Vanuatu is one of the easiest and inexpensive dive destinations from Sydney. It is a short flight, the locals are friendly, they speak English, there is a great range of activities underwater and above water activities to suit everyone and there is a range of accommodation. The following suggestions will help you maximise your enjoyment….these notes were accurate at the time of writting but obviously changes will occur with time.
Port Vila: Port Vila offers divers a range of options and operators to choose from, each of which pick up and return divers to their hotels. Many of the best dive sites are only minutes away. Diving is well
supervised and interesting, with several sunken ships in the protected waters of the bay.
There is the wreck of the 1874 built sailing ship “Star of Russia”, a three masted sailing ship in 36 meters of water. An island trader scuttled in the harbour “Konanda”, and the ex-Qantas Sandringham flying boat “Tasman”. Further out in the bay is the “Semle Federeson” now sitting in 36 meters plus of water.
Santo: The 33,000 tonne converted luxury liner, the S.S. President Coolidge, sank during WWII after hitting a mine, and now rests in depths of 21 – 70 metres. The impressive wreck is one of the most exciting and accessible to sport divers worldwide.
Is strongly suggested. I will post you all a copy of the travel insurance I recommend today. This will cover your belongings and your self.
Your travel insurance does cover you for diving but if you want you can get additional specific dive insurance. Check your travel
insurance carefully as some don’t cover scuba diving (some have depth limits).
There is a chamber in Vanuatu and if you have to go there it cost lots of money if you do not have insurance.
DAN SEAP offers divers insurance. You can check out their webpage www.danseap.org and you can sign up online.
It only cost about $50. Usually I just get the travel insurance but it is up to you.
Please talk to your doctor about this let them know that you will be diving. Generally make sure you are up on all your vaccines. Some
doctor will want you to get Malaria medication. Port Vila is usually fine to go without the malaria medication but you might prefer to be safer rather than sorry. If you are going for malaria medication make sure the doctor knows you are diving.
Diving gear needed
Everything except tanks and weights. I highly recommend a torch and a computer is mandatory. The water temp will be from 27 to 29 deg cel. A 3mm to 5mm suit is good. Don’t forget your logbook and Certification Cards!!
You can hire all the gear when you get there – 1500VT per day @ Hideaway
Take one pair of long pants and one jumper. Long, light clothes for the night time are good to minimise mosquito bites. All the rest summer clothes. No need for dressy cloths. You can wear shorts and T-shirts to restaurants no problems. There may be showers in
the afternoon, so if you have a light rain jacket it may come in handy.
A beach towel.
No need for hair dryers or make up.
Take plenty of sun cream and a hat & sunnies.
Take some aeroguard for the mosquitoes.
Don’t forget your camera and address of friends so you can write post cards and post them in the underwater post office. I am sure they will all be jealous!
Take any medicine you need. Panadol, something for upset tummy etc.
Hideaway provide beach towels for guest use.
Laundry is also done @ 800VT per bag and if handed in, in the morning will be ready that evening.
The local curancy is the Vatu which at the moment 100 Vatu is worth $1.06 Australian (check the curancy conversion). Australian Dollars are accepted everywhere the rounding system the locals use means you are beter off geting some money converted accross.
I advise that you take two forms of money. i.e. credit card and cash.
Most places will accept credit card, there may be a sur charge. You can run up a bill at the places we stay and pay it at the end. Cash
is needed for souvenirs in the markets.
I usually take only take $300 cash and put the rest on card.
Get your money exchanged at Goodies, it will give you the best exchange rate. Goodies is in the main street of Port Villa next to the Olympic Cafe (Vanuatu’s McDonalds) and opposite the library bus stop. Some shops (the chemist & duty free) do accept
Australian dollars and give an even better exchange rate so keep some money unchanged.
You can change up to AU$25 upon arriving at Hideaway so you have some before you head intoVila.
Duty Free shopping
It might be a good idea to pick up some alcohol, you are on holidays…. Enjoy yourself. Remember drinking
alcohol before dives does increase the risk of decompression sickness dramatically so be sensible. The first drink of the day is the last dive of the day.
These days duty free shopping is not that fantastic. Alcohol and cigarettes are cheap but other stuff is not much better than you can usually get. Cigarettes are about $19 for 200 at the airport and between $4-7 a pack in the town (depending on brand).
Be aware that when the cruise ships come in the prices in Vila all go up for the day!!
Kava is the local drink. You will see many Kava bars in the villages. If you ask me it is like muddy water!
It is made from the roots of a tree. If there is a lit orange lantern out the front of the house there is Kava left. If the light is out it is all gone.
Trust me it is not nice but worth a try!
If you go to a locals house make sure you wear enclosed shoes (runners) as people spit on the floor. Females get 50 vt(50 cents) and males can get 100vt shells. Skull it and follow it with a drink (take something to drink along with you), wash your mouth out and spit it
out (real lady like). It tastes very bad. It will numb your mouth almost instantly but gives you a kind of nice feeling. Give it a try, you are on holidays!
Warning~ Don’t drink too much or you will be sick. Don’t plan on eating a big dinner after it, it kills your appetite. Also girls the toilet is not good in these places. Make sure you go before you get there…
In the main part of town of Port Vila transport costs 200Vt (A$2.50) around town & 300Vt (A$3.75) out of town ie to the water falls or hideaway island. Just put your hand out and stop any little van with B on the numberplate. You may not get a direct trip to your destination so allow some extra time to drop the locals into their villages etc. Taxis are a little more expensive but once again you may need to bargain slightly. They are nice people just make sure the price is reasonable (Hideaway to Vila is about 1000VT (A$11.00)
The markets are located in the centre of town. The best time to look around is on Fridays and they are the fullest. You can pick up about 12 coconuts for 100vt ($1 buck) and often there is nice fruit including bananas, pawpaws etc. Don’t be scared to have a look around. There are nice Carvings in the drug store in the main street. You will be able to get sarongs and necklaces etc. The shops etc shut down around lunch time for a few hours.
Using other resorts facilities
All the resorts welcome day visitors. I would recommend that you head across to Iririki island resort to use the pool on one day. Catch
the Free ferry across (the ferry picks up just up from the markets before the water front restaurant ask one of the locals for directions). You can get lunch over there if you like, Maybe just a fruit salad or even a pizza, Yum Yum!.
Hideaway run walking tours through a local village on Tuesdays and a Melanesian Feast on Thurs.
Food prices are similar to Australian restaurants.
You can get all your meals at hideaway and book them to your room but I guess some days you will head into town to grab a bit to eat or check out the night life.
Some hints for in town.
If you want a cheep burger and chips go to the Olympic Cafe. There are a few supermarkets so you can grab some bread etc. The water is
safe to drink although i always drink bottled water in a different country. The Rossie restaurant is really nice, they give the best service in Vanuatu- nothing is too much trouble, it even does breakfast. The waterfront restaurant also has great atmosphere. Try the coconut pie it is excellent…
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