Papaya Loco Cooking School

Cooking classes in Vanuatu

The Papaya Loco Cooking School operates from the villa. You can book in for an afternoon cooking class, and there’s dinner done also!

Check out our cooking classes here

Marcus shops for the best local ingredients and if you are lucky you could jump a ride to the markets when he heads in to do the shopping!

The classes are fun as well as learning how make some awesome food.

We are written up regularly in magazines and more recently visited by the Getaway team with Catriona Roundtree.

Getaway Visit

Shop the Markets

Port Vila Markets

The Port Vila Food Markets are an adventure. They operate 24/6. This is the place to discover the best produce that Efate has to offer. Each village takes a position and proudly offers what they particularly grow.

Ask Marcus or Shoran for the best tips when shopping here. You get a real experience of local food shopping… and yes we purchase almost all of our fresh fruit and veg here… except for what we grow at the villa of course.

The flowers are incredible, and so cheap!

Port Vila Markets
Market Flowers in Vanuatu
Shop the markets

Exploring the Reef

Exploring Eton Reef

We have the most amazing pristine reef right in front of the villa. Slap on some sunscreen and set aside a few hours to explore. There is literally kilometers of natural reef right at your door step. On the low tide this amazing ecosystem is uncovered for you to explore.

Expect to see natural corals, colorful reef fish and clams. Take a snorkel to explore some of the natural pools as well.

Remember to bring some reef shoes, or you can pick some up in town very cheaply.

Eton Reef
Amazing Corals
Explore Eton Reef
On the Reef

Artisan Chocolate Makers

Gastons Chocolat

“Undoubtedly my favourite chocolate and a must see when in Vanuatu”

MarcusPapaya Loco Cooking School
Gastons Chocolat
The cocoa beans are sourced from the islands of Vanuatu then hand crafted here in Port Vila

This is a great activity when in Port Vila. The chocolates are hand crafted and award winning!

You can even take a coffee at Gaston’s whilst taking in the amazing aromas of chocolate in the making

Need a gift to take home?

Drop in for a tasting and pick from their range of chocolates that include local fruits and nuts.

Gastons Chocolate
The packaging makes for perfect gifts.
If you don’t eat them before you leave for home that is!

Moving to a tropical island

I guess that if you are reading this blog then you are probably considering moving to a tropical island and want to know what you will be in for. How hard or easy is the transition going to be!

Well we escaped to live on a tropical island in the South Pacific just on three years ago, and it has been a fabulous adventure, but yes there are a number of things we did not anticipate or expect. Hopefully this blog will help you beyond the romance of living on an island.

table of knowledge

Finding the right location

We found our dream location in Vanuatu, on the island of Efate, and contrary to popular opinion, learned early that you had to spend some time on the island to understand its geography and topography. If we were going to build our dream home, then we needed to be sure that it was safe from tsunamis and storms. Some research and lots of talking with the local people and we quickly got to know where NOT to look.

Forget the real estate agents!

You really need to understand location from the people who have been living there for some time. After many days of been driven around by real estate agents who were not interested in what I was looking for, but rather what they wanted so sell me, I connected with someone who I had known in Australia. As fortune had it she had a real estate license in Vanuatu but more importantly, had lived here for some time and listened carefully to what I was looking for.

You need to have patience

From the time I found our little slice of paradise to getting a title to it took three years! Of course you can’t build on it until you know you have clear title to the land you are building on. We learned that the rules in Australia when it comes to purchasing property, basically don’t exist. Getting upset at how long things take makes absolutely no difference. Things really are on “Island Time” so this will be your first test of your commitment.

Getting set up

The thing about leaving one country to move to another, is that there is so much that needs to be done to shut down one life, and then establish your new life. This will be the second test of your commitment. You will be amazed on the lifetime of things that you had gradually set up that you now have to coordinate to dismantle. Add to this getting set up so that you exist in your new found paradise, and then coordinate both so that the transition is smooth, legal, and cost effective is no mean feat! Unfortunately we had no advice on this and had to learn the hard way… and sometimes the expensive way!

Residency, tax status, banking, income, drivers licenses, etc, etc… the list goes on. We also soon came face to face with a draconian administration of a small third world country. Get everything done on line… yeah right!

Culture shock

To be honest, for us it wasn’t shock, but rather a deep dive into the unknown. We were now guests in someone else’s country, and they had different cultural norms, customs, history, and laws. Priorities were different … gender equality was 50+ years behind what we understood to be normal.

In many ways we had to ‘unlearn’ a lifetime of Western social construct and embrace ‘village life’. But significantly we had to adapt to ‘island time’ where everything gets done when it gets done, and if it isn’t fast enough for you, then you are reminded quickly that you don’t have endless options and alternatives.

With that said, we discovered that in so many ways, they have got it so right!

Things that seemed important in Australia simply didn’t matter here in the islands, and I say this in the best possible context… it was a bonus that we did not see coming. We now look back on our previous ‘first world life’ with a grin and sometimes wonder “what were we thinking?”. Why had we wasted so many years in a lifetime that is finite…


Letting go

The third test of your commitment will come in the form of letting go of your previous ‘first world life.’

What do you let go of?

Hmmm good question methinks… this takes some time to work out, and it took us several years to learn what you really need to let go of. There are numerous things that may seem important but they just turn out to be handbrakes for your new life! They will stop or slowdown the transition into your new island life. You will be in for a serious ‘reality check’.

Some of it will be people, some of it will be ‘stuff’ and some of it will be the benefits of living in a technologically developed robust country. I only wish we had known more about this sooner as it would have saved much angst and confusion.

Why move to an island?

Island life
Papaya Villa Beachfront Bed & Breakfast

This is the question that we get asked the most. “Why did you move to a tropical island?” And it is a pretty good question; the answer might surprise you. Most people go straight for things like freedom, an easier life, a simpler life, no more working for needy clients, being fed up struggling to keep ahead of the ever changing tax regime or just being tired of being a slave to accumulating enough superannuation to pay the bills when I am too old to work. (more likely too old to be considered for employment!)

The Romance

Firstly the number one reason for us was the romance of living on a tropical island. And yes it definitely delivers … in buckets. We live right on the ocean on the Eastern side of the island so we get the most incredible sunrises across the ocean. There is nothing like getting up early and watching the big golden orb rise out of the ocean.

We arrive at our place through a little copra plantation which is right on the ocean. Check out the pic below. How beautiful is that!

the plantation

There is something special about living on the ocean and in particular having your own little beaches to swim in and beachcomb. Whilst we lived most of our lives along the Australian coastline, you would invariably have to share the beaches with hundreds of people. Here it is just us! And it is truly pristine… it is exactly as mother nature provides it.

table of knowledge

With no street lights or other houses next door we get these incredible displays of the Milky Way. Trillions of stars that we sit out on the deck and watch, wondering if they still exist or have burned out millions of years ago and we are only just seeing their light now! It’s those little things that bring romance to your evenings, no television stealing our headspace with crap, but rather mother nature showing us the universe that we are living in.

The Milky Way

It’s those simple things like heading up to our local village to buy some bread from a wood fired oven. If the sign is out on the road, then Rebecca was baking that day. Not down to the latest trendy bakery to get a loaf of sour dough made from left handed rye grown on the Eastern downs of ‘too cool for you’ farm. It is the honesty of what is being made, by hand with no big machinery or the latest ‘steam oven’. It is fire and an old oil drum embedded in concrete and the bread was mixed in an plastic bucket that has seen thousands of batches of flour and water mixed in it.

Village Bread

Yes there are supermarkets here where you can buy most anything you need. The fun is in finding so many different products that you would never see in the local supermarket elsewhere. The challenge is that when you seen something on the shelves you need… buy it all now… it may not be there next week! Fresh fruit and vegetables is an adventure. The markets here run 24/6. Each village has a stand and they roster people from the village (Village People?) to man them. As you would expect, each village seems to specialise in some kind of produce, so you get to know the bananas, herbs, pineapple, papaya etc that you like and that’s where you buy them. Everything is naturally organic as they can’t afford pesticides and manufactured fertilizers. Everything is fresh and hasn’t been stored or gassed… so a banana tastes like a banana (there are five different types of bananas here). Pineapples would undoubtedly be the best on the planet! You can actually taste the sunshine in them.

Port Vila Markets

Me …


Hi there! my name is Marcus, I am a baby-boomer that has spent most of life working hard in the hospitality industry and in more recent years, I escaped to an island in the South Pacific.

My special kung-fu is cooking and writing curriculum for emerging technologies. My foodie skills were inherited from my mother who operated a pretty successful catering company and also from my Godfather who was Cordon Bleu trained in Paris. I went on to running a very successful catering company in Australia and over the past decade, a private cooking school on the Gold Coast in Australia.

After 40 years of grinding it out in Australia, work crazy hours and paying our taxes faithfully, my wife and I decided it was time for an adventure, but on our terms.

We had five plus years living in the Whitsunday Islands and fell in love with island life. Warmth, clean air, fishing and boating, so we decided to head out into the South Pacific Islands to find a nice island to escape to… and this is exactly what we did!

Along the way we learned much about the trials and tribulations of making such a big lifestyle change; but if there is one thing I can say… it has been a great adventure and we have enjoyed almost every minute of it.

Culinary Vacation

What is a Culinary Vacation?

Food is one of the great reasons to travel, with many travelers wanting to make food the main experience of their vacation.

Instead of setting yourself up for yet another touristy sight-seeing trip, why not try something different for a change? Book in for a stay that will include cooking lessons and an immersion into local food culture and dishes. Experience local produce and ingredients that you might only find in the islands!

Discover the Vanuatu islands through the cooking pot. It has been richly influenced by the Portuguese, the French and of course the local ni-Vanuatu people. A culinary vacation will introduce you to the traditional ingredients such as coconut, taro, manioc, sweet potato, island cabbage, plantain bananas, organically grown vanilla beans, monstrous pink grapefruits, Pacific lobsters and poulet fish.

The Caribbean of the South Pacific

There are some similarities in the food between the Caribbean Islands and the Vanuatu Islands.  Mostly in the key ingredients and historical influences. Ingredients that are common in most island dishes are rice, plantains, beans, cassava, cilantro, local hot peppers and chillis, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut, and any of various meats that are locally available like beef, poultry, pork or fish.

Caribbean food also has its roots with the Portuguese, Brazilians and Spaniards. Lots of local seafood including fish, crabs and lobsters find its way into the recipes. Local spices and amazing dishes cooked over coals or fire are an experience to prepare as well as to eat. The tropical fruits are second to none and you will learn about the magic of coconuts and how to use different types of bananas in both sweet and savory dishes.

Like the Caribbean, grilling features. The beef is organic and is perfect for BBQ, and local spices make for a great Vanuatu styled jerk seasoning for chicken. I like to use the seafood for tacos and paella, both of which feature on our menus at Papaya Villa.

vanuatu immersion

Vanuatu Immersion & Culinary Vacation

One of the best ways to get to know the Vanuatu Food Culture is through shopping the local markets and getting instruction from local cooks. Learn how to use taro, manioc, plantain bananas and local lobsters.  Best of all you will experience the ever friendly ni-Vanuatu people.



Papaya Loco

The Papaya Loco Cooking School operates from the villa. As part of your Culinary Vacation experience, you will join private classes run by Papaya Loco.  With over nine years of running classes, your culinary vacation is lead by well experienced operators.

“Class here is a relaxed fun session making some great food and having a whole lot of laughs,” says Marcus. “There’s nothing formal about it. It’s about getting to know the local food and having fun.”

culinary vacation

Why Bed & Breakfast?

Bed & Breakfast in Vanuatu

Why bed & breakfast rather than a resort?

Choosing a bed and breakfast over a resort is a great way to personalise your stay, get to know the locals and find a warm, unique room for a better price than a major hotel chain or resort.

If this sounds like you below, then you are in the right place;

  • You prefer smaller, more intimate accommodations than a large hotel
  • You appreciate rooms that are individually decorated, especially with real artwork and local furniture
  • You enjoy getting to know your hosts personally
  • You enjoy personally prepared meals made just for you with care and attention
  • You like staying in private hard to find locations that only locals know about
  • You’re looking for adults-only accommodations and enjoy your well earned privacy
  • You enjoy the experience of a “home away from home” — including quirky touches like the hosts little puppy curled up in a corner somewhere, and your host wearing board shorts or a sarong (we are on the beach!)
  • You like having the personal attention and local knowledge of your hosts at your disposal
  • You appreciate great pricing where your tariff is not supporting a whole bunch of infrastructure and administration that has no bearing on your stay

Papaya Villa Bungalow


The New Bed & Breakfast

Bed & Breakfasts have come a long way from the old room under the house shared with a bunch of people that you don’t know. Shoran and I have taken great care to ensure that our guests can experience a tropical island stay in comfort and privacy.

papaya villa eton reef2
Explore a reef

A base to explore from

There is nothing like the convenience of having a ‘home away from home’ base to explore from. After a great nights sleep you can have a personally prepared breakfast to your bungalow and then get some local advice where to explore for the day! Why pay resort tariffs when you are heading out to explore the island? Your hosts can prepare a picnic for you to take for the day, and also have dinner ready for when you return from your day’s expedition. There nothing like sharing those pics from the day with someone who is actually interested, over a cool drink on your return.

Bed & Breakfast is Value for money

The luxury of a modern bed & breakfast doesn’t mean paying more. In fact it is quite the opposite. The savings aren’t just in the advertised rate either, when you compare B&B vs hotel. You already know about the free breakfast. But what you might not realise is just how many other things you’ll get at a B&B for free. For example bottled water, wifi, parking, local advice, home cooked meals at reasonable prices — even the occasional free happy hour with wine and cheese. Hotels will charge you for a lot of these services, meaning you’ll end up paying a lot more than that advertised rate in the end.

How is it that you can get so much more at a Bed & Breakfast

The answer is simple:  our Bed & Breakfast is personally operated by your hosts whose goal is to offer you the best possible experience. You’re not just another room number.  You’re a true guest, and you’ll never feel more welcome than at our bed & breakfast

Your hosts Shoran & Marcus
Your hosts Shoran & Marcus