Vanuatu is a group of 83 beautiful tropical islands in the South West Pacific, North East of New Caledonia and North West of Fiji, about a two hours flight from the Australian continent. The warm, clear waters of this untouched paradise are host to a variety of world famous wrecks and beautiful coral reefs teeming with marine life.
The Ni-Vanuatu, as the indigenous people are known, are a gentle race, who enjoy life’s simpler pleasures in a peaceful country that is filled with unique and diverse customs and culture.
The islands cover a total combined landmass of around 13,000 sq. km. The islands are very different in topography and range from towering volcanic cones to others covered in dense rainforest. Some are raised coral islands with wide beaches and deep natural harbors. It has been a vacation spot for Australians and New Zealanders for decades and is now slowly gaining popularity in the rest of the world.
Efate is the main island of the Vanuatu group. It is where the capital Port Vila and international airport are located and also where the majority of commerce and tourism takes place. It is a pretty, clean and best of all safe town with a beautiful oceanfront. Port Vila is inhabited by a variety of diverse communities, hence the large selection of wonderful restaurants offering a variety of international cuisine.
Cook was the first European to visit the island, naming it Sandwich Island after Lord Sandwich, the patron of his voyage. But fortunately the indigenous name prevailed. European settlement began with the whalers, sandalwood traders and missionaries and has kept its international flavor ever since. Until it gained independence it was governed by the French and English.
Best Diving Destinations in Hideaway Island
The dive sites at surrounding Hideaway Island are all full of life ranging from sponges and hard corals, to anemones, gorgonian fans, and a host of fish. The sites themselves offer a range of styles – from right off the shore for great snorkeling or night diving, to steep walls dropping off to 97 meters, and caves formed by lava flows. After more than 12 years living in a marine sanctuary, the fine array of finned creatures that inhabit the sites have no fear of either divers or snorkelers.
Most dive sites are less than 15 minutes away by boat and the island also boasts the only underwater post office in the world!
The resorts’ divemasters are a friendly bunch and have been working at the resort for many years. In their experienced hands and comfortable boats you can enjoy a wonderful day of diving while still being able to come back to the resort for a delicious lunch at noon.
One of the newest additions to their dive sites is the wreck of the MV Aloara, sunk on 9 November 2001 close to Hideaway. Access to the renowned dive sites at Paul’s Rock and Hat Island is also possible though an affiliated dive operator in Havana Harbor.
In Beautiful pristine clear water (30m+ vis) it is a spectacularly colorful reef featuring an abundance of large intact table corals, clams, sponges, clusters of multi colored Stag and Elkhorn corals and a variety of bright encrusting corals. Another exciting feature is the numerous swim throughs with white sandy bottoms and sunlight streaming through the cracks in the reef above. Truly a photographer’s dream. Max depth: 20m.
There is a selection of very interesting marine life scattered among an area of sand and silt, like a small Oasis in a desert. A great photography dive. Everything from shrimps to octopus, crocodile fish to lionfish and the unusual leaf fish to a large moray eel. Includes bommies right in front of the jetty. Max depth: 24m.
THE WALL (Hideaway 1)
A vertical wall that drops off to around 90m. Features lots of fans at different depths and an unusual coral formation. Pelagics are occasionally spotted here. The top of the reef is home to a multitude of friendly fish, all waiting for that great photo shot. This dive profile can be as a deep dive over the wall or a relaxing 18m and less dive on the top side of the wall and reef.
Max depth (Hideaway1): 18m. Max depth (The Wall): 30m.
The resting place of the coastal Trader Kathleen, which sat on top of the reef until Cyclone Uma rolled her over the edge of the reef in 1987. Some traces of the wreck can still be seen today however the wreck herself lies well beyond the limits of recreational diving. This reef at 12 meters. A line will lead you down to a large gorgonian fan at 40 meters and from there a slow ascent up the side of the reef will reveal a multitude of marine life including scorpion leaf fish, butterfly cod. nudibranchs, tube worms and stonefish. Sharks, schools of batfish and Moorish idols are also to be seen at times on this dive. The dive profile can be as a deep dive for experienced divers. Less experienced divers can elect to stay above 18m. The dive has some current. Max Depth: 40m.
ABYSS (Mele I)
Drop down from the dive boat into 6 meters of coral and reef fish, then swim past the mooring and you are on the edge of the Abyss. A vertical drop down to 60m plus. Usually minimum 20m visibility. A deep dive to the gorgonian fans at 40m or a leisurely dive at 25 m around the wall. An occasional shark or moray eel may be seen. The top of this reef is excellent with many gutters running at all angles, teeming with coral reef fish. Max Depth: 25m.
An old ship’s anchor embedded in the reef gives this dive site its name. The top of the reef comes to within 6m of the surface. Numerous plate and stag horn coral as well as schools of multi colored reef fish can be seen as you descend down the mooring line. Visit the old anchor at 14m then cruise slowly at 20m around the reef and see triggerfish and many anemones with their resident clown fish. A feature of this dive is the white tip shark nursery. Usually 2 – 4 baby white tip sharks can be seen under a large plate coral. Max Depth: 20m.
Hideaway Island Resort is situated on its own island, in a lagoon not far from the “mainland” of Efate and Port Vila. The resort is very easy to get to as it is just a 15 minutes car ride from the airport followed by a very short ferry ride. This diver’s paradise has a reputation for being a great destination for divers and snorkelers alike and caters to a variety of budgets. You can wake up to the sound of waves gently lapping against the shore in your very own beautiful bungalow and be in the water at your first of many excellent dive site in less than 15 minutes.
Accommodation on Hideaway Island has been built in a traditional Melanesian way, scattered amongst the jungle and tropical plants that cover the island. There are currently seven free standing one bedroom bungalows on Hideaway and two others of a similar standard that share a wall with another building. If you are looking to splurge as for the newly available two bedroom villa. Originally built by one of the owners as their private residence, you can enjoy luxurious island living in this beautiful villa which takes full advantage of the oceanfront location. The resort has even thought of budget travelers who can stay in the dormitory style building on the property.
Most accommodations include a fridge and coffee/tea making facilities, comfortable couches and table and chairs in the living area. All the finishings in these bungalows are made of local hardwoods, and most have Hideaway’s signature giant clam shell sinks in the bathrooms. None of these shells have been taken directly from the sea, but have instead been recovered from their ancient burial spots after being used in traditional Melanesian ceremonies. With the blessing of their owners, they are now used as beautiful, as well as functional, hand basins.
The food served up in the recently renovated “On the Beach” bar and restaurant is just one thing that keeps the Hideaway guests coming back here year after year. You can sit with your toes in the sand overlooking beautiful coral reefs and crystal clear tropical waters while enjoying first rate food served up by a chef who’s worked around the world, but now calls Vanuatu home. A real local character, Bruce is as likely to share his humor with you as he is his food. Either is a real treat, and if you can get both, you’re bound to have a great night.
Not only is the food served up a treat to look at and eat, it’s not likely to break the bank either. The food at Hideaway is of great quality and value. The staff scours the markets and local suppliers every day, so that only the freshest of ingredients are ever included in the food. It also makes for great variety, with the blackboard menu changing daily depending on the produce available. Whether you’re after a simple burger, a slice of cake or pie, or wonderfully fresh seafood, chances are there’ll be something here to tempt your palate. And if you have any special dietary requirements or desires, just let them know and the chef will be sure to accommodate you.