Lelepa island in Vanuatu boasts pristine white sand beaches and swaying palm trees with limited access to fresh water and power. It is remote, stunning and almost stands still in time. But not for long.
Lelepa is home to a number of traditional island villagers with a long and beautiful ancestry and is one of 83 islands in the Republic of Vanuatu, a stunning archipelago of natural reefs and volcanos known as ‘the ring of fire’ including one extinct volcano in the distance on the island of Nguna.
But fast forward exactly two years to October 2022, and Lelepa is forecast to look vastly different. The Royal Caribbean day club is proposed to open for passengers – up to 4,500 of them per day to begin with – offering the opportunity to experience a “Perfect Day” on a tropical island.
Ever since the announcement that the world’s second biggest cruise ship company had negotiated a lease with the Vanuatu Government, speculation has been rife about what that would mean.
In an exclusive interview with the Australian architects behind Royal Caribbean’s new private waterpark island in Vanuatu, we discover what a “Perfect Day” at Lelepa is going to look like. According to head designer David Holm, of Cox Architects, it’s going to be all about ‘chill and thrill’.
There will be huge water slides, some of the world’s longest and fastest zip lines, kids’ water parks, swimming pools, numerous dining options, a wave pool, hot air balloon rides, private beach clubs for adults, family designated beach areas, possible over water bungalows and of course, a pier large enough to receive the cruise ships.
The difference between this island design and existing RCCL private islands such as Coco Cay in the Bahamas is that Cox Architects say they will be attempting to integrate as much of the local Vanuatu design and culture as possible, to give it a more aesthetically sensitive look and feel.
So what exactly does this mean?
“The main pavilion areas will be based on traditional Vanuatu ‘meeting place’ designs called Nakamals, with large open-air roofs, woven natural materials, bamboo, local wild cane, and naturally sourced timbers and furniture sourced in the South Pacific,” says Mr Holm.
“This will be a fully carbon neutral island, with a sustainable energy and waste management system, and we aim to immerse ourselves in the local culture and design to achieve an authenticity and calibre of thoughtfulness,” Mr Holm says.
“Think of Indiana Jones, with a bit of Mad Max mixed in,” Mr Holm says, when describing how the island is going to feel for passengers when they arrive. “We want to leave a light footprint – with no pipes in and no pipes out – and we want the guests to feel like they are explorers.
“We will collaborate with local builders, businesses and villagers to blend the indigenous culture into the island experience. We want this Perfect Day to be grown and crafted in-keeping with the Vanuatu style,” Mr Holm added.
So the chill and thrill? “It will have something for everyone – catering to a large density of guests, but people who also do not want to queue. It will be fun, with escape areas too,” says Mr Holm.
Community consultation meetings are being held with local residents in the coming weeks, with detailed designs promised to be made public by April next year.
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