Turtle Bay, Efate Island, Vanuatu

After visiting Cascade Falls we asked Willie if he could take us to a place where we could swim with turtles.  He told us there was a place but it was on the other side of the Island and as such, would be an additional AUS$50.00 in costs. 

That seemed very reasonable and so back on the road we went.  Willie had to stop for petrol and it was like a blast from the past to see that he didn’t have to leave his vehicle because there was an attendant who rushed out to fill the tank for him.  Those were the days!

The market

The market

We then asked him to take us into town to buy a few supplies like drinks and something to eat.  We found the local fruit and vegetable market that is out in the open and it would have been a great experience to have wandered around it however unfortunately we just didn’t have enough time.

Port Vila fruit and vegetable market

Port Vila fruit and vegetable market

The drive to the other side of the Island took about 40-minutes and most of it was on an unsealed road full of pot holes.  And when I say ‘pot holes’ I mean holes so deep you could almost not see the bottom of them.

Willie navigated around these holes, zig-zagging backwards and forwards across the road until eventually we made it but the bumpy ride did make me think I need to book an urgent appointment with my chiropractor.

Where is everyone else?

Where is everyone else?

We arrived at what Willie called, ‘Turtle Bay’.  It was some very ordinary-looking budget accommodation kind of a place.  I thought we were going to a beach where we could swim with the turtles in open water but I guess a few things can be lost in translation.  Whatever this place is called (there weren’t any signs), is very low-key.  As in basic.  It is not ‘Hilton standard’.  It is run by locals and would be budget accommodation at best on the edge of paradise.   Priced accordingly, accommodation is in  thatched bures positioned almost on the beach where you can snorkel in turquoise waters on the coral reef.

Entrance to the place but it doesn't seem to have a name.

Entrance to the place but it doesn’t seem to have a name.

The resort is trying to do something about the dwindling turtle numbers and so they have a breeding program where once the eggs hatch, the turtles stay with them in safe enclosures until they are three-years old, then they are released into the sea.

The price list

The price list

To have a tour of the turtle enclosures is one price and then to swim with the turtles, there is an additional charge.  It seemed very expensive but now that we had survived the journey on the bumpy unsealed road we thought we had better go through with the package deal.

Alfie wearing four iguanas

Alfie wearing four iguanas

We saw the turtles that are being looked after until they are about three-years of age and their enclosures did seem very dated and in fact, the entire lodge desperately needs an injection of cash and a face-lift.  I didn’t see any guests staying at the Lodge so it also looked very empty.

Feeding the turtles pawpaw.  Note the sharks!

Feeding the turtles pawpaw. Note the sharks!

Heading into scary waters

Heading into scary waters

It’s a sustainable-eating type of a ‘resort’ and on our tour we were shown the pigs and their piglets and in another enclosure were chickens and fruit bats.  The hens are kept for their eggs but the roosters end up on the menu and it was a shock to hear that the ‘free-range’ bats are also on the menu.  To be sure, only for the brave.

What lies beneath?

What lies beneath?

We were there to see the turtles and in a pool by the sea there is an enclosure housing reef sharks and three mature turtles.  By mature, I mean one was 60 years, another 70 and the oldest was 80 years.  The pool looked rather small for such big creatures.

The turtle enclosure

The turtle enclosure

You can hand-feed them pawpaw and they practically climb out of the pool to be fed a slither of pawpaw.  We all had a turn of feeding them and while they have big mouths, unlike a shark they are all gums.

We paid an additional charge of AUS$20.00 for adults and AUS$15.00 for Alfie, to swim with the turtles and sharks.

Miss Arabella on the old grandma

Miss Arabella on the old grandma

Now I have swum with reef sharks before and they are not people-eaters and in fact, show zero interest in humans so they weren’t of concern to me at all.  And you would think turtles wouldn’t bother me a bit but, there was one in the tank, a lighter-coloured one, the female who is 70-years, and she likes to sneak up on you and bite you.

The water wasn’t very clear and I had a leaky mask and so I couldn’t tell which one was the biter.  And I know she doesn’t have teeth but still, she has that surprise factor and she can clamp down hard on her jaws and I didn’t want my flesh being put in a vice.  I circled around the tank screaming out to our tour-guide, ‘Where’s the grandma?  Is that her over there or is she here?  What’s that?  Is that her?  Is she coming towards me? Etc, etc.  And the woman tour-guide thought we were hysterically funny.

Alfie riding a turtle

Alfie riding a turtle

And just when you thought the coast was clear the tour guide would yell out, ‘Get away, get away’ because the horrid grandma was somewhere.  But where?  I didn’t know where to get away to.

Arabella had an idea and that was to hold on to her and swim on the old grandma’s back so at least then she was behind her jaws and knew exactly where she was.

As silly as it sounds, as for the sharks we just couldn’t care where they were; it was that grandma that had us all terrified.

After we paid for that ordeal we went to the other end of the beach that was still in the same resort and we went snorkelling.  They have little huts scattered along the beach that provide not only shelter but also seating.  We parked ourselves under one of the thatch-roofed huts then snorkelled in the water that was a stunning shade of blue.  There was coral to be seen and lots of fish however at the time we were there, there was a strong wind and we found it actually dangerous to be snorkelling as there were two powerful rips and no lifeguards – in fact no one was around; we seemed to have the beach to ourselves.

These thatched shelters have low head-height.  Remember to duck!

These thatched shelters have low head-height. Remember to duck!

When you finish swimming for the day, there are complimentary cold water showers (but the water is practically luke-warm) where the water doesn’t go down a drain, it just flows out onto the sand.  We had a shower and then found Willie who drove us back to Port Vila.

Turquoise waters

Turquoise waters

Port Vila is a great place to do some duty free shopping.  The prices are very reasonable.  I was able to buy some amazing soft and plump vanilla beans that are a huge treat compared with the tough, skinny ones typically available in Sydney supermarkets.  We bought some skincare and some ‘must-have’ for Alfie and a few things for the liquor cabinet.

Shower block where the water drains onto the sand

Shower block where the water drains onto the sand

 

White sand, turquoise waters

White sand, turquoise waters

 

It''s a very beautiful beach

It”s a very beautiful beach

Willie drove us back to the ship and we thanked him so very much for giving us such a fantastic look at Efate Island.  As we walked towards the ship there was a group of local singers, performing their traditional songs.  Very beautiful.  This is a good place to donate all the currency you may no longer need along the rest of your voyage.

Back at the ship

Back at the ship

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Comments

  1. You were all quite brave to swim with that biting grandma. :)

  2. Charlie, how glorious to get up close to such beautiful and majestic creatures. Being bitten would be off-putting though! ;-)

  3. Great post! Happy Australia Day!

  4. Oh Charlie, heaven on earth!

  5. Wow Charlie, this looks like such a fun trip. I did see those sharks in the water behind you. Yikes. I loved the photo of the fruit market so many different kinds of bananas and plantains, the mind boggles. Thanks for sharing your journey

  6. How adventurous you are! It sounds as if you had a good time, despite the scary bits, and it’s amazing to have such a beautiful beach to yourselves.

  7. What a day! I can see why cruising is so appealing in this post when you get to stop off at places like this :)

  8. In NZ we still have a few service stations where they pump your petrol, turtles have got a mighty nip to them, the ex and I set up an outdoor enclosure with turtles, he still has them, and boy did they leave a nasty nip if they got annoyed with us lol.

  9. Beautiful photographs of beautiful places… Thank you, love, nia

  10. Those prices seem a little crazy, but then again to have gone all that way and not done it seems crazy too. Your swimming with grandma reminded me of my first (and only) time snorkelling in Cancun, Mexico. We were at Club Med where they encourage you to be very active and participate in all their outdoor activities. I had never been snorkelling before and JT convinced me to go because there were exceptionally beautiful coral reefs and unusually colourful fish, so off we went. We put on the borrowed equipment and JT lead the way. At that point the ocean drops off rather gradually and we had to walk in about 50 metres. As JT was admiring the gorgeous coral and the unusually friendly fish that came so close to your mask, it was like they were kissing you, he thought of me and how I was enjoying (reacting) to the experience, so he popped out to take a look. What he saw was me, running back to shore in such a panic, I couldn’t get out fast enough. That must have been a site, thank goodness it was just the two if us. I had never been that close to such unusual fish and it freaked me out. A lot. Once I became accustomed to the friendly fish, I did go back in and saw the most amazing fish! That was also the time I had been bitten by little mini jelly fish that had swum into my bikini top and had gotten trapped and panicked; that was a lovely rash.

  11. Sounds like a wonderful, fun Holiday, despite of the Grandma :)
    Happy Australia Day!

  12. What a fun experience! Sounds like you had an excellent trip. Thanks for including us! And Happy Australia Day!

  13. What an utterly lovely holiday this was in every way! I have never swum with the turtles, but did participate in a turtle release program once, which was exciting. Such gentle creatures, worthy of our care and protection (as are all creatures). Such fun to see your photos. Love the look of that market as wll!

  14. Wow, you have guts! It sounds so adventurous :D
    Enjoying the experiences you had!

  15. Man I would do nothing but quote Finding Nemo if I got to ride a giant turtle. ‘Saw the whole thing, dude. First you were all like “whoa”, and we were like “whoa”, and you were like “whoa…”‘

  16. I would have been a bit freaked too Charlie, ever since I fell into a school of stingy jellyfish while waterskiing I’ve been extra cautious! You certainly all look relaxed and happy :) xox

  17. I don’t think I’d like to be bitten by grandma but I wouldn’t have missed swimming with them either. What a fantastic holiday you had!

  18. I bet Alfie had a great time! I don’t think I’d get in the water with anything that bites! You’re quite brave. Looks like an absolute fun time. And Happy Australia Day to you all!

  19. I’m really loving reading about your holiday adventures. That Grandma turtle is hilarious, I can just imagine that crotchety old thing! She must be fed up with the tourists and gets a real kick out of nibbling on all of you and scaring you half to death, lol! I’d be freaked right out, I have to say! You’re the brave ones to even go in there!! xx

  20. I love the big turtles, they’re so cool with their big “fins”. That water is gorgeous!! What fun, snorkeling!! Another thing I have never done!! :) xo

  21. It’s such a beautiful place! I would have loved to see you swimming around on guard for the biter!

  22. What a fantastic experience even if you did have a bumpy ride.
    Have a wonderful week ahead Charlie.
    :-) Mandy xo

  23. Every chapter of this vacation story is seemingly more entertaining than the last. Sharks and a biting grandma turtle. What memories you’ve gathered.

  24. Isn’t that the case when vacationing, never enough time! I would have loved to browse in the market. Glad you are having such a grand vacation.

  25. What fun to be swimming with turtles! When we went to Hawaii a while back, we had that joy a couple of times while snorkeling. Great pictures!

  26. I can’t imagine being more scared of a turtle than a shark, but grandma sounds a little fearsome.

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