Friday, June 8, 2012

Mystical, magical, serene at The Summit

By Alcina Charlie, Website & E-Marketing Officer VTO: On Friday 1st June, I went on a famil that took me to the pink and blue heart of Vanuatu’s very own wonderland, tucked just before Benjor Resort. Throughout the tour, the experience was mystical and magical at the same time, serene, and The Summit proved to be a place of peace and tranquillity as we walked through the garden trails surrounded by lush vegetation like a rainbow of flora, bamboos, ferns, succulents, and many more treasures. When we arrived at the top of atop, we drove towards the bright purple ticketing booth to be met by Katrina our chatty guide who took us through Efate’s slice of paradise which was the biggest tropical garden that I have visited, and also known to be largest in the South Pacific. Our first stop was at the Summit’s distillery. Here, we were fascinated to see how the house was abuzz with highly skilled workers making The Summits very own colourful and scented candles, and health & beauty products ranging from body soap, oils to lip balms. We caught a glimpse of Neppy’s work station, Neppy is the master of all mosaic at The Summit. When I asked if we can buy these beautiful candles, oils, and beauty products, Katrina replied that we’ll get to the answer at the end of the tour. There and then, I could tell that The Summit was already getting into me.  When we left the distillery, our journey meandered through a dazzling variety of colourful flora, with thousands of different species originating from all over the world, including Vanuatu’s own species. We enjoyed the exuberant displays of water plants, succulents, orchids, palms and cycads, vines, creepers, nut and fruit trees, to name only a few. Kathy inspired us with her wealth of knowledge as she led us through the gardens, passing the meditation points, lookout stops, and an anecdotal “the missionary position” with a custom story twist to the name that caused a few giggles. When I asked Katrina when most of the flowers blossom to spoil the eye, she said “Our gardens remain colourful all year round but the best time to catch  them in full bloom would be around November to January”. There were 11 to 12 named gardens that we visited all very unique & distinct in their own area, spreading over 10 hectares unfolding as a series of surprises as you follow the pathways. The designs were inspired by the tropical gardens of Asia, Australia and America which started off as a hobby to its owners back in 2000 and became a driving ambition to create something beautiful that would showcase the beauty of Vanuatu and its people. The owners were assisted by a tropical landscape architect called Adam Ehlmann who was resident in Port Vila at the time. Adam departed Vanuatu in 2002 and the owners carried on themselves with the assistance of teams of very talented Ni-Vanuatu gardeners. The gardens were opened to the public last year in November. After passing the Macademia and Cashew plots from which nuts have already been harvested to add to the Summit’s menu of flavoursome variety of desserts & dishes, we arrived at the beautiful colonial style stone cottage which houses The Summit CafĂ© and Gift Shop, built by Ni-Vanuatu craftsmen from timber and limestone sourced from The Summit plantations. At nearly 200m above sea level, with clear blue skies, surrounded by aromatic gardens, a spectacular view overlooking the entire Mele Bay and Hideaway island, and to top it all off the ocean breeze brushing lightly against my face, nothing could beat a scrumptious Farmer’s seafood platter which ended my day magnificently at The Summit. Katrina gave us a little gift pack and before we left,  the Managing Director Mr Jim Batty, and Head of Operations Ms Carlene Martin, met us and asked how the experience went. I said that it will make a great piece for Island Nius and after an exchange of thanks and goodbyes, it was time to drive down the winding road and head back into town. On behalf of the group who came on the famil and the VTO, I would like to congratulate and thank the staff and management of The Summit, a spectacular tour and we look forward to working closely together to promote Vanuatu further abroad. Images taken on the day can be viewed by clicking here.