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First Light adventures
Lakona Bay
Di & Bernie
01/09/2009, Santa Maria Island

Santa Maria Is is the southern most island in the Banks Group and about 35nm north of Santo. We arrived here Sat afternoon to be greeted by many friendly villagers in their dugouts including Chief Henry.. We were handed a visitors book to sign and a program of activities by a young man named Christopher, outlining some entertainment that the locals provide for visitors ..Kastom dancing, Water music and magic tricks to name a few. We were also offered vegetables in exchange for trading, so have stocked up on sweet potatoes, cucumber, spring onions,pawpaw and bananas. As well, we were also invited by Christopher to lunch on Sunday with his young family. The island is quite mountainous so the village is set high up off the beach. Christopher's house is elevated above the village and commands million dollar views out to sea. It is just beautiful! Over lunch he explained how he would like to update the program of activities with photos. After offering to help him out with our camera and printer, we spent the afternoon taking photos to complement the activities, so got to see some Water music performed by four local women. They stand in waist high water, cup their hands then swing their arms in the water and create a beating rhythm ...quite clever and very effective. Along with the other photos we took, Bern spent most of yesterday revamping the program. As the island is so remote the supply ship from Luganville doesn't call into this bay very often, so they are finding it difficult to sell their Copra at market. The program of activities is one way the villagers have of making some cash from passing boats that call in here for a few days.

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Vanuatu's first National Park
Di & Bernie
26/08/2009, Big Bay

After leaving Hog Harbour this morning we headed north to sail to Big Bay on the north eastern tip of Espiritu Santo. As the name suggests it is certainly a large, wide bay with good protection from the SE-E winds. It is also the area of Vanuatu's first National Park referred to as the Vatthe Conservation Area. In 1996 the landowners (two tribes) made a choice to stop logging the area and develop it from a conservation perspective. Apparently a guest house has been built to encourage Eco tourism and provide the villages with income. Once again,we can see no dug out canoes on the beach just a few boats with outboard engines, so the villagers are obviously a little better off here. Having said that we did get a visit from three children late in the day paddling their rather tired family dugout canoe. They said we could get fruit and vegetables at the village, so we'll head in there tomorrow, pay our respects to Solomon the chief and see if we can trade something for some their fresh produce. Tomorrow we also plan to have a look at the forests they have preserved in a National park.

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29/08/2009 | leon
Following your travels.
Had an email from Marcus who will be visiting soon and joining Sue and I for dinner. His tours in Thailand seem to be doing well.
Stay safe.
Tropical Paradise!
Di & Bernie
25/08/2009, Hog Harbour

We finally just made it out of Oyster Island after a week anchored in the lagoon there. The entrance in and out is shallow and the depth governed by the tides. High tide was just deep enough for us to exit, so we breathed a sigh of relief once we were through. If we hadn't left today it would be almost another week before the day tide was deep enough for 'First Light's' depth of 2.2 metres. We then had a comfortable and leisurely sail of 28nm to Hog Harbour. Champagne Beach is a well known tourist attraction in this harbour and just recently featured on 'Getaway' the travel program and you can understand why... lovely white beaches, the most clearest, turquoise blue water set against a backdrop of lush tropical growth and palm trees. It was also quite warm so couldn't resist a swim and Bern took the opportunity to clean 'First Light's' bottom which is an ongoing job!. We didn't go onto the beach, but it looked quite developed with marker buoys etc, Apparently Cruise ships visit so many times a year, and the villagers set up stalls etc on the beach to sell local artefacts, clothing and food to the tourists. No dugout canoes were evident on the beach and none visited us offering fruit and vegetables, so clearly the villages have other easier means of income. There were only two other boats moored in the harbour, so a very quiet anchorage.

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Blue pool
Di & Bernie
20/08/2009, Oyster Island Espiritu Santo Vanuatu

Today we traveled by dinghy up a small river near Oyster Is to see a spectacular blue pool. Fresh water emanates from deep down in the blue pool and flows down the river to the sea. Minerals in the water give it a beautiful blue colour and it was crystal clear the further we went up river to the source. Travelling in the dinghy you felt you were gliding along in thin air as you could see the bottom of the river bed clearly meters below. We snorkeled in the pool and took photos using Claire's underwater camera.

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24/08/2009 | Hamster
Hi Bernie & Di
Great to read your reports
Hope the seas is gentle and the winds fair.
Enjoy the trip. Must be great to have Claire along. WE had our Steph with us in Italy for a week and it was great to spend time with her. Happily for us she is coming home from London at the end of Sept. Her Visa is just about expired and too hard to get work anyway! Heather & I had a wonderful month in Italy. 10 days in Sicily was well worth it. Lost to see & do and much cheaper than the mainland tourist places. Fabulous seafood & gelati!!
Keep bloging, it is inspiring. Cheers
25/08/2009 | Jane and Graham
Love the photo!! It's cold, wet and windy here - quite different from the weather you're experiencing - we're SO jealous!
Negotiating a narrow reef passage.
Di & Bernie
18/08/2009, Oyster Island Espiritu Santo Vanuatu

We departed Vao and sailed north to the Island of Espiritu Santo 35 miles away. The wind was light and we ended up motoring the last half of the journey. We were heading for Oyster Island where there is a really protected anchorage, but you have to negotiate a very narrow and shallow passage through the coral reef to get there. We anchored outside and did a reconnaissance trip through the passage in the dinghy to the Oyster Is resort. It was nearly high tide and the resort owners said there was about three meters depth, just enough for us to get in. So we held our breaths and slowly came through the passage. It was only a couple of boat widths wide and only just deep enough for us to clear the bottom. We made it without touching anything hard and anchored in front of the resort with eight other yachts. We spent a very peaceful night, not rocking around or worrying about the anchor holding.

The Oyster Is resort is in an ideal setting with small waterfront bungalows and a restaurant bar on the point. There is free wireless internet at the resort, so we'll be taking advantage of this.

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Arrivee Vao
Di & Bernie
17/08/2009, Vao Island Vanuatu

We departed Banam bay on Malakula Is this morning and had a great sail running before a fresh SE winds to Vao Is 35nm to the north.

Vao is a small Island only a stones throw from the large island of Malakula. There are over one thousand inhabitants and as soon as we rounded the island and headed for the anchorage we could see lots of dugout canoes pulled up on the beach and children playing. It wasn't long before we had a stream of visitors in dougout canoes offering us fruit, vegetables, shells and carvings. French and Bislama are the spoken languages here, so it was out with the dictionary to explain what vegetables we needed. We were offered pamplemousse, a fruit like a very large grapefruit only much sweeter and very juicy. We got one a couple of days ago and squeezed it this morning producing three glasses of beautiful juice for breakfast.

The islands around here are known for their canoe making skills and it seemed each child had a small canoe just like children in Australia MUST have a scooter. They could paddle out to our anchored boat in windy conditions with ease and maneouvre their canoes wherever they wanted.

Tomorrow we head further north to the Island of Espiritu Santo where Claire is keen to see some areas recently seen on the holiday show Getaway.

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First Light 111 Adventures
Who: Bernie
Port: Melbourne Australia
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