By Julie Miller
I’m staring deep into a blue hole on the Vanuatu island of Espiritu Santo, looking for mermaids. Silver fish flit through the dappled sunlit depths; the sandy bottom, perhaps two metres down, looks close enough to touch. Further out, the colour intensifies, aquamarine to cerulean to colbalt, or perhaps a shade yet to be defined. And cocooning it all is dense jungle, tree ferns, tangling vines, ancient banyan trees, wild and untouched. It’s all so beautiful, I’m swooning – this, perhaps, is as close to heaven as possible on this earthly realm.
Santo’s Blue Holes are a spectacular natural phenomenon, created when water flows from the island’s rugged western highlands to the east coast, corroding soft limestone to create underground streams, resurfacing via freshwater springs to create deep circular ponds. Filtered through limestone, the water collecting in these pools is incredibly pure; the deeper the water, the bluer it appears.
There are a handful of these exquisite blue holes open to the public on Santo’s east coast, each offering different facilities and experiences. Don’t forget your goggles so you can look for mermaids!
Nanda Blue Hole:
Also known as Jackie’s Blue Hole, this is arguably the bluest and most beautiful on the island, and subsequently one of the most popular. A handy money-spinner for its tribal owners, the entry fee of 1000 VUV per person (around $12 AUD) has been reinvested into the complex, with a boardwalk, café featuring local produce, bar and an added bonus of a free coconut on entrance. There’s also a rope swing for a quick entry into the icy abyss!
East Coast Road, Natawa, 27 km from Luganville, www.nandabluehole.com
RiRi Blue Hole:
Access to this tranquil pool is either by road (look for the two upright blue canoes) or via a 15-minute traditional dugout canoe trip along a mangrove-lined stream, which sets off from the bridge at the RiRi River. No paddling involved, the custom owner Billy does all the hard work while you just sit back and enjoy the serenity. Once at the blue hole, there is a jetty with a thatched shelter, a rope swing and a bar (which only opens sporadically). Cost is $1000 VUV (around $12 AUD), which includes the canoe ride.
East Coast Rd, 15 minutes from Luganville.
Matevulu Blue Hole:
Escape the crowds at this large, pretty blue hole, a short drive off the main road with basic facilities including a jetty, shelter and toilets. There are also two rope swings for the brave, including one suspended from a magnificent banyan tree, reached via a rickety ladder. There are also kayaks and paddleboards available for rent. Entry fee is 500 VUV (around $6 AUD).
East Coast Rd, 20 minutes from Luganville.