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The main draw card in Espiritu is the behemoth that is the S.S. President Coolidge. It’s worth spending at least two days exploring this enormous wreck.

At just over 200 metres long, the SS President Coolidge is one of the largest wrecks in the world. In fact some divers go to Espiritu Santo or even Vanuatu just to dive the Coolidge, and spend the best part of the week doing so: starting with an orientation dive, working their way down to the engine room and the stern, the wreck’s deepest point at 70 metres.

Day 1

SS President Coolidge Orientation Dive

Before you enter the water, your dive guide will provide a long and detailed dive briefing, sharing the history of this world-famous wreck, how it came to be here as well as the ship’s layout.

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The orientation dive starts with a swim above the starboard hull which is half covered in coral. Look closely and you will notice the portholes along it. Then you go a bit deeper, likely meeting Nessie along the way, an enormous moray eel that calls this part of the ship home. Your dive will then take you past a row of toilets and a pile of neatly stacked munitions before you ascend and pass over the hull to the safety stop among a colourful anemone garden.

SS President Coolidge – Cargo Hold No. 1 and 2

This dive usually starts in the larger of the two forward cargo holds where you will come across a long Tom cannon, 155mm howitzer and various WWII artifacts. At 30 metres, you’ll see a number of jeeps in the dark alcoves, still in great condition considering their age and in one of the alcoves, a barber’s chair.

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Cargo Hold No. 2 also makes for a rather incredible night dive, as you swim to the rear of the hold, turn off your lights and watch the spectacular show put on by the flashlight fish.

Day 2

SS President Coolidge – The Lady

The Lady is a porcelain bas relief, the iconic jewel of the SS President Coolidge. It used to grace the wooden walls of the first-class smoking room on the promenade deck, but when the promenade deck collapsed several years ago, a rescue mission was organised by local divers to restore it and re-install it in the first-class dining room.

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Make your way along the starboard side, drop down through the mid ship sea door, through the lobby and into the first-class dining saloon. Swim to the other end of the room taking in the ambient light from the double portholes to The Lady and give her a kiss for good luck.
As you ascend, stop for a play with some of the WWII artifacts laid on the hull, which include coral-encrusted rifles, gas masks and Coca Cola bottles.

Million Dollar Point

At the end of World War II, the U.S. forces had a dilemma. They had shipped millions of dollars’ worth of equipment here over the course of the Pacific War with no easy way to get it back home again. Nobody wanted to (or had the money to) buy it and they didn’t want to just give it away. So, they scuttled it. Jeeps, tractors, cranes and various other large pieces of infrastructure now litter the steep slope from the shoreline into the lagoon.

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Schools of juvenile fish have found a home here and the nooks and crannies are a macro-lover’s dream with colourful nudibranchs and feather stars. But the spoils of war truly make this dive site intriguing.

Day 3

Tutuba Point

This beautiful reef is on the eastern point of Tutuba Island located at the entrance to the Segond Canal. Varying in depth from five to 25 metres, with visibility between 20 and 40 metres. On the reef top, fields of magnificent plate corals, before you descend to explore the winding gullies, swim-throughs and caverns, decorated with an endless variety of soft and hard corals. Off into the blue you’ll see schools of barracuda going about their business and occasionally, eagle rays and reef sharks.

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Fan garden, Aore Island

A few metres off the beach on Aore Island, this drift dive has to be seen to believed. You’ll feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland as you drift with the current through a forest of seriously enormous sea fans. Sometimes called ‘Aore Wall’, in the shallows you’ll find nudibranchs, anemones, a variety of WWII artefacts and if you’re lucky you might also find a colourful mantis shrimp. It’s a great site for photographers looking to practice their macro skills or for those wanting to let the current do the work.

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Day 4

USS Tucker

The USS Tucker, another WWII casualty, hit a (friendly) mine that split the ship in two. The wreck is a 30-minute boat ride from Luganville jetty at about 25 metres deep. It sits on a white, sandy bottom in clear water, close to the mouth of the channel between Aore Island and the main island of Espiritu Santo.
Schools of snapper and jacks circle the exterior, and under the wreckage you’ll find huge gatherings of tiny glassfish in the smaller cavities. Batfish, angelfish and coral trout populate the larger overhangs. Purple soft corals cling to parts of the engine, winches and superstructure, while sea fans brighten up the darker parts of the deck and hull.

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Mal Mal Reefs

This pristine reef system surrounds an uninhabited tropical island not far from the wreck of the USS Tucker. It is known for schools of big eye trevally, giant trevally, dog tooth tuna and barracuda. In the shallows, meander around huge coral bommies and small caverns filled with lobsters and macro life or head a little deeper to the edges of the reef where the wall starts from around 25 metres. In the blue, you likely see various species of reef sharks, rays and the odd turtle.