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A few metres offshore the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu’s north, lies one of the world’s most popular wreck dives for technical divers. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a better place to utilise your technical diving skills than the SS President Coolidge.

The wreck of the Coolidge lies in depths between 21m and 70m, is 200m long, 30m wide, 30m high and many of the wreck’s hidden gems are at depths that require technical diving. The wreck is unique among WWII wrecks in many ways, not least because it was originally a luxury steam ship carrying up to 1000 passengers before entering service as a troop carrier. The ship ran aground and sank as a result of hitting two ‘friendly’ mines on 26 October 1942, carrying over 5000 troops and 12,000 tonnes of cargo. All but two were able to evacuate the ship before it slid further down the reef into the lagoon to its current position.

DIving guide vanuatu technical

This enormous wreck is almost completely intact, allowing divers to swim through the numerous holds and decks viewing the reminders of the ship’s glorious days as a cruise liner and the remnants of her days as a troop ship. There are guns, cannons, jeeps, helmets, trucks and personal supplies left by some of the soldiers, as well as the beautiful porcelain bas relief of “The Lady,” chandeliers and a mosaic tile fountain. The wreck is covered in coral and home to a plethora of sea life including barracuda, lionfish, nudibranchs, and a large resident moray eel called Nessie.

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If you want to see the whole wreck, you’ll need between 10 and 15 dives, and technical diving allows divers more time to explore the seemingly endless corridors, hidden alcoves and cavernous cargo holds.
Other technical dive sites around Santo include Million Dollar Point where you can explore the famously dumped WWII equipment in depths of up to 50m. The pristine reefs and pinnacles surrounding Santo also offer great walls and drop-offs that reach depths of up to 300m, perfect for deep wall dives with some reef decompression.

Santo dive centres Pacific Dive and Absolute Adventures both offer technical diving tours and courses, with a range of gases for both open circuit and rebreather diving.

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Absolute Adventures, Santo

If you are looking to extend your bottom time or accelerate your decompression, the technical guides at Absolute Adventures , located a short drive from Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo, can cater for all of your requirements. The dive centre is an SDI and TDI training facility, with a technical dive instructor permanently on staff to offer technical courses for stage decompression and the use of trimix and nitrox up to 100 per cent.

The dive centre supports re-breather divers, with 2 and 3-litre steel cylinders for hire and stocks of nolime 797 with oxygen and helium available with a booster pump for accurate, high pressure fills. Private, technical guides can be organised to tailor dives to suit the specific needs of the re-breather diver.

Nitrox fills are provided via a membrane nitrox system for mixes up to 40 per cent and the centre also recently acquired an Oxygen Generator, producing medical grade oxygen for nitrox fills up to 100 per cent. For trimix certified divers they always carry helium.

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Pacific Dive at Espiritu Hotel

Pacific Dive support both open circuit and rebreather technical divers with a range of gases and equipment available for hire. Any requested mix of Helium is available, and Nitrox is offered in 5.7L, 7.9L or 11.4L cleaned tanks, with blends anywhere from 22 per cent to 100 per cent.
Rebreather equipment is also available for hire, with 3L and 2.7L tanks available for diluent and O2 cylinders. Bail out tanks can be provided in 11.4L or 5.7L filled with air to 200 Bar and are provided free of charge when hired in conjunction with other technical equipment.

For side mount divers, Pacific Dive has tanks with left- and right-hand side valves for hire as well as twin manifold tanks which come banded ready to go.
Training is available on request with any of the SSI XR Extended Range Tech programs which form a bridge between Recreational Diving and Technical Diving.

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Top tip: Being a remote island, logistics of gas delivery to Espiritu Santo can sometimes be a slow process. It is recommended that any technical dive courses or tours are booked well in advance of travel.