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Espiritu Santo’s waiting for you

Espiritu Santo’s waiting for you

Making a wish-list for your next overseas trip? There’s no need – you’ll find everything you could want on Vanuatu’s biggest island, Espiritu Santo

Espiritu Santo’s waiting for you

Imagine your best 24 hours, from dawn to dusk, in a special place. Breakfast is fruit fresh from a local market and a brew of the world’s finest coffee beans. It’s warm, and so is the water. Head to a white-sand beach to swim, dive or kayak.

Find lunch at the market or a neighbourhood café, lie on the beach in the afternoon before cocktails, live music and a gourmet meal at your resort in the evening. It’s not a daydream – it’s every day on Espiritu Santo.

Vanuatu’s largest island wraps visitors inside its unique, open-hearted Melanesian bubble, tempting them with some of the world’s finest beaches and diving spots, tropical jungles and wildlife, and luscious organic fruit, beef and coffee beans.

Santo’s waters are warm enough to swim in year-round and there’s nowhere better than its famous ‘blue holes’ – electric-blue, crystal-clear mountain water filtered through limestone caves and surfacing near the coast to create magnificent, pure swimming holes.

Each is different but most have a huge rope hanging from the biggest tree for thrillseekers to launch themselves into the water.

Kayak down kilometres of hidden rivers connecting to the blue holes to see remote parts of the island or take a serene trip down the Riri River in a dugout canoe and enjoy watching fish dart around the boat.

At the end of your journey through the winding river, surrounded by jungle, you’ll find one of the best blue holes. Grab a beer from the hut and dangle your legs in the water to keep cool as you soak up the island vibes.

Underwater, there’s another world– and not just the fascinating reefs, seascapes and marine life. After World War II the Americans dumped millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment in the ocean off Santo – annoying the British and French rulers who hoped they would inherit it.

Fast-forward 70-odd years and ‘Million Dollar Point’ has become a well-known snorkelling and dive site for newbies and experienced divers alike.

Nearby is another divers’ playground, the wreck of the SS President Coolidge, sunk by a sea mine.

Enough activity. As you arrive at Santo’s Champagne Beach, colourful sarongs flutter in the wind at beachside market stalls. You’ll soon be lying on the sand between swims, watching kids jump off the jetty, maybe stretching your legs on bush trails.

You’ll find the beach on the east coast just before Port Olry. It’s a favourite paddling-off spot for kayak trips to nearby islands or diving on colourful reefs.

Local tip: this is the place to try island food. Take a seat in a beachside hut, run by villagers, and enjoy a tropical feast with a view.

Maybe fresh-caught fish and seafood? Or Santo’s justifiably world-famous beef? Certainly, organically grown vegetables and fruit from nearby farms and orchards.

You’ll find time moves slowly on Santo. Take some of it to experience the island’s way of life, nurtured from many influences over the centuries – a strong and vibrant Melanesian and Polynesian culture, Christianity from early missionaries, French and English colonial rulers are all in the mix.

To learn more about the Ni-Vanuatu culture, visit Leweton Custom & Cultural Village to hear the music of the water ladies from Banks Islands, sample traditional dishes and take part in a kava ceremony. Vanuatu is just over three hours’ flying time from Auckland, but it’s a world away from home.

Visit www.vanuatu.travel for more information.

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