DIVE Discover what matters
Photo (c) David Kirkland
Dive in and
Vanuatu has plenty to offer divers of all levels of experience. Located in the South Pacific, to the west of Fiji and just southwest of the coral triangle, the archipelago of 83 islands is host to a diverse range of marine life. Hard and soft corals, sponges and anemones are home to over 450 species of tropical reef fish. The volcanic islands make for dramatic geographic features below the waterline as well as above it, with sheer walls, caverns and swim-throughs. And of course there are the famous wrecks. There aren’t many serious wreck divers who haven’t heard of the ‘S.S. President Coolidge’, the largest accessible shipwreck in the world. It is consistently listed as one of the world’s best wreck dives as well as one of the world’s best shore dives. Vanuatu, with its tropical climate and clear water is a great place to learn to dive or take dive courses. Most operators offer a range of internationally recognised courses from open water to dive master. Medical facilities including an ambulance service are available in both Port Vila and Luganville. A fully functioning recompression chamber with operators trained to Australian standards is located in Port Vila.
Photo (c) Russell Smart
There are plenty of things to do on your non-fly day and for accompanying non-divers. There is a large range of watersports on offer including snorkeling, sport fishing and kayaking. Fast becoming an epicenter for adventure travel, Vanuatu offers many fun activities on land as well, such as zip lining, walking, cycling, buggy and horse riding tours. Traditional village life is still alive and well in Vanuatu, and cultural tours are always popular with visitors. The tradition of Nagol, or land diving (the inspiration for bungee jumping) takes place at the yam harvest between April and May. Alternatively if you want to relax into ‘island time’ Vanuatu has many resorts and spas to give you the pampering you deserve. Restaurants and bars offering local produce and international cuisine cater for all tastes.
Port Vila & North Efate 'Semle Federesen'
Fabulous coral reef dives are just 10 to 20 minutes boat ride from Vanuatu’s laidback capital, Port Vila. Big Blue and Nautilus operate from Port Vila and take divers to a number of different dive sites. Walls, caverns, fields of staghorn coral and coral bommies all attract great fish and invertebrate life. Turtles are seen regularly and nearly always on night dives. Occasionally a dugong might join in the dive. The wreck of the ‘Star of Russia’, a 90-meter long square-rigged sailing ship built in the early 1800s sits in 30 meters in Port Vila Harbour. The ‘Semle Federesen’, the ‘Konanda’ and the flying boat the ‘Tasman’ are other wrecks easily accessible from Port Vila. Just outside of Port Vila, Hideaway Island marine sanctuary offers resort diving from the shore and by boat. Besides the protected reefs there are a couple of wrecks, ‘Bonzer’ and ‘Aloara’ and even the first underwater post office. The visibility off the north coast of Efate is spectacular and is often 40 meters or more. The diving is world class around Hat Island, a World Heritage site & MPA, Paul's Rock, & Moso Island. Gorgonian fans, swim-throughs, & caves make for interesting dives and access from the deep ocean means that pelagic species sometimes make an appearance. Turtles and dugong can also be seen.
Photo (c) Eric Simmons
Tranquility, a dive resort on Moso Island, features reef and cave dives plus thermal vents & wrecks of 'RoiMata' tug and 'Belama'. Turtles & dugong can also be seen. Sailaway offers day-trips on a sailing trimaran to dive sites at Hat Island, Paul's Rock and Turtle Reef, a great option for both divers and groups with snorkellers & non-divers.
Espiritu Santo ‘Coolidge’
Some people say a visit to Espiritu Santo is just not complete without at least one dive on the ‘SS President Coolidge’. But one dive might not be enough! You could do 20 dives on her and still not have seen all there is to see. At 201 meters long, 25 meters wide and 22,000 tons there is a lot of her! A luxury liner, converted to a troop carrier in WWII, she hit a couple of mines in 1942 coming into the channel. She now lies on her port side just 100 meters off shore. The cargo holds are full of WWII equipment, such as trucks and ammunition shells. The medical stores and other rooms hold other wartime artifacts. A visit to “The Lady” a porcelain wall hanging is a must and hints of the former grandeur of the vessel before its transformation into a troop carrier. Thousands of flashlight fish in the wreck makes for an exhilarating night dive. A large U.S. military base was located in Luganville during WWII. At the end of the war, the Americans pushed thousands of tons of surplus equipment into the sea, creating a very unique dive site known as Million Dollar Point. Allan Power and Coral Quays offer shore dives to these two famous dive sites. Bokissa, Aore Adventures, Santo Dive and Coral Quays offer access to them by boat. But there is more to Espiritu Santo than the Coolidge; the surrounding reefs and marine life are spectacular. Bokissa Resort dives sites around the island including the ‘Henri Bonneaud’ wreck. In recent years, Aore Adventures and Coral Quays, with new dive boats have opened up access to great coral dive sites to the off-shore islands to the east and south of Luganville. The ‘USS Tucker’ destroyer, a Dauntless bomber plane and the ‘Tui Tuwate’ wrecks are also dived from Luganville.
Million Dollar Point
Photo (c) David Kirkland
The island of Tanna, famous for Mount Yasur, an active volcano in the heart of the island, is Vanuatu’s newest diving destination. Healthy coral, caves and drop offs are all on offer from a new dive operation : Volcano Island Divers based at White Grass Ocean Resort.