Vanuatu – Lelepa Island. A day of balance.

During our week in Vanuatu we left our plans very open to see what took our fancy. We spent most of the time discovering it all ourselves but decided to do one organised day trip. Lelepa Island Tours was suggested to us specifically to cater for the kid and the bump.

The tour is run by the villagers that live on the island. They picked us up from our accommodation and drove us up to the north-west corner of Efate to board the boat to take us to Lelepa Island. Just 5 of us were on the tour that day – the 3 of us and a young loved up couple that were also from Brisbane. We hopped into the 7m long banana boat on our way to Lelepa.

This guy had to be one of the coolest mo fo’s I’ve ever met. His facial expression did not change the whole day. He did not even change facial expressions when we ran out of fuel twice or when he was constantly bailing out water from the bottom of the slowly leaking boat. 😉

Fishing was one of the activities you could do while on the island – our tour compatriots caught a couple of sizable fish. The tour guides also dropped in a couple of lines with massive lures while travelling around the island, hoping to catch that night’s dinner!

On the way to Lelepa with Fiona, William and the old fella who cooked up a tasty feast on the fire of beef stew, rice, salad and fruit for lunch.

Fiona took us for a short bushwalk across the island and showed us a selection of medicinal trees and plants that the Lelepa people use to treat various ailments.

A very delicate piece of coral

The second beach we were taken to – where we had lunch, snorkelled and relaxed in hammocks and banana lounges. I was a bit apprehensive that we wouldn’t get much of a chance to really snorkel – having to look after Miss3. I was expecting my husband and I to play tag – one out on the reef, one on the shore with the kid. But they had a wonderful product called a VuBoard that saved the day! Very much like a boogie board, the child can lie on top of it and look through a large perspex viewing box down into the water. It was absolutely fantastic and at some points we were at least 50 metres out from the shore swimming around all together, us snorkelling and dragging Miss3 around on the board (with her floaties on!)

About 50 metres out snorkelling over the top of a large section of coral my husband felt his wedding band slip from his finger and he watched it drop deep into the coral bed beneath us. He yelled out in shock and dived down a number of times – but his efforts were futile. The coral was thick and there was no way it was going to be retrieved. He was so cut up – even saying that we never should have come. The day turned grey for a while after that. It was a beautiful, ornate ring and obviously meant a lot to both of us. After a few cuddles and a chat we realised that it would be a waste to be so upset in a such a beautiful spot. As much as it was horrible to lose the ring, it was affirming to realise just how much it meant to my husband.

Around the corner is a number of caves. Fiona explained to us that these caves were used by her ancestors to care for the elderly when they got sick. Specifically the old timers would live for a very long time but would have very bad bed sores, their skin would fall off them and would start to smell, so they were kept away from the other villagers. She took us deeper into the large cave and told us all to touch the ‘lucky handprint’ on the wall. I’m pretty sure this second picture was taken about the time the penny dropped that Lelepa Island literally translates to THE LEPER ISLAND!!! Yes! I’ve had the utmost pleasure to visit a freaking leper cave. (!)

Soon after we hopped in the boat and travelled to another snorkelling spot in a cove just around the corner from the first beach. It was accessable only from the boat, not the shore – and I realised very quickly there was no way I’d be able to haul this belly back over the side of the boat! But in the end we didn’t need to snorkel. The water was so crystal clear we could see the abundance of colourful reef fish all around us and the beds of coral way beneath.

Once we’d given all our lunch scraps to the fish we took a long and bumpy boat ride around to the other side of the island on seas roughed up by a storm that was approaching. To be honest this bit was probably a little too adventurous for a pregnant lady gripping onto a 3 year old… but it still was a hell of a lot of fun!

This is Rachael. 🙂

We had afternoon tea of tea, cordial, biscuits and fresh coconut with the local villagers and there was an opportunity to buy locally made items and shells etc. I spent most of the time chatting to them about their cute babies!

Miss3 hanging out with Emma. Such cute babies!

We walked through the village and had a look at the houses and buildings. Every single house was made using different techniques. This was one my favourite parts of the day – I lived in Papua New Guinea for 8 years when I was a kid and this village was like a time capsule from my childhood.

The largest building by far was the church. Surprisingly of the 450 residents on Lelepa there are 2 separate denominations there. Presbyterian and 7th day adventist.

This lovely young man is William. He is Fiona’s cousin’s son and lives on the mainland and attends a French boarding school. He speaks 4 languages. When I first met him I chirpily said “Hi! How are you?”. And, just like every 13 year old boy in the world he rolled his eyes slightly and quietly said “…fine”.  But also, like every 13 year old boy he quickly warmed up and started chatting and hung out with us the whole time, snorkelling with us, asking lots of questions and befriending our daughter. These pics were taken just after the poor guy cut his foot open on the coral. He’s a bit sad to say the least! Moral of the story – wear sturdy shoes ALL the time in Vanuatu!

On the way home in the van – this is Miss3’s first photographic attempt with the DSLR! Pretty good I thought! 😉

So… it was a weird day. An amazing beautiful gorgeous location with very cool people. I do absolutely recommend this tour if you’re in Vanuatu. But just a few weird things happened that balanced out the day. For all the wonderful memories we gathered of Lelepa, the strongest memory will always be a gold ring – the symbol of our love –  lying quietly on the bottom of the ocean.