In a foreign land, we chose a slightly less conventional option for Xmas day itself. We’d arranged a day tour, which would see us travel by boat to Lelepa Island (this was also the sight where CBS 9th series in the “Survivor” franchise was filmed back in 2004), enjoy a barbecue lunch and some reef snorkeling.
On a gorgeous morning, we stood waiting a coral strewn beach. When our local guides stepped up and the tour proper began, we received our first surprise.
Rather than immediately board the 2 waiting boats, we were lead a few metres up the beach into an area overgrown. It had obviously at some point been a structure and it turned out that it had in fact been the tribal council area for the Survivor series.
When directed to clamber aboard the boats, I made sure that I steered Sarah & her mum Julie towards the one which was covered and therefore would provide us with some protection from the hot sun.
This option seemed even more prudent, as halfway through our journey our boat began to suddenly swing about. All on board soon realised that bobbing in the water behind us was a hat…. and not just any hat. Jules hat!
After a few laughs, as she hadn’t even realised she’d lost the headwear, it was fished from the ocean and before longed we were clambering overboard on an island beach.
A brief stroll across the island allowed our guide to tell us a bit more about their local lives, before we emerged on another beach, this one the scene of many “Survivor: Vanuatu” immunity challenges were contested.
As our hosts began to prepare our barbecue lunch, we all took to the water with provided snorkels, masks and flippers to take in the beautiful coral reef and the fish that inhabit it.
I should confess at this time, that about a month before our departure date, I’d floated the idea of us purchasing a disposable underwater camera for this trip, given the likelihood of us finding a place like this.
Time passed, and it wasn’t until around a week prior to departure I decided to make the purchase online (we’d already discovered a cheap digital version was much more economical than a disposable one).
This lackadaisical would come to bite me however, as despite assurances it would arrive by the Wednesday, by Saturday morning we boarded our flight without it.
Nevertheless the swim was beautiful, and by the time we made it back to shore for lunch, we’d seen many beautifully coloured fish and coral outcrops (including many Clownfish AKA Nemo).
If we could have dismissed the flies, our Xmas lunch would have been sensational (I had to remember that it was in fact Xmas). That said, after swimming around for the previous half hour or so, we’d certainly all worked up appetites!
Another quick dip and we returned to the jungle clad hills behind the beach to investigate some old caves.
It was alleged by our guides, that this place in fact used to be where the islanders would house their old people when they began to get “soft and smelly”. Essentially, it was once a retirement village, Lelepa Island style.
Around twenty minutes later (as from the caves it was back to the beach to board our boats which had been brought around the island) we were near the shore, but in deeper water when our vessels were tied off against some buoys secured to the reef beneath.
It was time to swim again, so with flippers and masks, in we went again. Our hosts threw the remnants of lunch overboard, and within seconds two boat loads of tourists were surrounded by tropical fish of all sizes and colours.
It truly was amazing and yet another moment when I was left regretting my too late decision to purchase that waterproof camera!
Our final part of the days trip took us to their island village where we were able to enjoy some fresh coconut and other refreshments.
It was a gorgeous little spot, but it really was apparent how vulnerable they were on this outcrop. They rely on the sea for their sustenance and clearly visible were the ruins of homes destroyed by cyclones in years past.
As the suns shadows lengthened our boat took as back to the main island of Efate where our bus was supposed to be waiting for us (it was late).
The fact that it was running on island time was of no real concern. We had nowhere to be in a hurry.
Local children swam and played happily in the nearby water, whilst older men played a leisurely game of bocce on the sand.
We did eventually get collected, and back at our bungalow on the lagoon took in another beautiful sunset to complete our Xmas day.