Without much wind, we motor-sailed back west to Oyster Bay, back on Espiritu Santo Island, about 20km north of Luganville. The entrance to Oyster Bay is quite tricky. With some waypoints from “Mr. John” and Malcolm on the bow, Dina made it in, manoeuvring around shallow coral heads, without touching! During the days we were there, other boats were not as lucky.
From Oyster Bay, we dinghied up the river to the Matevulu Blue Hole. It is a nice freshwater blue hole surrounded by banyan trees and grazing cows. The local land owners have added a ladder to the large banyan tree and a rope swing.
Although the Oyster Bay Resort was closed for renovations by the new Chinese owners (Chinese have purchased quite a bit of property in Santo and own many businesses), the Turtle Bay Resort was open. With Lynn and Tom from SV Roxanne, we rented a small car from the resort and drove north to the Loru Conservation Area. While this is described as a bird sanctuary, it was really a nice trek through coconut plantation and jungle to a wonderful, bat-filled cave on the coast!
The cave has a rugged, narrow entrance and was filled with hundreds of palm-sized bats! The bats flew around acting as a natural ceiling fan with a slight whirring hum. As we crouched to pass into other chambers of the cave, the bats were also trying to enter or exit. Their radar did not always work and they either brushed up against us or bonked into the walls trying to avoid us. It was a great experience!
On the return drive to Turtle Bay Resort, we stopped at the Nanda Blue Hole. It is more touristy, but stunning! A small group, from the cruise ship that had arrived in Luganville, were just leaving and we had the place to ourselves. The proprietor gave us fresh coconuts to drink and we invited her to sit with us and share the banana bread Malcolm had made.
We left Oyster Bay thinking there would be wind for a downwind sail north to Hog Harbor. Unfortunately, the weather GRIBs were wrong again and there was no wind. As we motored past the famous Champagne Beach, we were underwhelmed. It is not a large or wide stretch of beach, or anything really out of the ordinary. We anchored off Lonnoc Beach, just around the corner. Dina paddled around the bay and over to Champagne Beach, and was unsuccessful finding the famous bubbles of air or freshwater that gave the beach its name. We did see a few turtles!
Good as Gold anchored in Lonnoc Bay
Tubby floating in the beautiful blue water of Lonnoc Bay
When we snorkeled, we discovered the “bubbles” are actually smears created by the freshwater streaming into the salt water from numerous fresh water springs on the sea floor. It was very disturbing having the visibility change from incredibly clear (some of the clearest water we have seen!) to looking through Vaseline! The next day, after quite a rain, it was even worse, with almost no visibility!
It rained quite a bit and one morning, during a torrential downpour that included thunder and lightning, we used our new rain-catchers to collect enough water to fill our water tanks!