Vanuatus Wreck diving paradise

By Eric Simmons

For the avid wreck diver or for anyone with the slightest interest in diving on wrecks you cant look past Vanuatu. The President Coolidge is synonymous with wreck diving in Vanuatu and overshadows the other great wrecks in the archipelago. Efate itself offers the largest selection of wrecks, scuttled vessels and even sunken planes.

In 2001, an Island Trader, Aloara and the tug boat Bonzer were sunk off Hideaway Island as dive sites. They are both at similar depths and make interesting dives for the novice wreck diver at around 25 metres. The Aloara lies on her starboard side and offers good penetration dives while the Bonzer sits upright next to a large bommie covered in colourful anemones and clown fish.

Nautilus Dive regularly run dives to the sunken island trader Konanda in 26metres, the vessel is upright with good visibility and has plentiful fishlife on it including some elusive Crocodile Fish cowering in the sand under the Derrick. The Konanda is an excellent night dive with large schools of Flashlight fish buzzing around inside the lower decks and giant Pufferfish sleeping within the superstructure.

The Star of Russia was a famous sailing ship built in 1874 that now rests upright on the bottom in 35metres of tropical water. The visibility is between 15 to 30metres, which allows you to get a great perspective of this elegant 80metre long vessel. As you descend onto this wreck, large schools of Bat Fish encircle you until you arrive at one of the collapsed masts complete with crows nest. The framing that once supported decking makes for great diving with large schools of trevally sheltering within the confines. Descending through the hull of the ship you will find a large variety of Flat worms and Nudibranchs, then exit through the bow to find the heavy anchor chain seemingly securing her to the bottom. As you roll over to look towards the surface you can see the chain leading up to an elegant shapely bow of a classic ship.

Within the harbour and only a quick trip from Nautilus is a Solent Flying Boat that was dumped from the wharf as scrap when the costs of repair became unviable. It now lies in 40metres and the visibility is rarely more than 5metres but dont let that stop you diving this site, it will probably be your only opportunity to dive on one of these aircrafts. The huge tail is the first thing that you will see as you descend and a large Painted crayfish has made his home within the tangled jumble of steering cables. The cavernous cabin area is devoid of the luxury furnishings that once graced this aircraft and the cockpit has been stripped of the controls and fittings. You can easily complete the tour on a single dive but it will leave you wanting more once you have surfaced.

The Semele is another island trader scuttled, originally she was sunk a lot shallower as an artificial reef but slid down the reef and has now settled with the stern in approximately 40metres. The visibility on the wreck is nothing short of spectacular and you can regularly see the entire ship before you leave the surface. The superstructure is now covered in delicate soft corals and the companionways have large whip corals sprouting from the deck while inside the cabins small Gorgonian fans hang from the ceiling beams. The large single screw points up the sandy reef towards Pango Reef and a resident Lion Fish patrols the area, and brightly coloured Nudibranchs live under the hull. As you head back up over the gunwales of the Semele into the cargo holds you get to see that this vessel is a lot larger than you originally thought and light streams down through the gantrys above and another colourful Lionfish awaits a meal. This is a dive that shouldnt be missed if you get the opportunity.

For the adventurous divers amongst you, you simply can not beat Sailaway Charters, Peter is one of the most informative and interesting dive operators I have ever dived with and more to the point, he was responsible for finding a complete Corsair Fighter Bomber at the top of the main island, Efate. Peter lead us directly to the wreck site in 30metres of water and the entire aircraft unveiled itself, framed by two gorgonian fans and it is hard to express what it is like to dive on a relic of World War II that is in such good condition in such a great dive site.

If you havent had enough of wrecks on Efate the other islands are just as exciting and a short flight to Espiritu Santo will see you diving on tremendous wrecks like the USS Tucker, the Henry Bounard, Million Dollar Point, the Tui Tuwate and a spy plane or a Douglas Dauntless. The adventures in Vanuatu are only limited by your imagination.

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