Diving Santo & Efate – Vanuatu Part 3

Cathedral, Port Vila in VanuatuI’m already back in New Zealand, where the second part of my cycling tour is waiting. However, I also spent the last few weeks on the islands of Vanuatu; in Espiritu Santo and Efate. The original plan was to also visit the volcanoes on the island of Ambrym but that didn’t work out unfortunately. Next time, I hope :-).

Santo – A wet start

After having some wonderful days in Tanna, we took the plane to Port Vila on Efate and continued right away to Santo in the north of the archipelago. We only had 25 minutes to change planes in Port Vila and I didn’t really believe, that this would work out. At the end it was the same plane, which made things much easier :-). When we arrived in Santo, it was pouring. And the rain stayed our companion during the next few days. Cyclone Sandra was making her way west of Vanuatu down to the south and brought a lot of rain to the region. We had six days on Santo but the first three got literally drowned… Diving was senseless because the rivers washed a lot of mud and other debris into the sea. It looked like a river inside the sea… The visibility was very bad therefor. Millennium Cave, the other popular attraction, was flooded. We had to wait and see but our accommodation Hibiscus Motel was great for that and the owner Marie made up for the missing sun.

Diving at a huge wreck: SS President Coolidge
We finally tried it, even if nobody could tell us how the visibility would be. The main diving site in Santo is the wreckage of the SS President Coolidge. This 199 meter long ship was originally a luxury cruise liner before it got converted to an American troop transporter during WWII. On the 26th of October 1942, it collided with two American mines (the military didn’t tell their position to the the captain…) and sunk within 90 minutes. Luckily “only” two people got killed during that disaster (there were more than 5’000 people on board). Many divers are only traveling to Vanuatu because of the Coolidge. I did not even know that it existed, when I decided to visit those islands…
We did two dives at the Coolidge. One in the morning on the outside and another one in the afternoon also inside the ship. The wreck is so close to the beach, that the dives can be started right from the beach. It’s kind of special to stand on this beach knowing, that there is an almost 200m long wreck out there but you can’t see anything at all. Unfortunately, the visibility wasn’t that great underwater. We saw the wreck just in the last minute when we were already almost touching it. And if you are that close, you don’t get it anymore, that this is actually a ship. It was just huge. We dived along it and Ian, the instructor of Allan Power Dive Tours, pointed out to us some parts of the Coolidge. Also ammunition can still be found… In the afternoon, we also dived into the wreck. The visibility was even worse than in the morning and inside it was almost dark. I came to the conclusion, that I prefer reefs and smaller wreckages… But probably I was also just missing some experience.

Diving at a landfill and snorkeling at Moyyan Beach

We were thinking about also doing a night dive at the Coolidge but because there wouldn’t have been enough time between the dive and our next flight, we decided to do another day dive instead. This time at the Million Dollar Point. At this site, the Americans disposed a huge amount of their devices after WWII. This after the local government wasn’t willing to pay them the expected price for the equipment. Because it would have been to expensive to transport the material back to the US, the Americans just throw it all into the sea… You are diving there along huge diggers, trucks and other stuff. From my point of view, it was pretty insane to just throw it into the water. Especially also, if you see the road which goes down to this point and which urgently would need one of those diggers down there…
As a final thing, we made a trip to the Moyyan Beach or better to the resort there. A night there was with around 220 USD outside of our budget but the nice thing here in Vanuatu is, that you can visit most resorts and use at least a part of it if you consume something. Therefore we got a taxi there for 20 USD, had lunch for around 40 USD and enjoyed snorkeling along the reef at Moyyan Beach. Wonderful 🙂
In the evening we took a flight back to Port Vila on Efate.

Upset stomach number two
Helen should have had a flight back to Auckland from Port Vila two days later. However, AirVanuatu was fighting with some technical problems on their only long distance jet already for a while. Several flights got cancelled therefor during that week. Also her flight got moved by a day, which she was told at the airport in the early morning. Her misfortune was my luck, because I developed a pretty upset stomach in the mean time (luckily only the second time during this whole trip). No idea where I picked it up this time because I was really careful with drinking and eating. Because of the diarrhea, I was so weak that I was only laying around and was very grateful that Helen could organize me the most important things like some bananas. Thank you very much again!
It finally worked out for her to fly with AirNewZealand back to Auckland the next day. I was still laying around and tried to stabilize my body. Not so easy in a tropical place if you already loose a lot of liquids just by sweating… Nevertheless the situation calmed down after some time…
Shortly before flying back to Port Vila, I moved my flight back to NZ by two weeks because I wanted to visit the volcanoes on the island of Ambrym. Unfortunately my upset stomach interfered here. I was too weak and also didn’t want to take any risks (Ambryms infrastructure seems to be even more limited than the one in Tanna…). I guess I have to go there another time.

Last dives at Port Vila

After recovery, I did my last four dives with Nautilus. One of those I wanted to do already since a while, because it goes to a small cave, the cathedral. When we started with the boat, it was sunny and it looked like a beautiful day. However, that had completely changed 20 minutes later, when we arrived at the dive site. It was pouring and the sea was rough. That was another start for once. Luckily it was calm again just below the surface ;-). The sun was missing but it was still very nice also that way. Together with the other three dives a nice final for my dive adventure Vanuatu :-).
For the last week I changed again accommodation and enjoyed the sweet idleness at the Travellers Budget Motel. I actually didn’t do nothing but preparing a bit the next few days in New Zealand and the time afterwards.

Flight to Auckland
I finally had to say goodbye to Alexa and Damo (my two diving instructors) and to take the bus to the airport. Somehow it went fast at the end and I ended up earlier in the plane than thought.
Unfortunately I would have to pay 10 Dollar for Lord of the Rings this time. Therefore, I still don’t know if I saw the last time the second or third part of it. Anyway, I enjoyed an interesting documentation about Spermwhales and their important function for the ecosystem of the sea and the movie “One Day On Earth, 10.10.10” instead. Both were interesting and especially the second one showed me again why I’m traveling or what’s so fascinating about this planet.
And now I’m back in New Zealand. There is still a lot to tell about Vanuatu but I leave it at this: If you are going to be in the region, think about visiting that country. The best thing is not to stay in a resort and use the family accommodation in the villages instead, e.g. in Tanna. It’s another world but you will have memories of it for a long time :-).
I will get back to Wellington by bus, where my bicycle is waiting at Helens place. Afterwards my bike and myself will cycle towards north along the west coast. I’m very much looking forwards to this 🙂
All the best from Auckland,
PS: Pictures can be found in the Gallery. Unfortunately, my small black Nikon camera didn’t show up in the mean time and is still lost somewhere in Tanna. And I do not really expect that this will change. However, that means also that the pictures I took with it won’t be available and that’s the reason why I only have limited pictures from Vanuatu.
PS: PS: My plans for after New Zealand are not yet fix but it looks like I will slowly move towards Europe 🙂

About Stefan

I'm a telecommunication engineer by profession and like to discover the world by bike. I think, that it is the perfect speed to move but still be in touch with the world and the people which live there. And I'm very happy, that my wife Susanna is joining me now on those adventures. If you are interested in other journeys we did so far, please also check my website www.biketravel.net. Stefan, Switzerland

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