Just an hour’s flight from Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila, lies the island of Espiritu Santo.
Santo’s majestic beauty is little changed since its discovery three centuries ago. Right up until WWII, the entire population lived in small villages with little access to the outside world. When the US entered the war, it established a military base here and changed the course of history for this sleepy Pacific paradise.
During the war, the US set up a military harbor in the waters between the islands of Santo and Aore and developed the town of Luganville seemingly overnight. At times, there were over 100 ships anchored in the harbor. Up to 47,000 men were stationed permanently on Santo and over half a million passed through including military from New Zealand and Australia.
For travelers, the beauty of Santo is unmatched.
Despite the activity, Santo remained a beautiful and peaceful place, memorialized by James Michener in his Tales of the South Pacific.
After the war, Luganville became a small, quiet town. Today, the population is less than 10,000 people but remnants of the war can be seen everywhere. Amidst the thick jungle, there are crashed B-17 bombers and many of the buildings in town are old Quonset huts.
For travelers, the beauty of Santo is unmatched. Stunning jewel-like islands lay just a few hundred metres from coconut fringed beaches lined with powdery white sand. Amazing spring-fed swimming holes are connected by underground caverns and majestic mountains stretch from one end of the island to the other. Awesome ravines shrouded in magnificent tropical rainforest are home to jungle birds and beautiful orchids. And in the northern part of the island is Vathe conservation area, Vanuatu’s first National Park, the country’s first step towards preserving the beauty of this island for generations to come.
During your visit to Santo, you can rent a truck to explore the island or you can take a tour with one of the local tour operators. The tours are perfect activities for non-diving partners as well as a great way to enjoy a non-diving day. The staff of Aquamarine will happily assist you to book any of these tours in advance or when you arrive on the island.