As you’re flying over Vanuatu on a clear day it’s hard to miss the patchwork of turquoise that surrounds each island. Perfect for snorkelling, these reefs are ideal locations for the aquatic adventurer with a penchant for turtles, dolphins and the odd dugong.
Gear hire is very limited on the outer islands, so for the well-seasoned ocean lovers, we suggest bringing your own in order to maximise your snorkelling adventures. Otherwise, you can pick up a kit on Efate.
Here are some of our favourite snorkelling experiences in Vanuatu.
Dugongs, commonly referred to as ‘sea cows’, spend their entire lives in the sea. They’re around 400kg and tend to lurk in the warm shallows away from waves and storms, where their favorite food, seagrass, is found. They’re slow moving and harmless, so make for a very unique creature to swim with as you’re paddling about the reef. Vanuatu also conducts dugong and seagrass conservation projects.
There are many places to find dugongs in Vanuatu. The Maskelyne Islands and Gaspard Bay are your best bet, but they can also be seen at Pango Beach or Havannah Harbour on Efate too.
If you’re around these areas, make sure you ask your host how to organise a tour. You can call the Vanuatu Tourism Office any time, and they can point you in the right direction as well.
Keep in mind, it’s impossible to guarantee you’ll see a dugong, no matter where you go. Rest assured, the local guides who take you out by boat are absolutely committed to the cause, and will have all eyes, ears and flippers ready to act the moment they spot a slither of grey.
Pele Island Snorkelling
If you’re hanging out in Port Vila for a while, the Pele Island snorkelling experience is an accessible outer island day trip for you.
It’s strongly recommended that you book a tour on the mainland or stay on Pele Island, so you don’t enter the village abruptly. While backpackers and frequent travellers like to do things their own way, and take charge of their activities, it’s important to find the right person to request permission and pay a small visitors fee to.
There are also no ATMs, restaurants or shops on the island. So allow your host enough time to prepare for your arrival to have a delicious island lunch ready for you. Head to the local visitor information centre in Port Vila city to discuss the most respectful way to approach your snorkelling experience.
If you’re interested in helping out with marine conservation, you can volunteer to protect the coral reefs with a local not-for-profit organisation that’s been operating in the area for over 30 years.
Gaua Snorkelling And Canoeing
If you’re staying on Gaua Island and have a spare afternoon, ask your host if there are any outrigger canoes about. They’ll arrange for someone to swing by on a hand-carved traditional canoe to pick you up and take you out to the reefs. They’ll laugh and chat and make recommendations, but are also happy hanging out, paddling where you want to go and waiting while you follow fish and dolphins around the water.
There’s an abundance of self-guided experiences in Gaua, and the locals are so happy to help you ensure you make the most of them. Why not give steering the canoe a go too – you’ll be surprised how much skill it takes!
Snorkelling isn’t limited to saltwater and coastlines. Vanuatu boasts a number of ridiculously beautiful blue pools and holes, often equipped with rope swings and a maze of wooden boards in trees to perch on and jump from. Surrounded by lush jungle, Nanda Blue Hole, Matevulu Blue Hole and Riri Blue Hole on Espiritu Santo Island are not to be missed.
If you’re in Efate, we also strongly recommend Blue Lagoon. It’s more of an open natural swimming pool than a hidden jungle pool, but it’s the perfect place to take a pile of kids (if you have them) and kick back in the sunshine. There’s also an impressive rope swing to dangle and jump from.
Main Island Turtle Tour
If spending two hours swimming with turtles in crystal clear ocean reefs sounds like a dream, read on. At Back to Eden in North Efate, there’s a magical turtle tour experience you can book – expect to see more than just turtles though.
This little section of reef is also commonly known as Nemo City. There’s an abundance of clown fish, and you’ll catch yourself quoting Finding Nemo all day. ‘Gimme some fin, noggin, duuuude.’ There’s also amazing giant clams just a bit further away if you’re up for the swim. ‘Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…’
All the gear is provided, so if you forgot to pack your flippers, no dramas. Reserve your spot and book ahead now!