I’m about to join a tour run by local man, Albert Solomon, a resident of Lelepa Village, which is the only village on Lelepa Island.
I soon discover we’re in island time. Our tour guide is running a little late. Back home I’d be annoyed at this tardiness but here in happy Vanuatu, running late seems to be part of life.
Lelepa Island is located in Havannah Harbour, which is a 40-minute drive away from Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila.
The harbour – which is on the north-western coast of Efate – was named after the HMS Havannah, a British ship that was sent there in 1849 to control fighting between the local people and Tongan sailors who came to Efate aboard an American trading ship. During World War II, the sheltered harbour was a US naval base and over 200,000 US marines were based here.
Spotting Cate Blanchett
These days, Havannah Harbour is a quiet place to escape for sun and sand. Don’t be surprised to spot a celebrity or two. Cate Blanchett owns a waterfront property here and Leonardo DiCaprio has been spotted cruising around the bay on a private yacht.
Finally, we’re off.
We pile into two boats and motor off to a landing spot on the island, where Solomon takes us on a guided nature walk through the rainforest. He shows us different types of plants used by the locals to survive. We learn about the various uses of plants in traditional medicine.
The walk ends at a pristine white-sand beach, where the sparkling blue water is alluring.
We snorkel, swim, laze in the sun and paddle around in traditional dugout canoes while Solomon and his helpers prepare lunch. Lunch is a hearty spread of chicken, beef, salads and sweet tropical fruit, served in an open-air island-style shelter.
Afterwards, a short hike around the shore brings us to a wreck of a WWII American Corsair fighter, which has been reduced to a pile of scrap metal. The pilot ran out of fuel and crashed at the crest of the hill.
Caves and ghosts
Then we climb back into the boats and cruise to another part of the island, where we explore a large dark cave. It smells musty as we follow the lantern-lit path.
Solomon shines his torch on bats hanging from the ceiling and wall drawings, which according to local folklore, were etched by spirits that haunt the cave.
A few beaches and bays away, we anchor in a sheltered bay where our snorkelling spot is near a steep cliff and a rocky shoreline.
I pull on my snorkel, mask and flippers and slide off the side of the boat.
As soon as I put my face into the water, I’m delighted by the technicoloured kaleidoscope of fish and coral. Schools of yellow Angel fish and small brilliant blue fish flit past. It’s an enchanting underwater world that has me totally captivated.
Our last stop on the is the village, where we’re served tea and biscuits. As the village children crowd around us smiling and laughing, it’s difficult to imagine that cannibalism was practiced on this island as recent as the 1940s.
Video of Lelepa Island tour
Watch a video of our Lelepa Island tour here:
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of Vanuatu Tourism
Air Vanuatu flies from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Port Vila, tel: 1300 780 737.
You can upgrade to Business Class for as little as $100.
Trees and Fishes Private Retreat, tel: +678 775 3058, is a private boutique resort that is perfect for anglers.
The Havannah Resort, tel: +678 35 600, is luxurious and romantic.
The Terraces, tel: +678 24923, are apartments with contemporary furnishings close to the action.
Eratap Beach Resort, tel: +678 5545007, is where you’d go to chill out and relax.
Vale Vale Beachfront Villas, tel: +678 7779350, are apartment-style villas right on the beach.
La Tentation Restaurant for fresh seafood and harbour views, +678 29661,
What To Do
Lelepa Island Day Tours, tel: +678 23144, is a great way to learn about nature and history.
Find out more about how to have a fabulous Solomon Islands holiday in the South Pacific.