Efate is the main island of Vanuatu, a gorgeous country consisted of 82 islands in the South Pacific afar from mass tourism’s radar. The island’s main city, Port Vila, is also the nation’s capital and a busy port where large fancy cruises anchor for the day when cruising the Coral Sea and South Pacific waters. Fortunately for me, I spend a little more than a few hours on land and had the opportunity to discover the island. Completely covered by dense tropical forests and surrounded by shining aquamarine water, Efate offers many pretty spots to explore. Here are some things you should not miss here.
DRIVE AROUND EFATE ISLAND
Driving around Efate was one of the best ways to explore the island because we got to see what life outside the “big city” is like. As you drive out of Port Vila, the tall palm tree plantations start taking over the landscape and, not so slowly, the tropical forest thickens around you. All while hearing the waves crush on the coral barrier in the distance. It is likely you’ll be the only one on the road for miles (unless it is cruise day or a busy weekend), so get ready to see the real island life and not the fancy resort or capital lifestyle.
Allow for the entire day for this activity because you will want to stop for several swims and just take in the raw beauty. Some of these stops are the Blue Lagoon, Eton Beach and Evergreen Cascades Waterfall (more details below). The raw beaches before and after Blue Lagoon are so stunning! Worth a stop and dip in the turquoise water.
There is only one main road circling the entire island and the only traffic you are likely to get is entering or exiting the city. We rented a car to drive ourselves for the day but if you prefer someone take you around, there are a few daily tours covering a similar itinerary. The road is mostly well maintained and it is pretty difficult to get lost! We drove around the island anti-clockwise because we wanted to enjoy the beach and the Blue Lagoon in the morning.
SWIMMING IN BLUE LAGOON
The Blue Lagoon is a private property that for a very affordable entry fee, you can swim in the pristine waters of an enclosed blue lagoon. There are a couple of ropes hanging from trees so you can graciously swing into the water.
We were there for a couple of hours playing, swimming and chilling. We practically had the place for ourselves as we visited when there was no cruise in town. I recommend you bringing your own towels, food and drinks.
COOL DOWN IN EVERGREEN CASCADES WATERFALL
This was our last stop on the day trip around the island and a good way to cool down after a long afternoon drive without air conditioning. Because it is a private property, you need to pay an affordable fee to bathe in the cascades and walk to the large waterfall. It is worth to walk to the main waterfall and climb it to the top. If you stay at its bottom to just contemplate it, you will miss out on experiencing the waterfall’s strength. Although the climb to the fall is easy and short, it is rather slippery, so I recommend asking for help to one of the local workers if you doubt your fitness.
As for the Blue Lagoon, bring your own towel. And if you are planning on staying there for a while, bring your drinks or snacks too. There were many children enjoying the lower cascades, so I guess it is a popular spot for families.
SAILING THE BEAUTIFUL CORAL SEA
Spending some time exploring the beautiful Coral Sea should definitely be on your list of things to do in Vanuatu. Whether you go scuba diving, snorkelling or on a day boat trip, the water surrounding Efate is teeming with marine life. There are plenty of dive sites, coral reefs for snorkelling and wild virgin coastline to relax.
We decided to go for a day boat trip around Lelepa and Moso Islands on the Northwestern coast. We usually prefer to do everything ourselves but neither one of us has a sailing license (yet!), so we booked the tour with a small tour operator at our hotel front desk. It was perfect! The tour guide and sailing crew were very friendly and helpful and, we were only under 15 people.
We started visiting the Turtle Sanctuary at Tranquility Island Eco Resort and Dive Base on Moso Island. It was interesting to learn about the Hawksbill turtle conservation program and see hundreds of tiny turtles at different life stages. We even witnessed the release of one healthy turtle into the sea (a very emotional experience!).
The second stop was at a nice coral reef location for some snorkelling time. There was so much sea life, with hundreds of small colourful fish feeding and swimming in the reef. The water visibility and clarity were great but half way through our snorkel time, it got quite darker underwater as it began raining. We continued swimming hoping to see the manta rays that often appear in this reef but we were not lucky that day.
The third and last stop were at a deserted wild soft sand beach at Moso Island. There was nothing there but dense tropical vegetation, seashells on the white sand and the Coral Sea before our eyes. Despite the heavy rain, it was so tranquil and beautiful! The tour guide set up camp and prepared a delicious simple Vanuatuan food. To our fortune, the heavy rain evolved into a light shower and then, sunny open skies. The sea water was sparkling again and had more opportunities to snorkel after lunch. This day was my definition of a perfect day in a tropical paradise! Away from mass tourism and surrounded by unpolluted natural beauty.
Among the other places that islanders recommended us for calm beaches and snorkeling are Hideaway Island and Pele Island. We did not have a chance to visit them but maybe next time. I wish you a great stay in Efate Island!!