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Matevulu Blue Hole, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

After we left the extremely stunning and picturesque Champagne Bay, we drove back towards the town of Luganville.  Our driver, Johnnie, wasn’t doing too well.  I was sitting behind him and noticed he kept punching himself in the head.  Carl was sitting next to him and found this a bit disconcerting and asked him if he was okay.  He said he was trying not to fall asleep.

The largest of Vanuatu's blue holes (this is just a part of it)

The largest of Vanuatu’s blue holes (this is just a part of it)

After Arabella just about had two panic attacks from observing him having two micro-sleeps, I asked him if he would like to pull over and Carl could drive.  He said he was fine and wound down the windows to get some air on his face like that was the solution.  As he kept driving we asked him questions to help keep him awake.  Apparently he’d had to get up at 3am to take a woman having a baby to the hospital and hadn’t been back to bed.

Fortunately, the journey from Champagne Bay to Matevulu Blue Hole was only around 40-minutes and we all managed to arrive in one piece.  To get there, you turn right onto a dirt road that runs beside the WWII airstrip the US Airforce built all those years ago and you follow that road for about five minutes and then you’re at the Blue Hole.

The entrance.

The entrance.

I’d seen this Blue Hole on travel programs over the years and had always hoped I’d visit one day.  These blue holes are all over the Island of Santo but we were going to Matevulu which is the largest one.  There is an entrance fee which is fairly nominal and they take Aussie dollars.

We left Johnnie to sit with the other taxi drivers and hopefully have some sleep.  Everywhere you go in Vanuatu these happy people are in groups singing and it was no exception at Matevulu where the entire time we were there, locals were singing in harmonies with their guitars.

Where the taxi drivers sit and wait.  Check out the colour of the water!

Where the taxi drivers sit and wait. Check out the colour of the water!

These freshwater holes are sapphire-blue.  The limestone at the bottom of the holes causes the water to have iridescent blueness.  These are freshwater springs and the water is totally transparent and you can see a long, long way down but not all the way down because this hole was 100mtrs (330ft) deep.  

Because of the depth of the water and because these are freshwater holes, I was expecting the water to be very cold but it’s not.  It’s just refreshing and a surprisingly pleasant temperature especially when the air temperature is so hot – about 35C (95F).   

A very bad photo of the local singers

A very bad photo of the local singers

It’s the prettiest freshwater pool I’ve ever seen with water so clear you can see your toes and there were scuba divers a long way below us and I could see them very clearly and we weren’t even wearing goggles – but bring goggles because you’ll see so much more.

Loving the water

Loving the water

Across the water is a very large old tree and attached to one of the branches is a rope swing.  Up the trunk of the tree is a very basic and handmade-looking ladder that ascends to a tiny platform that’s on a lean and sways with the breeze.  OH&S would have a field-day with this in Oz and would shut it down in an heartbeat but things are wonderfully more relaxed in Vanuatu – perhaps there’s a shortage of lawyers.

The giant tree with the ladder.  Sapphire-blue water.

The giant tree with the ladder. Sapphire-blue water.

Anyway, hovering around the bottom of this tree is where you’ll find all the teenagers as it seems to be a rite of passage that when in Vanuatu, you absolutely must climb up to the platform and launch yourself across the water on the rope swing.  Well, ‘when in Rome’ so across to the big tree we went because although it’s one of those things you don’t really want to do, you know you’ll regret it if you don’t.

It's very, very pretty

It’s very, very pretty

The teenagers made room and Alfie went up to the top of the platform first but after standing there for five minutes psyching himself up with the queue of people below increasing by the minute, fear grabbed a hold of him and he climbed back down again.

A freshwater swim

A freshwater swim

Not wanting the family to die in disgrace I was up next and letting out a few swear words all the way to the top.  It’s not as easy as it looks as the platform is very high up and it’s very small and the handrail is affixed to a thin branch that moves when you touch it so it’s quite unsettling.   The rope pulls you towards the water and the platform’s a bit slippery so trying to hold on and get your balance while gathering up the rope is challenging.

My little guy finally goes off the rope swing.

My little guy finally goes off the rope swing.

You need to hold the rope as high up as possible with your hands above a large knot and while you’re balancing on a swaying platform, then pick up the dangling rope so it doesn’t drag through the water – but make sure it doesn’t get tangled or you’ll be in a right mess when you let go.  And don’t get yourself tangled up in it either otherwise you’ll be dragged back to smash into the tree – just a thought!  Then dangle your toes over the edge, say your prayers and launch yourself over the water scrunching your knees up to your chest so you wake up the next morning with sore abs, then when the rope starts to rise above the middle of the pool, this is the time to let go.  And you won’t want to let go but you must or you will smash into the tree you just climbed.  All going well you’ll free-fall quite a few metres into the water and descend into the water almost as many metres.  And when you surface you will feel exhilaration.  I certainly did for having survived.

There are no photos of me on the rope swing which is probably a good thing as I don’t think it was very graceful.

Action shot

Action shot.  You can see how high the platform is by comparing the height of the men.

There is a smaller rope swing where you don’t have to climb a rickety platform and there’s also a horizontal thick tree branch you can walk out over the water on (a bit like ‘walking the plank’) and then dive or jump into the blue water.

But back to Alfie.  He queued up for a second attempt, this time standing on the platform for nearly 10 minutes before climbing back down.  We had a swim and then told him it was time to go but he said, ‘I really want to do it’.

A very kind local man helped him back up to the top of the platform, held the rope for him while he got his balance and stood on the ladder to be with him and talk him through it.  With his heart feeling like it was going to pop out of his chest, he launched himself across the water, let go and came up saying he wanted to do it all again.  He was thrilled with himself for battling his fears and and I was glad he didn’t have to return home thinking something had beaten him.

The giant tree with the ladder.  Sapphire-blue water.

The giant tree with the ladder. Sapphire-blue water.

To swim in transparent blue water that’s beyond crystal clear in such a beautiful and pristine and unspoiled setting is truly an absolute luxury and definitely an experience of a lifetime.

On our cruise we visited three countries and had seven stops and Espiritu Santo was our very definite favourite.  I would love to visit again, staying on the Island for at least a week.  Australians can now fly direct to Santo from Brisbane.

Johnnie drove us back to the ship where more locals were there to farewell us with their singing.  It was a shame to be leaving such a stunning island and such beautiful, friendly people.

It's very, very pretty

It’s very, very pretty

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  1. I hope that Johnnie’s nap left him feeling a bit more awake. Congratulations on making that leap because that tree is huge and the whole experience looks frightening. I’m glad Alfie got his nerve up and made the leap as well. The pool is wonderfully blue.

  2. G’day! Vanuatu and its people leave a lasting effect I think too Charlie, true!
    The most magical and family holiday moments last a whole lifetime too!
    Cheers! Joanne GREAT views; peaceful and tranquil!

  3. What a wonderful time even if bravery was required.

  4. that rope swing into the water sounds like amazing fun, glad you and Alfie pushed past your nerves!

  5. The drivers there sound like the taxi drivers in Hong Kong. I have had to grab the wheel several times here in China as they take their micronaps. It freaks you out dosen’t it? I feel like a kid again looking at you monkeys on the ropes. How fun is that and beautiful blue green waters. Take care, BAM

  6. Once again, thank you for taking me to this warm and beautiful place. What a visual respite for my soul on yet another subzero morning here in Minnesota.

    Your storytelling skills drew me right there, climbing the rickety ladder, standing on the slippery platform and then back down with Alfie.

    As for Jonnie’s micro-naps, I’m with Arabella. I once observed my husband in a micro-nap and it scared the heck out of me.

  7. I can’t cope with these posts.

  8. What a great outdoors place! So beautiful!

  9. Seeing all your pictures with the beautiful blue water is making me miss living in Mauritius.
    Have a super day Charlie.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  10. Yay for Alfie! I’m glad he could follow in his mother’s heroic footsteps and beat the swing 🙂 I definitely would have chosen the lower branch and just jumped in- and that only because you say you can see through the clear water! Perhaps your taxi drive could count as another daredevil experience, it certainly sounds risky enough 🙂 xox

  11. The Blue Hole looks gorgeous and you and Alfie were very brave. How satisfying it must be to know that you gave it a go and survived!

  12. What a wondrously beautiful and magical place! 🙂 I only spent a short time in Vanuatu and can hardly wait to go back and make a beeline for this place. 🙂

  13. I’m so glad that he did the swing! I don’t blame him for being scared, though. I’d have been terrified. 🙂 what a gorgeous spot – you are so lucky!

  14. Microsleeps—not good, but oh wow, the blue hole!

  15. Johnnie needed a nap – that’s just crazy. When we were kids we had a tree growing out over the lake and we had a rope. I loved it and god help the person who didn’t bring the rope back! 🙂

    I’d love to go there on holiday!

  16. It is like a natural hidden resort – so beautiful 😀


  17. Good onya Alfie! So brave and what a great photo. Such a beautiful place and lovely people.

  18. Good for Alfie! I wouldn’t have done that at his age. What a great experience for all of you.

  19. Charlie, I can’t tell you how much I enjoying reading about your cruising adventures. Your slightly sarcastic writing fits perfectly with my style of humour.
    I’m glad Alfie made the jump, did Arabella and Carl do it too? Good for you for do in it, I wish there were photos though.
    I’m very glad that you had such a lovely time on this vacation.

  20. I’ve never gone on vacation to a tropical island but I really think I should look into it! Its magnificent the waters so clear and I like it when local people are so friendly hehe xx

  21. Hi Charlie! It’s me, Jo! I started a new blog! I am going to be sharing new recipes (and some of my tried and true) over at foodgurly.com. The new blog is all about finding balance and finally getting healthy and fit, one day at a time! I’m really excited about it! Don’t forget to subscribe by e-mail so you can get all the posts right in your inbox!! There are gonna be great photos, too!! I hope…. 😉 xo

  22. How beautiful! I love the color of the fresh water and would really enjoy taking a dip! I don’t think I’m good for the plummet, but I sure do admire that you participated. And I’m thrilled for Alfie to have conquered his fears and I’m sure this will be a lifelong memory. The picture of Johnnie hitting himself in the side of his head to stay awake is just hilarious. If I’d been with you I’d have been with Arabella in in fear, but you are an adventure-worthy family!

  23. Goodness – how disconcerting to have your driver trying not to doze off like that. And what a stunning place. I’ve never been to that part of the world and it’s on my list.

  24. Wow. I thought the water at Champagne Bay was gorgeous, but this is stunning. How stressful to have your driver falling asleep at the wheel on a vacay, though. Glad you were safe and sound in the end.

  25. We have a “blue hole” outside Albuquerque but it doesn’t look anything like this. I’m too old to do a lot of stuff that I did as a kid, but I sure would love to do a rope swing! I love those. Looks like everyone is having FUN!

  26. I have been there twice now, first was in October with my wife and when we ended up at Luganville with the younger kids (9 and 10) about 2 weeks ago after Vila was cancelled and we were rescheduled with going to Santo instead (and as it turned out a large group of friends) we had to take them to see both the Nanda Blue hole as well as the Matevulu blue Hole.

    The pictures and your account of it took me right back there again but I know you will agree even as stunning as it looks in the photos they just cant do it justice for how beautiful it is to actually be there.

    On this trip we also visited Lope Lope Ranch which is about 10 minutes drive from the Matevulu Blue hole where there is a resort with bar and restaurant, the restaurant is quite pricey ($13 for a bowl of chips) and when we were there they ran out of just about everything edible but in spite of the prices I recommend you have your driver call in there even if only to have a drink and take in the view for half an hour or so, it really is a special place to go

    A word of warning though, In October before cyclone pam the price of most tours was $10 per person return or we hired a small taxi for $80 for 4 to 5 hours so we could take our time and spend our day as we wanted to (ended up giving him $100 because Pascal really looked after us) when we returned 2 weeks ago after the cyclone the prices had gone up quite considerably and some people had paid $40 per person each way to go to just one Blue hole and they had a short time limit there as well. It really is essential if you go there to know how much to expect to pay and stick to it, if they give you exceptional service by all means slip them some extra money but don’t get ripped off.

    • Hi Daryl, thanks so much for letting me know. We actually went to Lope Lope but not to the resort, we went for the horse-riding experience and I have blogged about that separately. I can fully recommend the horse-riding. I fully accept that the food at Lope Lope would be expensive; it seems that food in Vanuatu is ridiculously priced given what they pay in outgoings like rent and wages. They seem to charge Sydney prices for food not as well prepared, not as interesting, not as well presented and certainly without our overheads so I’m at a loss to understand why they charge so much. Not to mention they don’t even have to pay tax! Thanks for letting me know about the price rise since the devastating cyclone.


  1. […] Matevulu Blue Hole is about a 20-minute drive from Luganville.  There is a turn-off to the left off the coast road and you travel for another 5-10 minutes along part of what was in WWII, a USA airstrip, and then you arrive at the blue hole. […]

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