Espiritu Santo got it’s name from the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, who was working for Spain and believed he had arrived in the Great Southern Continent, Terra Australis in 1604. Almost mate, almost! Santo has a very lively history: from a Portuguese-Spanish outpost to a British-French Condominium to an American airbase to an independent island republic before finally being conquered by the Republic of Vanuatu with the help of Papua New Guinea – and now we were visiting 🙂
When we finally arrived at Village de Santo resort late at night after a bumpy flight we were welcomed by the super friendly owner Nabil from Egypt with a complimentary dinner plate (“When we heard your plane was delayed so long we asked our cook to prepare a small dinner for you before he went home.” – WOW). The resort was really cute, the staff was amazing and the food truly fantastic … we never managed to go out for dinner to another restaurant after we had looked at the dinner specials each day!
Dinner day one: duck in orange sauce!
When my luggage and snorkelling gear finally arrived two days late it was time to explore the island and on our first trip we went to Million Dollar Point, where the good old US of A dumped thousands of tons of equipment and refuse several hundreds of metres into the ocean after WWII. Whereas the beach still looks like a junk yard, the underwater part turned into a fascinating snorkelling and diving spot. We saw millions of colourful fish and coral between rusting ship wrecks, cannons and other military equipment in various states of decay. It really was a VERY odd feeling to snorkel over a shipwreck and suddenly the water temperature drops and there is nothing below you but deep blue ocean.
Dinner day two: island style tapas!
Despite a severe shortage of mini busses and taxis due to a cruise ship invasion the next morning Nabil managed to find us a driver who would take us up the east coast to Port Olry, famous Champagne Beach and last but not least Matevulu blue hole. It must have been reaaaally difficult to find a car, because this one would not get a roadworthy certificate in any civilised country. We felt sorry for it every time we hit a pot hole … and the driver spoke only French 🙂
When we arrived at Port Olry we were actually wondering why we wanted to go there in the first place. A tiny unattractive village at the beach, fairly poor snorkelling and not much else. The Port Olry Habor Beach Restaurant seemed like a nice place for lunch, but the service was virtually non-existent and after we had seen the (sold out) coconut crab and lobster plates we were bitterly disappointed by our overpriced microscopic steak. Well the owner was French, so what did we expect!
Next stop was Champagne Beach … unfortunately it was raining, but luckily the busloads of cruise shippers must have passed through earlier that day and we had this pristine white beach all to ourselves. Further out the bay there even was some nice snorkelling, but the mixing of warm seawater with a cold freshwater spring made the water quite blurry sometimes.
The first thing we noticed when we reached Matevulu blue hole were the hordes of cruise shippers who occupied the water and everything around. Luckily they soon returned back to their ship and we had the bright blue freshwater spring almost all to ourselves. After some near drowning moments with our snorkel we got used to swimming in fresh water again and Bea played prima ballerina while I tried out the monkey swing 😉
The funniest moment of the day happened when Bea offered our driver an Oreo cookie and the guy accepted the box and just wouldn’t return it back to her. All we could do was watch him in disbelief as he happily munched all our Oreos.
After this long and exhausting sightseeing day we were starved and originally wanted to try out one of the lonely planet top choice restaurants in Luganville … but when we saw the dinner specials at our hotel we quickly abandoned that idea and indulged in an amazing seafood farewell feast.
Dinner day three: fresh oysters, seafood chowder and lobster
YUMMMY !!! Weeks later we’re still dreaming about that food! Thousand thanks to the great team at Village de Santo, we really loved staying at your place!