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The island of Efate is surrounded by very pretty fringing reef, with three main areas for diving, at Hideaway Island Resort, Tranquillity Island and in the bay of Port Vila.

There are a few wrecks to choose from, a stunning cavern called the Cathedral, and beautiful coral gardens such as Owen’s Reef on Tranquillity Island and West Side Story near Hideaway Island Resort.

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Diving Port Vila is easy, with many of the best dive sites are only minutes away, and several wrecks, bommies, drop-offs and caverns in the protected waters of the bay.

If you’ve got four nights on Efate, here is a round-up of must-do dives.

Day 1:
Hideaway Island Resort is good place to start your underwater exploration of Efate. A short drive from the airport, an afternoon flight should deliver you to the island resort in time for a late-afternoon or night dive on the house reef.

Hideaway Island House Reef

Hideaway Island House Reef extends some considerable distance shelving gradually away from the island. It has an amazing diversity of marine life including some of the bigger stuff like morays and sweetlips, and striped surgeons.

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At night, this reef comes to life with a whole different array of marine life, including banded cleaner shrimp, all sorts of crustaceans including slipper crabs and crayfish and many species of nudibranch. If you’re lucky, you might catch a feather star going for a stroll.

Day 2:

Bonzer wreck

The Bonzer Wreck is a cute little wreck about a one-minute’s boat ride from Hideaway Island Resort in Port Vila. The small freighter, purposely scuttled in an upright position in shallow water, is perfect for inexperienced wreck divers. The dive boat normally moors a little distance away so there’s a scenic reef to traverse along and steadily down before arriving at the wreck at 18m.

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Along the way, one of the largest anemone gardens you’ll ever see, teeming with reef fish and cheeky red and black anemone fish. The wreck itself is covered with colourful encrusting coral and soft corals, surrounded by schools of juvenile fish. It’s possible to enter the bridge, pose for a cheeky photo at the wheel, before peaking inside the many holes along the boat’s hull to see clouds of glass fish and cleaner shrimps.

West Side Story

This huge field of staghorn coral comes to within six metres of the surface. Long fingers covered in yellow, blue and green staghorn coral drop down to a depth of more than 30 metres. Schools of pretty little damselfish swim just above the staghorn, which also conceals lots of anemones between the branching coral.

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Despite the plentiful anemonefish here, this colorful site looks more like a scene from Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” than “Finding Nemo.” At its centre, a towering hard-coral structure resembles a fairytale castle, surrounded by forests of staghorn coral instead of thorny woods.

Day 3:
Take a trip into Port Vila for a day’s diving with Big Blue Vanuatu, located shorefront next to Nambawan Café.

The Cathedral, Port Vila

The Cathedral is a striking tall narrow cavern, about a 20-minute boat ride from Port Vila. The entrance to the cavern is tall and wide, about 22m deep at the sandy bottom, and it gets narrower as you approach the ‘pulpit’ at the apex. Beyond the pulpit is a narrow chimney that leads to the surface, where you can pop up, wave to the boat before swimming back down and out of the Cathedral to check out the coral on the reef wall outside.

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Semele Federesen

This inter-island cargo vessel was deliberately sunk in 1985 in approximately 30 metres of water. Two years later Cyclone Uma shifted her position down to her present position, laying in sand between 38 and 55 metres, with the top of the wreck at 30 metres. The visibility on this dive is often spectacular sometimes reaching 40 to 50 metres.

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As you descend, you’ll likely be able to see the entire vessel from the surface, and as you get up close, discover that it’s covered in vivid soft corals and giant gorgonian fans.

Day 4:
Grab a taxi over to the other side of the island for a day’s diving at Tranquillity Island Resort and visit the turtle sanctuary during your surface interval.

Owen's Reef, Tranquillity Island

Fields of staghorn coral, towering pinnacles, enormous brain corals and colourful soft corals and fans. This stunning spot is such a standout that a visiting marine biologist once remarked that he’d never before seen a dive site with greater coral diversity. It’s so remarkable, in fact, that you’ll want more than one dive to truly appreciate it.

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The coral landscape changes with each corner you turn. You’ll see all sorts of hard corals including some enormous porites, brain, staghorn and table corals. Sheltering under the overhangs and inside tunnels you’ll find colourful soft corals. Where the coral meets a sandy sea floor at about 25 metres, large sea fans and whips sway in the current. Patient groupers and sweetlips wait their turn at the various cleaning stations around the reef.


Turtle Reef, Tranquillity Island

Google “best place to see turtles in Vanuatu” and you’ll find Tranquillity Island Eco Resort. While you are likely to see turtles on the house reef (Turtle Reef), you’ll also see them at the resort’s Turtle Sanctuary, a largely educational institution that is funded and operated by resort staff, with help from guest donations.

The turtles are kept here until they reach a size that will assure them a better chance of survival, and guests and day trippers can release turtles for a small donation.

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