I had spent the last two sessions teaching skills on the sand near the reef. My group was done and i was cleaning up the gear when someone yelled out. I ran to the front of the boat to see a goofy old Dugong meandering past. Grabbing my fins and mask, i jumped straight in. I needed to swim with this animal! I didn’t know what to expect once i got down to him, but i approached slowly and we swam together for a few moments before i stroked his belly. This felt awesome! We swam together around the reef for a few minutes, each time allowing me to get closer and stroke him more. His skin was not smooth as expected, but rather like a rough wire brush. Eventually he swam over the reefs edge and dropped down into the abyss. I got back on the boat grinning from ear to ear!
This was an early experience in the waters around Efate, Vanuatu. Vanuatu is very well known for their Dugongs and Efate Island is home to several fantastic dive sites. This is a perfect holiday destination or a prelude to one of the best known wreck dives in the world, the SS Coolidge in Espiritu Santo. Either way, you need to go for a dive in Efate and these are the best dive sites.
1- OLLIES LOLY
This is why people get hooked on scuba. Ollies Loly provides fantastic photo opportunities with bright, colourful coral and tropical fish galore. Sleeping turtles, camouflage cuttlefish and meandering dugongs, this site has it all. At depths ranging from 10-20m it’s the perfect introduction to scuba diving.
2- STAR OF RUSSIA
The Star of Russia was renowned for her good looks, speed and seaworthiness. She now rests at the bottom of Port Vila, 200 odd metres from the current cruise ship dock. It was moored in the harbour and sank during a cyclone, which means this dive site is easily accessible. The Star of Russia is an iron hulled, three masted square rigger that was built by the designers of the Titanic and sits relatively intact at 36m. It is now home to a variety of fish species and some overly protective grouper.
The Cathedral is a vast cavern that runs along Pango Penisula, the entrance to the harbour. As the swell rolls over the top of you, you can drift along a steep coral wall until you pass a very large vertical crack. As you descend into the Cathedral, named after the steeple like roof, you can check out all the nooks and crannies that are hiding a vast variety of sea creatures.
4- KONANDA WRECK AND REEF
Unlike the Star of Russia, the Konanda was purposely sank as a dive site. It now sits in a comfortable 26m, full intact and sitting upright. This is the perfect introduction to wreck diving as the ship has been scuttled and is mostly open. It does offer a few entry points and swim throughs, mostly around the bridge. There are few dives in the world where you can enjoy a wreck and a colourful reef, but the Konanda offers that, with a shallow reef just off starboard side. As you make your way up you can decompress over a 9m reef that is home to plenty of sealife, namely clownfish, cuttlefish and turtles.
5- MELE REEF
A large reef rising up in the middle of Mele Bay. You start with a fantastic vertical wall that meanders around to a multi-ledged reef. Witness reef sharks, anenomes and clownfish, multitudes of schooling tropical fish and the odd turtle or ray.
Photography by Aigar Sisask at www.aigarsisask.com. Please support our artists by liking, following and subscribing.