One of the things that I love most about traveling and an independent lifestyle is that it enables me to jump on adventurous options when they present themselves. During my stay in Australia’s Gold Coast, a friend told me about an island group in the South Pacific called Vanuatu.
He informed me about a special four-day dive getaway to one of the islands, Espirito Santo, that was on offer. It was organized by Air Vanuatu, dive shop Aquamarine, and The Espiritu Hotel.
The deal was for Vanuatu residents only, but after a few phone calls and emails I was allowed to take advantage of the deal. A few weeks later, I was on my way to go diving in a country that I didn’t even know existed!
There are two dive sites of particular interest near the island of Espirito Santo, Million Dollar Point and the SS Coolidge wreck.
Million Dollar Point
During World War Two, the US had quite a lot of military equipment stored at a military base on Espirito Santo. Following the war, their efforts to sell it off were unsuccessful, so they decided to dump everything in the sea, just off the coast of the island.
Ever since, hundreds of jeeps, trucks, bulldozers, trailers, tractors, forklifts and unopened boxes of clothes, tools, and other types of material have been lying on the bottom of the ocean. The material is scattered over a vast area, starting at just a few meters below the surface to around 30 meters deep. This makes for an unique dive site that is very accessible to beginners.
President SS Coolidge
The SS Coolidge was a luxury cruise liner that was converted into a troop transport during World War Two. In October 1942, she was scheduled to deliver several thousands of American troops to the military base on Espirito Santo. Upon entering the harbor, she ran into a mine field that had been placed in the sea to protect the harbor against Japanese submarines. The captain hadn't been informed of the mine field, and the ship was quickly evacuated before she sank to the bottom of the ocean.
Ever since, she's been resting at a depth of 20 to 60 meters, providing excellent opportunities for divers to explore. The wreck is still almost completely intact, making for one of the best wreck dives on the planet. Given its gigantic size of over 200 meters (600 feet) in length, there are over 20 different dive sites inside and around the wreck. Most dives are more than 20 meters deep, so an advanced diving certification is recommended for these dives.
Both dive sites are located close to the main town of Luganville, where most visitors will end up staying. I stayed at The Espiritu Hotel, where I was welcomed by Simon, one of the Australian owners. Simon helped me a lot with advice about restaurants and local highlights.
Aquamarine is the best dive shop to go with. It is conveniently located in The Espiritu making the hotel an excellent choice of accommodation for divers. Aquamarine owns the land that gives access to the SS Coolidge dive site, so it's the only dive shop that doesn't require you to go on a boat to do the dives. The owner Rehan knows every corner of the ship, and his dive shop has guided over 30.000 divers. You’re in good hands with them.
*Disclosure: I received a discount on this trip but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favourable review.