Home to stunning, healthy reefs, fascinating wrecks and a wealth of ecologically diverse marine life, Vanuatu’s teeming waters are the perfect destination for scuba diving.
While snorkelling can offer a glimpse into the world below Vanuatu’s gentle waves, scuba diving immerses you in it. Outstanding locations for diving can be found off Santo, Efate and Tanna, with tours suitable for every level from novice through to expert. From colourful reefs alive with darting fish and gentle sea turtles to underwater caves and forgotten shipwrecks, these places are just begging to be explored. Discover life under the sea with Vanuatu’s collection of exceptional dive sites, renowned the world over amongst those in the know.
Million Dollar Point, Santo
Located off the southern end of Santo, just 6 kilometres from Luganville, is Million Dollar Point. After World War II, this was a dumping site for thousands of tonnes of US Navy equipment, said to collectively be worth a million dollars. Trucks, forklifts and bulldozers are all slowly being covered by the corals.
SS President Coolidge, Santo
The wreck of the SS President Coolidge is one of the world’s most talked-about dive sites. The Coolidge is a former US Naval vessel sunk by mines in 1942. With the hull almost completely intact, divers often spend multiple days at this site traversing the plethora of corridors, decks, guns and discarded relics that litter this 200-metre long troop carrier. Don’t miss ‘The Lady’ (a beautiful statue of a woman riding a unicorn) which can be found in the main dining room, the highlight of the dive for many visitors.
Shipwrecks are one thing, but how about the opportunity to dive a plane wreck? The Tasman offers just that. This is a deep dive, down to 40 metres, and visibility is often not the greatest, so the Tasman is best tackled by experienced divers. For those willing to take it on, the wreckage of the ill-fated Qantas S26 Sandringham Flying Boat (which hit the reef on takeoff in 1951) is mostly intact, and divers can climb through the cockpit, making this dive one for the bucket list.
Hideaway Island, Efate
Hideaway Island is a marine sanctuary in Mele Bay, just 30 minutes from Port Vila. With a certified PADI dive resort situated on the island, this is definitely a beginner-friendly dive. Calm waters provide crystal clear visibility and a great variety of brightly coloured corals are on show here surrounded by prolific marine life.
Ollies Lolly, Efate
Not far from Hideaway Island and just beyond Blacksands Reef is Ollies Lolly. This large reef is only nine metres down and houses an abundance of soft corals as well as huge red anemone with playful clownfish darting in and out of them. This dive boasts excellent clarity, and its shallow depth and vivid colours make Ollies Lolly a paradise for photographers.
Blue Hole One + Blue Hole Two, Tanna
The volcanic island of Tanna offers a dramatic underwater landscape with blue water caves, swim-throughs and reef walls. Blue Hole One consists of four connected sinkholes. Access between them and (and to the outer reef) is via swim-throughs and tunnels, providing an exhilarating dive.
If you’ve got time, Blue Hole Two is also worth a visit. At low tide, this dive site is accessible from shore with another array of interconnected tunnels as well as intricate caverns and grottos to explore. Throughout your dives in Tanna, keep your eyes peeled for turtles, moray eels, reef sharks, blue-spotted ray and even the elusive dugong.
Twin Bommies, Efate
This popular dive site about 15 minutes from downtown Port Vila consists of two large coral ‘bombora’ as well as a steep wall peppered with brightly coloured coral formations. There’s a huge variety of fish here to keep you company as you explore, including butterflyfish, lionfish, leaf scorpionfish and colourful nudibranchs.
Cindy’s Reef, Santo
A dive not to be missed, there is a huge variety of corals to be found here, from staghorn corals to large plate corals and even ‘potato head’ coral, which has only been identified in Vanuatu. A relatively simple dive that’s great for beginners, Cindy’s Reef is also home to an abundance of marine life, with a myriad of tropical fish as well as turtles and sharks.
Tutuba Point, Santo
This reef is found off the northern end of Tutuba Island, just a short boat ride from Santo. Depth starts around 6 metres and descends the wall to a maximum of 30 metres, with visibility at this site often outstanding. As well as spotting an array of crayfish, divers at Tutuba Point also have the opportunity to explore plenty of underwater caves and chasms.
MV Semle Federsen, Efate
This cargo trading vessel was sunk off the Pango Coast and now forms an artificial reef located not far from Port Vila. This is another deep dive at between 40 and 60 metres but offers spectacular visibility the whole way. If getting a spectacular view of the whole ship as you descend isn’t exciting enough, making your way through the cabins and stern of the wreck certainly will be.
The Cathedral, Efate
Located just off the Pango Peninsula, to the south of Port Vila, The Cathedral reef is a must for avid divers while in Vanuatu. This dive site offers a vast cavern filled with shafts of light, from which it gets its name, and the effects created are truly fascinating. As well as marvelling at the optical effects, divers also get the opportunity to explore a ‘chimney’, which extends up to a large pool on the surface inside the reef.
Mele Reef, Efate
Off the coast of Mele Bay sits a sizeable reef that offers divers a vast range of corals and marine life to explore. The main reef rises to around 6 metres below the surface and a dive here is ideal for beginners. The bay that surrounds Mele Reef is also home to two major wrecks, both worth exploring while in Vanuatu, the MV Konanda and the Star of Russia, with Nautilus Watersports coordinating dive trips to both. The MV Konanda was purposely sunk, creating a safe diving experience that’s ideal for those new to wreck diving. Exploring the cabins and holes and bridge areas makes for a fun dive. For the more experienced wreck divers, the 90-metre long sailing ship Star of Russia sits 30-metres down in Mele Bay. This grand vessel was crafted by the same builders as the Titanic and it is now home to schools of tropical fish.
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