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“Fantastic Experience”

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Rocky Ridge Bungalows
Reviewed October 28, 2012

I stayed 8 days at Rocky Ridge, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

First, I had no idea what to expect when arriving on Tanna. Trevor answered my questions promptly via email before I arrived, and he gave me a good sense of what to expect (cash only, bring sunscreen and insect repellant along, etc). Tom, Margaret, and their family were accommodating, helpful, and a pleasure to talk with. They speak English very well, and I had no real communication issues. Tom grew up in the area, knows his way around, and is focused on providing a high level of service and helping members of his community. The tours were good... Waterfalls, Blue Caves, and I enjoyed the Lenakel Kastom Village, even though it was the 3rd time I attended a Kastom Village tour. (As a note, I was asked if I wanted to do a Kastom tour multiple times by different people, especially drivers hired to take me from one side of the island to the other. This seems to be an effective way for villages to consistently earn small amounts of money. The Lenakel - or John Frum Cult - village on Tanna was the best of the 3 I experienced.) Staying at Rocky Ridge was an incredible part of my 3 week vacation to Vanuatu.

If you want to spend your time around loads of other tourists, checking emails, and playing tennis, this is not the place for you. If you are looking for a quiet, clean home-base from which you can snorkel (before breakfast!!) explore black sand beaches, white grass plains, caves, and blue holes, this is it. The clean bungalows provide the basics: a bed (which was more comfortable than I expected), hot/cold shower, and a toilet. This is a great deal more than many of the people on Tanna have, and Rocky Ridge was a good middle ground between everything I'm used to having at home and the simple basic necessities that one requires. Tom and Margaret are small business owners making a huge effort to be successful not only for their family and village but for the larger community as well.

The level of service was extraordinary, and I enjoyed myself so much. My stay at Rocky Ridge was the perfect ending to 3 weeks in paradise.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled solo
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2  Thank traci_PDX
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 22, 2012

I wrote in the Visitor's Book that I had NEVER been made to feel so welcome as I was at Rocky Ridge by Tom & Margaret and their family.

Where to start? The three bungalows are very clean and comfortable (careful on the wet bathroom tiles) and set amongst lovely gardens with a view to the ocean. Tom is especially proud of Rock Ridge and justifiably so. He is a fine and friendly man and a great father. Four of his children live across the road in his village. Margaret is a primary school teacher nearby and a lovely happy person.

While one could be picky about the finish remember that Tom and his sons built everything from scratch which to me is an amazing effort. I was speaking to one of the guests who was an architect and he told me that while you could pick holes in the building finish everything was structurally very sound. There are currently 3 bungalows with a fourth one due for completion by the end of 2012. At night, power is provided by a 240v generator which if you strain your ears you can hear in the distant background. The generator runs from dark (approx. 6:00pm through to 9:30pm). Because it's 240v you can charge camera batteries etc. Also Tom provides a solar lantern for additional light. I'd advise anyone coming to Rocky Ridge to bring a torch for walking and night tours to volcano etc.

The food? Despite my daily protestations meal servings remained h-u-g-e! Tom is a great cook and the meals are healthy with fresh ingredients. How about freshly picked bananas and paw-paw for breakfast? Locally grown coffee is also available and tastes great! Tom and Margaret kept telling me not to worry as the leftovers go to their little cat Chips. Now I met Chips several times and he or she is very young with a very good figure so goodness knows where the leftover food goes. Tom also does fantastic sweet potato chips! They have a small bar which serves a limited variety of beer and soft drinks but remember that while drinks stay cool they're not cold when the power is not being generated.

There are a wide variety of tours available on Tanna and Tom and or Margaret will assist. Research them well so you know what you're in for. Some are more 'touristy' than others and make sure you know how long, will you need to take water and snacks, what sort of footwear is recommended etc. etc. We were lucky to attend two different village celebrations one evening which could have been to celebrate the return of young boys from their circumcisions carried out in the bush. At the first celebration there were approximately 1,000 people involved in dancing and celebrating. The girls wore traditional dress and the spectacle was fantastic. We travelled further north east from the west coast to another village and a similar but much smaller celebration. However there were more girls dressed in local costume. At both dances we were made to feel very welcome despite the fact that I suspect few tourists attend which is a real pity. We felt very privileged and Tom told us we were very lucky to have been taken. I also attended a church service in their village and was made to feel most welcome.

Out front of Rocky Ridge is Blue Hole No. 2. This consists of a 'hole' approx. 4 or 5 metres deep and approx. 100 metres long. The water is crystal clear and the hole has a wide variety of the most beautiful coral I have ever seen. Access is a bit tricky but easier than Blue Hole No. 1.

The tour to the volcano was very interesting and of course the major reason why visitors come to Tanna. It is a long journey over very poor dirt 'roads'. Make sure you have a seat inside a vehicle cabin because the weather can turn quickly as it did for us (early Sept.). I would also recommend you have a good drive around the ash plain before going up to view the volcano. The specactle of Mt Yasur will thrill. Unexpected and noisy with steam venting alongside the track as you approach the car park where you then face a 10-15 minute walk up a well-made concrete path the posts for the more unstable of us. Time your visit for late afternoon/evening for maximum enjoyment. The only bizarre observation is that there are no souvenirs or t-shirts available. Given there must be thousands of visitors coming to Tanna for a short visit specifically to view the volcano I was astounded by the lack of souvenirs!

Finally be careful with what you take to Tanna. I witnessed the local sport of bag throwing at Tanna's airport. Basically all bags go on the one trolley so if you've got breakables packed in a backpack wrap them VERY carefully! This ridiculous situation comes about because of lack of trolleys, lack of staff, and pressure on everyone involved to get the plane back to Port Vila especially the last flight of the day.

So in summary

Tanna is very under-dedveloped which is a blessing in so many ways.
Rocky Ridge is for people who prefer to look at the stars rather than argue about whether they were getting value for money in their various star-rated accommodations.
Rocky Ridge can only accommodate 9 people (each of the 3 bungalows has a double bed plus a single). The fourth bungalow will open later in 2012
Tom and Margaret will make you feel so welcome and tell you that you are part of their family while staying there.
You could assist by bringing some supplies for Margaret's school as well as clothes

Make sure you bring all your money in cash (Vatu) as there are no ATM's on Tanna apart from one at the local bank at Lenakel at which you'd have to have special arrangements. So cash is king.

Rocky Ridge is made more special because of Tom and Margaret and their family

Room Tip: Bungalow 1 or 2 slightly better view of ocean
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  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled solo
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Thank PetenKay
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 2, 2012

What a delightful place to stay on Tanna! We spent 3 nights which wasn't long enough to appreciate all that Tanna had to offer. The 3 traditional hand built bungalows, set in a beautiful garden, are owned and operated by Tom and Margaret and their village is just across the road. The airport is only 10 minutes down the road and Tom will pick you up.
Every bungalow had lovely views looking over the coral reef and the spectacular Blue Hole 2 with whales passing in the distance. The dining room opened onto a verandah where one could spend hours watching the sea.

The Blue Hole is amazing. You can see it from up on the ridge and either swim out to it in high tide or reef walk to the edge when the tide is lower. Tom supplies reef shoes and snorkelling gear. Wonderful fish and coral are to be seen. It is a better blue hole than the one at the nearby Whitegrass Resort.

Tom is a most gracious host and provided us with wonderful meals. He also organised some day trips for us including a wonderful trip to the Laul Kastom village. This was an amazing experience. The people were so friendly and interested in us and watched as we undertook a range of activities, designed to show us how their ancestors had lived. We shot a traditional bow and arrows, threw darts, planted kava and taro, drank kava and were given taro and coconut to eat. The Laul people danced and sang for us, encouraging us to join in. We really recommend this trip.

The trip to the vocano was nearly 2 hours there on a very rough road but it was really worth it (the comfortable 4 wheel drive made the trip a little easier). The mountain was spectacular and performed impressively for us, especially when it grew dark.

Really recommend these bungalow - a restful, beautiful setting amongst welcoming and friendly people.

Room Tip: As you are surrounded by villages expect the occasional rooster to wake you at times.
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  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with friends
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Thank JennyDLaunceston
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 1, 2012

We really enjoyed our visit to Rocky Ridge Bungalows. We came here after staying a couple of days in more rustic accommodation over on West Tanna. Our bungalow was comfortable and very clean. It was a real treat to have ensuite facilites and a warm water shower. Luxury!

Rocky Ridge has a lovely dining area with traditional wood carvings, a communal library, and a covered verandah perfect for reading or coast watching. The gardens are colourful and well-tended. Our hosts, Tom and Margaret, have obviously put a lot of thought into creating an attractive, peaceful and welcoming environment.

Tom cooked us beautiful meals: fresh ingredients and generous servings. Best of all were the beautifully presented breakfasts of fresh fruit, bread, juice and Tanna coffee.

We stayed for 3 nights, but could very happily stayed for longer. The blue hole out the front of the bungalow has lovely snorkelling. A walk down the road will take you to Whitegrass and Evergreen Resorts if you feel like a change of scene. In addition, there are plenty of tours to do, such as the Blue Cave and the Whitegrass Plain.

Rocky Ridge is a great place to stay for relaxing and exploring, and Tom and Margaret are thoughtful and kind hosts.

  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank SampsonSarah
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 19, 2012

We spent three weeks in Vanuatu and stayed at many different places, including one resort. Two were our favourites: Travellers Budget Motel in Port Vila and Rocky Ridge Bungalows on Tanna.

Rocky Ridge is owned by Tom and Margaret and mainly run by Tom. Margaret works as a primary school teacher, while Tom built and manages the bungalows.

They are located in Iwiak Village, White Grass; fairly close to Tanna airport and next to the Evergreen and White Grass resorts. The bungalows indeed sit on a kind of rocky ridge, overlooking the ocean with 180 degrees water views and are set in a garden that's been landscaped by Tom and has a bit of a feel of a tropical paradise, with its meandering paths, coral cliff faces, colourful shrubs and gorgeous flowers.

The bungalows too have a tropical feel and are made from local materials and hand-crafted by Tom's and Margaret's family. Unlike many other bungalows on Tanna they have hot showers (yippee!). They're very clean, tidy, have lots of natural light and come with an ensuite. The bed we slept in was simple and comfortable and equipped with a mosquito net. Electricity is provided by a generator between 5.30 and 9.30, which is not a detraction at all in this kind of environment and for this kind of holiday experience - it actually adds some charm ;)).

Tom was a wonderful host! He is very friendly, quite modest and unassuming, and extremely service orientated and helpful. When we arrived (after Tom picked us up from their airport) the place greeted us with lots of arranged flowers, Tom's personal touch to welcome visitors. He himself said a second hello with a jug and two glasses of delicious lime juice.

Tom not only manages the three bungalows (a fourth one is under construction), but also provides the food. It's based on local ingredients, is simple and nourishing and was served to us in such abundance that we had to ask him a couple of times to reduce the quantity coz we simply couldn't manage to eat it all. We are vegetarians and we could not fault him on his efforts to provide for our dietary requirements.

On our last day Tom announced in the morning: "This is your farewell breakfast and I will give you what I think" - lol. It was his special: I think it was called something like 'the volcano's eye' and consisted of two slices of pan-toasted bread that had two holes cut out in the middle, which were filled with fresh local eggs, fried during the bread-toasting process. The eggs could have been a bit less runny for my taste, but it nevertheless was delicious and certainly unique in my experience. The breakfast was accompanied (like all meals) by fresh local fruit, the ever-present lime drink and Tanna coffee.

Our main reason for visiting Tanna was climbing Mt Yasur volcano, and unfortunately we therefore had only a very short stay at Rocky Ridge; something we really regretted in hindsight. We would have loved to spend more time with Margaret and Tom. Talking to Margaret in particular was great; her English is better than Tom's (not surprising given she teaches it ;)) and she has a more critical view of Tanna's culture and customs than almost all of the other Vanuatuans (NiVans) we met. For example we learned a lot about circumcision and specifically how the mothers feel and suffer for their boys from whom they traditionally are separated sometimes for 3-4 weeks after the event. The circumcisions themselves also can be quite brutal under the more traditional regime where men just use bamboo or even broken coke bottles to cut.

Apart from not having had enough time with Tom and Margaret as well as for staying at those lovely bungalows, another reason of regret was that we didn't have much time to do some local exploration of the cultural and natural environments. Tom actually recommends quite a few tours, and we had time for only one: Laul Kastom village. There we were greeted by our young local guide Tora who besides Tom and Margaret and four wonderful women in Port Resolution was the only NiVan whom we trusted 100% (there were many others for example who hit on us for money or other material goods).

The Laul experience in general was quite amazing despite it, like many others, being created simply for tourists. In our case the villagers performed just for the two of us. And we danced, clapped and sung with them, threw spears, I was made the village chief for 10 minutes to lead the Nakamal (kava drinking) ;), we planted Taro and Kava, talked and hugged and had a wonderful time.

On our way back Tora (who was raised on Efate and therefore has slightly different cultural roots compared to the people on Tanna and probably is a bit more educated in Western ways of thinking) wanted to hear our honest opinion about the John Frum and Prinz Philip cults. After sharing our views with her we could almost hear a heavy burden of doubt falling of her shoulders :). And not just for that reason but more for the person she is, Tora farewelled us with a heart-felt and teary "I love you".

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank isiria
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 16, 2012

We stayed only 2 nights at rocky ridge. After arriving and seeing how lovely this place is and how accommodating and helpful the owners are we wished that we had stayed longer. The bungalows Are made of local materials and have all that you need including hot water, ensuites, screens on the window, electricity from 5.30 to 9.30 in the evening, balconies to sit on and enjoy the view. The restaurant has amazing views over the reef and ocean. The food was excellent and very generous portions. We are vegetarians and Tom did a great job of keeping us well fed.

When we arrived it was low tide and tom showed us where the blue hole was located in front of the bungalow. I wasn't quite sure at that stage what a blue hole was. Wow..the snorkelling was fantastic. About 30 m deep, about 100 m long. Corals all up the sides of all different shapes and sizes. Different fish of all sizes and colours. It was truely amazing. Only advice is work out where to best get out before you jump in so that the corals do not get damaged. There is a little inlet on the shore side.

The next day we went off to laul kastom village. This was also an amazing experience. Being greeted by Tora on the roadway and being led through the bush to her village. There we were greeted by the villagers in their traditional dress. We were showed their gardens and how to plant taro and yams. Learnt how to throw a little spear, use their bows and arrows. They performed a series of local songs and dances which we joined in, much to their delight.

The other delightful part of staying at rocky ridge was talking with Tom and Margaret and their family in the village and learning about their culture. For eg, we were fascinated to hear that shaving for boys is also a major ceremony, that medicine men meet during the cyclone season to redirect the path of cyclones, that some circumcisions are now undertaken in the local hospital, with the ceremony following and so much more.

We highly recommend staying at rocky ridge and also a big thank you to Tom and Margaret for making our holiday in Vanuatu such an interesting and rewarding experience.

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank Kym320
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 30, 2012

Rocky Ridge Bungalows was not only our favorite place to stay, but also the best part of our entire holiday in Vanuatu.

After visiting Vanuatu we realised how important it is to support local businesses such as hotels and tours. In return, as a tourist or a traveler, you experience the beautiful culture of Vanuatu - rather than a 'cruise ship experience'. This was what set Tanna apart for us versus Port Villa, and also what set apart Rocky Ridge from the other hotels we saw.

Rocky Ridge is owned, built, and run by a Vanuatu family (headed by Tom and Margaret) and sits on the ocean across the road from their local village Iwiak.

The Bungalows were fantastic - everything you need for a comfortable stay. Exceptionally clean and well maintained. Mosquito nets on the windows and above the beds. Clean bathrooms. And (unlike most other places on the island, all but 3 I believe!) hot water 24/7. Good food and well priced drinks.

One of the things I liked most about Rocky Ridge was the tours. Tom used to be a full time tour guide for one of the other hotels. His vision was to create an affordable comfortable place for people for people to stay, with an extensive list of tours and day trips available. As far as I can tell, his tours give a greater percentage of the cost back to the locals who run them. His tours are most competitively priced, and extremely well operated as well.

At Rocky Ridge we felt genuinely cared for by Tom, Margaret and their family.

We loved relaxing on the "patio"/"balcony" with 180degree views of the ocean and the most amazing blue hole right outside the door.

Would recommend this to anyone.

Room Tip: Just ask Tom if you can have a room with a view! He only has three bungalows and they all have views...
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  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled with friends
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2  Thank Mollie H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Rocky Ridge Bungalows

Address: Iwiak Village, White Grass, Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Location: Vanuatu > Tanna Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 30 Specialty Lodging in Tanna Island
Number of rooms: 4
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Locally owned and managed. Rocky Ridge Bungalows is situated along the west coast of Tanna Island and is a 5 minutes drive from the airport. We have two single/double/twin rooms and two family rooms. All our rooms have their own private toilet and bathroom with gas hot water heater. All our rooms are surrounded with a garden of flowers and the view of the ocean. We organise for all local tours on the island, airport transfers and we provide for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We do not require a deposit for bookings and we do not have cancellation fees. We only accept cash payments upon arrival or before departure. ... more   less 

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