Diving Espiritu Santo is synonymous with diving the SS President Coolidge, but it’s not the only dive in town – there’s the infamous Million Dollar Beach and the USS Tucker. For those seeking coral reefs, there’s the pretty fringing reefs at the Mal Mals, gullies and swim-throughs at Tutuba Island, with good chances of seeing resident turtles, barracudas and other passing pelagics, plus Cindy’s Reef, off Aore Island, which provides easy reef diving with good visibility.
There are plenty of other activities and places to see on Santo, and they are all accessible within a day trip from the capital Luganville. Whether you want to go kayaking, clamber through caves, ride a horse through mangroves or plunge into Blue Holes, you’ll be surprised how much this is on offer.
Espiritu Santo is roughly on the same latitude as Cooktown, in far north Queensland and Fiji, and the same longitude as Norfolk Island. It is the north-most of Vanuatu’s large islands, and about 3 hours flying time from Brisbane.
Air Vanuatu has direct flights to Santo from Brisbane. But not every day. However, the flights between Port Vila and Santo are twice daily and connect well with international flights.
The main dive centre on Santo is Pacific Dive, located on the grounds of the Espiritu Hotel in Luganville, however they pick up from a number of nearby hotels and resorts, also providing dive services to the resorts on Aore Island.
It would be a rare diver who came to Santo and didn’t dive the Coolidge, as the Coolidge is a very rare dive. But the Coolidge is a very particular dive: it is big and deep. Imagine starting from the gangway and wandering around a massive luxury cruise liner (because that’s what it was) – how long would it take you to explore it? Now imagine you can only explore it for 30 to 40 mins at a time before you have to be back at the gangway: how many times would you need to go? So don’t plan a dive on the Coolidge – plan many, and plan them with someone with years of experience.