One of the loveliest things about the island of Espiritu Santo is that it is uniquely doted with ‘blue holes’. The blue holes are naturally occurring and are formed by mineral water that comes up from the ground. The base of the holes is limestone and it is the limestone that causes the transparent water to be iridescent blue.
A lot of the villages have their own blue hole and they use the water as drinking water. They also fish in the blue holes as they have some aquatic seafood including fresh water prawns.
From Barrier Beach House, Riri Blue Hole is very easy to get to. We cycled around 5kms to get there, traveling along the coast road. There are two ways to get to the blue hole. You can cycle all the way there (or go in a car) or you can ride through the two blue dug-out canoes and there you will find a few men from the village that owns Riri Blue Hole, ready to take you there in one of their canoes.
I had never had a ride in a dug-out canoe before so we opted to travel in a canoe that took us up the river until around 15-minutes later we arrived at Riri. We left our bikes unlocked down by the river and were assured they would absolutely be there on our return. The people of Vanuatu are incredibly honest and crime is almost non-existent.
Our canoe guide was Alex. I did have a little trouble understanding his English but he told us the canoes are made from blue water trees that are found near the blue holes. It takes four men one-week to make a dug-out canoe and they will last for 3-4 years. Drew helped with the canoeing but I wasn’t given a paddle and was happy to be able to just sit on the plank and enjoy the scenery.
I would definitely recommend traveling by canoe as the river is incredibly beautiful. The water is see-through and the vegetation on the sides of the river, stunning. It was a dull and rainy day when we visited Riri but even in those conditions the scenery was breathtaking.
As we traveled up the river it was extremely quiet and peaceful except for the sound of a few birds. I asked Alex what sort of bird it was that was making the noise and he said it was the Nayuiba bird. The people from his village hunt them and he said the birds taste like ‘young rooster’.
Turning the corner that revealed Riri was amazing. The water just changes to the prettiest shade of blue I’ve ever seen; it absolutely has to be a colour that’s unique to blue holes. There are two blue holes that make up Riri; one is 5mtrs in depth and the other, 10mtrs. At the bottom of both holes, mineral water gushes into blue hole.
Alex brought the canoe alongside a set of stairs and we awkwardly disembarked and climbed to a handmade platform. Watch out – the steps are slippery!
On the platform there is a rope swing that you (again, awkwardly) can jump up onto and then launch yourself into the middle of the blue hole. Don’t forget to let go! The water is around 24C (75.2F) so not that cold but incredibly refreshing. We took our goggles with us so we could explore the blue hole and we were just amazed at how clean, fresh and transparent these pools are. One of the best features of Espiritu Santo is that it’s so unspoilt.
It’s not only unspoilt, it seems it’s barely ‘on the map’. If you don’t like crowds, you’ll love Santo. At the time Drew and I visited Riri, we had the entire place to ourselves.
We spent about an hour swimming and exploring the blue holes and then Alex took us back to where the river meets the coast road. We paid him 2000 vt ($24.00) for the two of us and that included entry into the blue hole.
And like he said, our bikes were waiting for us and exactly where we left them.
Riri Blue Hole: 15 minutes north-west of Luganville along the coast road. Look for the two blue dug-out canoes on the left-hand side of the road as you travel north.