart from Marc we've met Mr Kelson - the owner of JUNGLE OASIS. He is a very busy and politically implicated man in Tanna Island & indeed Vanuatu but he doesn't neglect to share ideas with tourists if those has any interest about the island;
Apart was Kelson's family. The first evening, his wife cooked for us a nice local food diner ( a piece of chic hen - rice - and plenty of local vegetables ). The second day diner was more "basic" (concerning foreign standarts ). For the breakfast, they provide bread + jam. coffee & tea, include into the price of accommodation. The restaurant-building is made with natural material and is very pleasant to give you good natural energy for morning time.
Right, don't expect lodging/fooding as any basic international standards; But if you can to set aside those standards only for few days.... you'll share an basic joy of living, of sharing, eating, of being,.... Hmmmm !
Well !! Before booking try to keep in mind that the way of living, lodging and fooding is absolutely ... different of our conventional concerns;
Go to the right choice for you !!!

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank claudineBangkok
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Juba
2 reviews
Reviewed January 15, 2012

We just stayed here in December 2011 with another AUS couple. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer stationed in a village 1 km away from Jungle Oasis in 2008. There has little if any improvement since I last came to this establishment. I witness Philip overcharge the AUS couples and was not pleased that this was how Jungle Oasis does business. Phillip at night comes in with a guitar and has some local boys sing some christian songs to spread the gospel of the SDA. Then he asks for donations to help them??? The AUS couples didn't know what to do and it seemed forced that they just gave them 1000 vt. I'm sure they wanted to donate, but it seemed odd to me. The next morning Philip lead the AUS couple to the cultural tour. Philip charged them 1000 vt for being the guide which they assumed was paid for in Vila.

An overnight volcano trip cost 45000 vt each person. Plane ticket cost 24000 vt round trip. Jungle Oasis housing cost 4500 vt. Jungle Oasis lunch and dinner cost 750 and 1200 vt respectively. Jungle Oasis cultural tour cost 1000 vt. Philip - Tour guide another 1000 vt. Return airport transfer is 4000 vt. The Volcano fee is 3350 vt. All of this equals 39800 vt. I want to ask where is the other 5200 vt?

The owner Kelson is friendly, but still I would give this place 1 star. My gf at the time wanted to use the bathroom and the ONLY one working didn't flush! He suggested to my gf to go and use the bathroom floor. At this point I had enough of this place. We were suppose to stay another night, but we jumped on a truck to get back to Whitegrass resort near the airport. The staff at Whitegrass and Evergreen were extremely professional and helpful. At Jungle Oasis it costs us 4500 vt a night. At Evergreen it cost 7000 vt. Believe me spend the extra 25 USD. At least you'll get a flushing toilet and HOT water. As a volunteer I am ashamed at how Philip and Kelson has treated the AUS couple, but specifically Philip. When the AUS couple finally got to Whitegrass, Philip hit them up another 1000 vt for transport fees. Fees that the couple already paid in Vila! So the bottom line: DO not spend money at this place and save other travelers from all the hidden charges.

If you want to stay near the volcano there are at least two more bungalows literally 50-100 meters from Jungle Oasis. "Smile Lava" and "Banyan Treehouse" bungalows. The rooms there are between 2500-3500 vt. Airport transfers are about 2000 vt per person which is the same for Jungle Oasis. There's no hot water, but at least the meals are cheaper and everything is cooked fresh. I had a late lunch when we arrived at Jungle Oasis and ate old rice from a ceremony held at Kelson's compound in Jungle Oasis. I'm not picky, but at 750 vt I don't really think it's worth it. Dinner was 1200 vt, but was just rice and beef with soya sauce. At the other bungalows mentioned above meals range from 500-800 and they offer fresh fruit! I don't know if anybody reads this, but believe the other reviewers, "Mountainguiding" and "Fijilady" and stay away.

Sorry for the rant. One last thing. When I first arrived there in 2006 I bought 1 kg of chicken and rice to share with Kelson and his family. They in turned cooked everything and served to 6 other guest and charged them 1200 vt and even had the audacity to charge me too! wtf.
I thought that after four years they wouldn't be too money hungry.... Nope still the same!!

Go to Turtle Bay, Port Resolution, Smile Lava, Banyan Treehouse, Whitegrass, Evergreen, Sunset Bungalows, Friendly Bungalows. Anywhere, but here....

Room Tip: Get an airport transfer one way (about 2000 vt) over to the volcano to Jungle Oasis and then walk ba...
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Tony L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed January 10, 2012

Reviews are always going to be subjective so I guess your experience of Jungle Oasis is going to depend on what you're looking for. I personally loved it but I wasn't necessarily looking for the same thing as other travellers.

Having travelled for 2 months on my own, backpacking around the South Pacific islands, I was really interested in finding out more about the traditional cultural practises in Tanna and modern day experience of living in a village. I didn't want the polished tourist experience because most people on the island don't live like that. I wanted to know what daily life was like for the ni-Vanuatu who lived there. So I chose not to go to a fancy resort and gave Jungle Oasis a try.
I stayed on Tanna for a total of 3 nights- 2 at Jungle Oasis and one night in the nearby village with Kelson's (Jungle Oasis's owner) brother and his family. It was amazing.

Having read the previous reviews, I can understand some of the criticisms. I stayed in the bungalow which was lovely, a very pretty, colourful hut constructed in the traditional way with local materials. It was swept and clean and I was provided with a mosquito net. Yes, there were bugs, but that's inevitable given the style of construction. There are gaps between the boards and palms so bugs are going to get through. Wasn't really an issue for me.

Food-wise, the meals were large but very basic. Being out in the village away from the airport without full-time electricity, there's not the same refrigeration available so Joyce is limited somewhat by what is available at the local shop at the time. They weren't the best value but if that's a major concern then just speak to Kelson ahead of time. There's the option of self-catering and using their kitchen.

As far as 'hidden costs' go, I didn't have an problems with that but I was very careful to speak to Kelson directly and asked exactly how much everything was going to cost. I had a rough idea but confirmed everything before I went there. Make sure you agree on the cost of a transfer. It's about an hour and a half from the airport on a really horrible road and I was the only person being picked up so I thought that the cost of the transfer was reasonable but as I said, agree upon a price ahead of time. The cost of the volcano entrance is pretty non-negotiable. I chose to walk up the volcano (doesn't take long to get there and isn't a very strenuous walk) with a guide so again ask Kelson the price before you go, confirm it with your guide before you go and you shouldn't have any problems.

What makes Jungle Oasis so special is the opportunities it provides for an authentic Tanna experience. Kelson is a prominant member of the local community so has a lot of connections and is able to organise any cultural tours that you'd like as long as you give him a few days notice. So study up a bit on Tanna, decide what you'd like to see and ask if there's a way he can arrange it. Chances are, he can.
I arrived on a Friday so visited a John Frum village on a Friday night to see their prayer meeting. That was a really interesting experience. I was the only visitor but they're happy to have anyone who would like to come and listen to their singing and watch/join in with their dancing. My guide, Phillip, was really attentive and happy to stay as long as I wanted to. He even encouraged me to go and dance with the women. At the time there was a girl who was making a documentary about the John Frum movement so we both got up and danced for a bit with the women. They were lovely and found it very amusing.
Joyce, Kelson's wife, arranged for the women of the village to perform a 'Women's Dance' the next day. About 20 of the local women, from kids to grandmothers, dressed in traditional clothes and face paint and feathers and performed 4 of the songs/dances for me in a clearing in the woods. Again, a wonderful cultural experience and I was blown away by the fact that they made such an effort just for me.
I was then taken by my guide to Kelson's brother's village and was invited to have my own face painted, dressed in the traditional costume and treated to a whole day's worth of activities. The John Frum singing/dancing/worship was shown, I was taught how to play a traditional seed game and then played for a while with my guide, I was taught how to make laplap (a traditional dish) and was expected to join in every step of the way, one of the young men demonstrated his skill with the bow and arrow, I was invited to taste kava and sit with some of the men whilst they played guitar and sang songs. They told me one of the creation stories. The whole experience was really memorable, everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming and they made such a huge effort to teach me about the traditional way of life. Having chosen to stay in the village that night, I was then taken across the way a bit and shown my bungalow. My guide ensured that I had everything I needed before he made his way back to Jungle Oasis. Having spent the whole day with me (about 10-4) explaining all of the customs and translating all of the information, I felt he'd certainly earned his guide's fee.

The village was daunting at first because of the language barrier, but luckily one of the young men, John, spoke some English so he quickly took over duties as an impromptu tour guide and showed me around the family's compound. I spent a bit of time in the kitchen hut watching Chief Robert's wife prepare the meal, walked around with John and Chief Robert and was shown the different wishing stones (for rain, fruit, chickens), their little church, and their nakamal (kava hut). I played 'Let's Go' (a playground game) with the kids and the women showed me how to weave mats and crimp the grass skirts. They offered me different foods to taste and really made me feel like part of the family. They were wonderful. I found out the next day that Chief Robert had stayed up all night keeping guard outside my bungalow, chasing the chickens and pigs away so I could get a good night's rest.

The whole experience was amazing and I can't imagine anyone else being able to organise such an enthusiastic, authentic experience. You're not going to get the same experience staying at a big resort. When I was back at Jungle Oasis on the last day I expressed interest in learning more about village life so Joyce showed me how to weave the vegetable baskets and then we took them into the garden where she pointed out all the plants and she, AJ and her nan dug up the vegetables and loaded them into our baskets.

Kelson and Joyce are really lovely. They are happy to share their daily life with you so all you need to do is ask. As you can tell, I thought the whole experience was amazing. If you're interested in cultural tourism and you don't mind roughing it a bit then this is definitely the place to go. You're not going to get a better cultural experience in such a short space of time anywhere else.

Room Tip: I didn't see the treehouses but the double bed bungalow was lovely.
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  • Stayed November 2011, traveled solo
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Helpful?
Thank Jenny M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Invercargill, New Zealand
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed August 16, 2011

Sadly our experience was tarnished through hidden charges in addition to what we had been quoted. The Mt Yasar tour was charged at vt1100 each more than what we were quoted a week earlier. Furthermore, we were then charged another vt1500 each for a tour guide and transport which we had assumed would have been included in our original quote. Meals also were more expensive than that originally quoted. Subsequently we ran out of money to take advantage of any other tours while on Tanna.
Tanna Island is a beautiful place and i would recommend anyone to visit but sadly i would not recommend Jungle Oasis.

Room Tip: The bungalows, although cheaper, are much nicer than the Treehouse (and watch out for rats getting i...
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  • Stayed August 2011, traveled as a couple
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1 Thank Mountainguiding
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Jungle Oasis Bungalow

Property: Jungle Oasis Bungalow
Address: P.O. Box 858, Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Location: Vanuatu > Tanna Island
Hotel Style:
Ranked #12 of 28 Specialty Lodging in Tanna Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 5
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