We spent our first five days in Santo on a mooring in the ‘front yard’ of the Aore Resort on Aore Island, opposite Santo’s main town, Luganville. Bliss, no anchor to worry about. The Segond Channel that separates Aore Island and Luganville (our clearance port of departure) is extremely deep and with the current running at 3 knots, there’s no where to anchor. Did I mention the Aore Resort had free Wi-Fi??!! More bliss! Our mooring cost us 1500 vatu/$16 per night and we could use all the resort’s facilities too, which included their beachfront restaurant and bar, pool, beach and Wi-Fi. The palm treed beachfront had great swimming with clear turquoise water and plenty of fish to make it even worth a snorkel. After a few weeks of long passages and ni-Van village life, we certainly enjoyed this luxury for a few days! The mooring was perfect!
While the current runs extremely fast in the Segond Channel, the water near the resort was clear, sandy and worth a snorkel. The bottom was quite barren of coral, but there were a few isolated dead coral patches which attracted some quite interesting fish. I found a clownfish family with quite an aggressive clownfish making it very clear I was not welcome. He would swim straight up to my camera and while this was a photo opportunity, he was way too quick. There was also quite a collection of different triggerfish and the fish life under the resort’s jetty was worth a look.
We arrived just prior to Grand Final weekend (I planned it well didn’t I). We met up with our fellow Paynesville pal Aqualibrium and discovered Gerry had found his own piece of paradise in Santo. He had befriended a local Australian couple who were operating a plantation of cocoa and coconuts called Freshwater Plantation, offering Gerry their jetty for his stay here. Their plantation also had a restaurant so while we enjoyed a lovely lunch there with Gerry and a few other rally boats, we asked about watching the Grand Final there the next day. Maria and Klaus subscribed to the AFL broadcast on the spot, added sausage rolls to their snack menu and the deal was done. Six boats all rocked up on GF day celebrating Eva’s birthday with a lovely lunch, followed by the GF. After a nervous start watching Klaus navigate his way around the dodgy internet signal, the footy finally appeared. Phew! We’d made some Tigers ‘floggers’ with our black and yellow garbags and with the Tigers winning, a great afternoon was had by all.
To cross the Segond Channel from the resort we would jump in a ‘long boat’ (water taxi) which would cost 1000 vatu/$11 no matter how many people were in it. Unfortunately, one of the two water taxis was out of action so it got down to the island speed at times. We have learnt … waiting for 10 minutes really means an hour!
Luganville is a bit of an ordinary town. Dusty, dirty, hot, humid, and busy, with the familiar minibuses and taxis constantly patrolling and tooting from the road for custom. There’s really just one long main street. We eventually found its only supermarket, their fresh vegie market (not at all as appealing as Vila’s with cabbage, bananas, yams and bokchoy their main produce), an ATM and their Digicel phone shop. Neville checked out the options for refueling. One servo didn’t take credit card, only cash and another charged 6.8% for a credit card purchase. It was going to have to be a gerry run here to refuel for the trip back to Bundaberg, as there is no water based fuel depot!
Ambae Island is 40 nautical miles from Santo. No doubt people at home have read about Ambae’s Manaro volcano with its threat level having been lifted to level 4. Ambae’s inhabitants have all now been evacuated to neighbouring islands. 4,000 evacuees have arrived on Santo with temporary tents set up and we have been warned that food supplies here in Luganville may be stretched. Our visit to Luganville a few days ago showed some signs of this but I’m sure the guys will manage with our onboard supplies for the trip home!
We then ventured north to Santo’s Surunda Bay and then Petersen’s Bay further north again. Surunda Bay very much reminded us of New Cal’s Gadji. A blue water lagoon surrounded by reef. As we entered and then anchored, we were greeted by dugongs and a turtle. While it was hot and humid and we were ready for a swim, an alert came on our two-way radio from another rally boat. They had just spotted a large shark entering the bay. Hmmm … maybe just a quick dip!
We really haven’t had enough time to see Santo. The east coast has been lovely but so much more to see. It might just be the pick! Maybe next time?!
Have I mentioned its hot here! The humidity has a punch and all our fridges are struggling. I’ve even resorted to adding an ice cube to a glass of wine or rose! Ha. Those of you who know me well, won’t believe it. I’m adding to this post at anchor in Petersen’s Bay just after our adventure up the ‘great green greasy Zimbobo’ river. Calm green water, hot and humid, swims aplenty!
We have now returned to a mooring at the Aore Resort, waiting for our crew who arrive tomorrow. Our trip is coming to an end and it’s quite weird. I’m slowly getting my head around dollars and cents, making phone calls whenever I like, cool weather clothes and seeing my family and friends. At times I feel like I need a holiday to recover from the holiday! But … I am very happy I have my Boeing 737 waiting for me!