Dan Owen on his trip to Vanuatu in the South Pacific.

June 2002

A rather belated report back on our trip to Vanuatu in June. After 6 months of planning and SBV cash heists, myself, Ryan v/d Merwe, Brian Gale and Mark Keyser set off on our trip to Vanuatu.

Vanuatu in the South Pacific and a good spearing dayWe arrived at Port Vila and were met by the owner of the charter and avid spearo himself; Steve Conroy. The boat, Jackpot, was 20m long and extremely luxurious. There were 2 crew members as well as Steve. Unfortunately we arrived in the middle of a 6 week gale (Totally unheard of for this time of year of course). We were therefore very restricted to the areas we could dive as we had to work continually in the lee of the many little islands. Fortunately the drop-offs are very close to land so we were able to hunt over areas that dropped from 15m to about 30m even though we were only about 30 metres from shore. If we could have got about 100m offshore the bottom dropped to about 60m and a further 50 or so metres further would put you in about 250m! We had the use of 2 tinnies but these became very unstable if you tried to go out of the lee. Although we didn't get the fish we had set our sights on (surprise surprise) we did manage a few decent fish. Kaakap, Wahoo,iggies, v.big great barracuda and doggies were the main fish we were shooting. Other species were shot for burley but bottom fish are strictly prohibited. We found the doggies (our main target) very skittish, and reasonably deep (uncharacteristic??) All the doggies that we shot were in about 18m and deeper. We also found them almost totally unresponsive to burley (huge amounts) and they only gave the flashers a cursory look before angling deeper. Very frustrating ,when before your fins are under the water, doggie is in 20m plus and bellegering deeper. As far as trophy fish seen go, both myself and Ryan saw a shoal of very big doggies, possibly in the 80-90kg range. Our bakkie boy also claimed that he saw a huge marlin swimming near us. Our scepticism soon turned to belief, as when were were returning to Jackpot, a large marlin jumped out the water about 100m away! On another occasion, when the wind prevented us from going out, we saw another big marlin jump near the boat.Sharks were not a problem and besides one rather unnerving incident while I was trying to burley an 8kg slab of Barracuda they really behaved themselves. There has got to be some connection between this and the doggie behaviour we had!!

We found Vanuatu very tranquil and unspoilt.Visibility, even after being churned up by the continual 35 knot winds was still around 30m at most places. Our hosts couldn't have done more to make our trip more comfortable. Very professional yet very friendly at the same time. The food was actually unbelievable. 3 Huge cooked meals a day. Cooldrinks whenever you requested as well as anything else you might need. After about 3 days we had to ask Steve to cut the sizes of the meals as they were too much. This says a lot because all four of us are pigs!!!! Besides the unpredictability of the wind the only down side of the trip is the price. You have to get to Brisbane and then they fly you to Vanuatu (about 3.5 hours) at a discount fare of 500 A$. Then it is about 300A$ per day on the boat.Obviously because of our terminally ill Rand this becomes VERY expensive.

So there you have it. An unspoilt paradise with a very high price tag.(This is why they invented revolving credit on your home loan!)

Cheers
Dan