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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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