We recently visited Santo, Vanuatu, with our main focus being the diving opportunities there. As an ex-PADI Instructor plus a Dive Medic I can be a very fussy customer, so wanted to have a look at each operation and meet the people prior to making any commitments. The first day we arrived we went to each of the three main dive shops (all located in the small town of Luganville – basically one straight road of shops) and quickly decided to dive with Santo Island Divers.
Mal Davies, the ex-pat who runs the business, is very experienced and knows all the dive sites (not just the Coolidge, but also other wrecks including a WW2 bomber, plus multiple reef dives) like the back of his hand. He goes out of his way to work around your schedule, so you can dive where/when you want as opposed to trying to fit your dives into a dive shop’s pre-arranged schedule. One of things I most appreciated was that he keeps the groups small and personal and of similar skill levels: it was just my partner and I with our guide, and at most one other person.
Mal has chosen to do the right thing for the Vanuatu community by including and training local people, and as such has a small team of extremely capable dive guides – some of the most comfortable divers I’ve had the pleasure of being underwater with. These guides speak English fluently, are very relaxed and will not stress you out by trying to hurry you; they plan the entire dive around what you want. They do everything they can to help you – I think it’s probably the first time ever I’ve had all my equipment set up for me, tanks changed for me between dives, and my own equipment even washed for me after the dives!
For me as a Dive Medic, safety is the ultimate necessity. Diving The Coolidge can be quite advanced depending on your skill level, with options for deep dives, deco dives, and penetration of the wreck. The dive guides will take you on an easier dive initially to ascertain your competence (let’s face it – you can have an Advanced License with only ever having done 9 dives and be a novice, or just have an Open Water License but be hugely experienced), then plan the following dives on what is safe for you. Most importantly, they have been diving in the area for years and years, and therefore are perhaps the most experienced guides on the island – very important for this type of diving.
Regarding accommodation, when researching options prior to travelling we were initially shocked at the prices! Upon arriving the taxi driver took us to some cheaper accommodation in town (not advertised on-line), however the mattresses were horribly uncomfortable, and the local noise began around 5am... so we decided to move. Mal was able to organise a good deal for us through Dave Cross at The Beachfront Resort a few minutes out of town – we stayed in The Lodge in a large, comfortable double room, and finally felt like we were really on holiday! The deck restaurant and pool overlook the beach and islands, there is no local noise(!), and the staff were some of the most friendly and helpful locals around. Everyone remembered our names and we instantly felt welcomed and at home. For diving we were picked up and dropped off by boat, which just added to the experience! We would definitely stay there again, and recommend it to our friends.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.