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Vanuatu diving?

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I am looking for feedback on diving in Vanuatu (beyond only the SS COOLIDGE wreck).

Quality of diving? Dive operators? Macro? Reefs? Wide-angle? etc, etc.

Thank you in advance!

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Two main islands for diving (plus lots of islands for visiting only) : Efate where PortVila the international airport is located, and Santo up north for the Pres.Coolidge wreck.

 

Not much reef diving in Santo, the operators mainly focus on Coolidge and 1 million dollar point.

 

In Port-Vila, some nice wrecks in the bay (Nautilus is the most experienced operator), Hideaway resort provides diving in Mele bay, a few kms out of Vila, the coral was badly affected with crown-of-thorns attack when I dived there 3 years ago.

Moso island's tranquility dive resort is north of Efate, Probably the best coral dives around with Paul's reef or Lelepa dives, nice gorgonians, dugongs sometimes too shy to be approached while diving, but few fish and again quite disappointing.

Forget the macro, though a little in Mele, but scarce, it's mainly wide angle dives.

I have been told that Tongoa wall which is far away from Efate, accessed only on liveaboard, is probably the best dive in Vanuatu. it seems difficult to reach.

 

As much as I love Vanuatu topside (I was raised there, still speak some bislama, -language blong yumifala- and came back to visit after 30 years gone), I wouldn't bother going for a dive only trip, which would be mostly -if not solely- wide angle for wrecks and gorgonians.

Edited by Luko

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Thank you so much for the feedback, Luko!

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I agree completely with Luko - the diving in Vanuatu is good for the wrecks mentioned, and not a lot else. The Coolidge is awesome and worth a couple of days, but I was quite disappointed with the reef diving around Santo. If you have a choice, go next door to the western Solomons where the reefs and walls are mind boggling. Even if going to Vanuatu for other purposes, there are direct 1-hour flights to Honiara and then on to Gizo or Munda in another hour.

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Thanks for the feedback, Troporobo.

I agree, Solomon Island diving is quality.

It seems as if I will just need to visit Vanuatu for the topside, and leave the diving to neighboring islands the Solomons and Fiji….

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You are not likely to get bored topside, Vanuatu is a fun and interesting country. I have been very lucky through my work to visit a couple of times a year for the past 15 years, and I always look forward to the trip.

 

Port Vila has some great restaurants and many nearby cultural attractions, and a visit to a nakamal (kava bar) is mandatory. Tanna (for the volcano) and Pentecost (for the land diving) are also high on the must-do list. Santo has lots of action tourism possibilities. Anywhere you go the people will welcome you. Be open to adventure and it will find you.

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You are not likely to get bored topside, Vanuatu is a fun and interesting country. I have been very lucky through my work to visit a couple of times a year for the past 15 years, and I always look forward to the trip.

 

Port Vila has some great restaurants and many nearby cultural attractions, and a visit to a nakamal (kava bar) is mandatory. Tanna (for the volcano) and Pentecost (for the land diving) are also high on the must-do list. Santo has lots of action tourism possibilities. Anywhere you go the people will welcome you. Be open to adventure and it will find you.

Absolutely, this country is one of the most interesting cultural wise, a sort of violence free PNG without the troubles and fuss.

Nivans are some of the most charming and friendly people you can find, the tribal culture is very alive everywhere, hence the kava bars where you get mildly stoned after work.

 

Besides that nature hasn't forgotten Vanuatu : Experiencing a nightfall on the edge of Yasur volcano on Tanna is a lifetime experience. You will be shaken ! And oh yes, Champagne beach on santo becomes intanstanly your favorite beach ever.

 

Like Troporobo said the food is great (an heritage from the french :) ), I can recommand their beef steaks anytime, it's probably one of the best meat in the world that can compete with Argentina's. Dont forget as well coconut crab and also the best snack in the world which is called Tuluk and that you find at Vila's market in the morning an almost caramelized manioc paste filled with juicy and herb flavored meat.

 

Just a pedantic note about kava ;). A nakamal is not a kava bar : nakamal are the places in the village and under a banyan tree (the ancestor tree) where traditionally ONLY men can attend the kava drinking ceremonies (in the nivan culture, women are not even allowed to look at the kava roots). While in Luganville or Vila, you can bring your wife in a kava bar and have a kava cup together (I'm not sure she would appreciate the taste though).

Edited by Luko

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Strictly speaking, you are right about the nakamal of course, but that is these days also the common term for the informal kava bars that have sprung up in neighborhoods all over Port Vila. They are the best (sometimes only) place to find out what is really happening in the country, once you establish a rapport. There are a few that welcome tourists including women, and many more that are more traditionally men-only and ni-Van only unless someone brings you in with them. Interestingly, I have not yet seen a kava bowl for visitors at hotels like is common in Fiji.

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Fantastic information, Luko and Troporobo!

I most definitely will do a top-side excursion to Vanuatu….likely before or after my next Fiji dive trip.

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Strictly speaking, you are right about the nakamal of course, but that is these days also the common term for the informal kava bars that have sprung up in neighborhoods all over Port Vila. They are the best (sometimes only) place to find out what is really happening in the country, once you establish a rapport. There are a few that welcome tourists including women, and many more that are more traditionally men-only and ni-Van only unless someone brings you in with them. Interestingly, I have not yet seen a kava bowl for visitors at hotels like is common in Fiji.

Have you tried both Fijian and nivan kava? Answer is easy : in Fiji you can drink cups of their mild kava all night long singing, Vanuatu is another story, you need to take some time, even in the woman allowed kava bars you get stoned after only a halfshell, if you drink kava in Tanna pre-chewed the traditional way, I bet you my friend you won't be able to stand on your feet immediately after!

 

As for socializing I found I had more interesting chatting in the minibus plying anywhere in Vila, (probably easier for me because mi save toktok ol languej bislama ia, I can speak bislama language) than in the kava bars where I only met mythomaniac expats who simply had no idea what the past of this archipelago was.

 

Unfortunately, I haven't managed to meet PM Moana Carcasses in a kava bar though we were classroom neighbors when we were kids as well as we used to play on the beach in Rentabao :) . (Was a big surprize when I read one of my chidlhood friends was PM)

Edited by Luko

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As it happens, i am something of a kava afficionado, having lived long term in Fiji and the Solomons, and travelling regularly around the region for many years. I also speak bilama, and tok pijin further west. So yes, i have spent nights drinking kava in all the melanesian and polynesian countries, sakau in FSM, and for that matter, betel nut too. All are good fun, though i have indeed been paralytic in Port Vila once or twice!

 

As for the honorable PM, we've known each other for a few years. He's invited me for kava and for fine french wine though not at the same time! He's a good guy and doing a good job.

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As for the honorable PM, we've known each other for a few years. He's invited me for kava and for fine french wine though not at the same time! He's a good guy and doing a good job.

 

So next time you'll see him, ask him whether Vanuatu politics hurt as much as when a certain day he trode on a scorpionfish in Eruiti while two of his friends where trying to yell passing boats in order to get some relief. ;)

 

(I bet he might be better in kava than french wine though)

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