Espiritu Santo GEOGRAPHY
Due to its size and its mountains, Santo has the greatest expanses of original rainforest and is home to colourful butterflies, tropical birds and beautiful orchids. Huge Kauri trees remain in the mountainous forests of the southwest. The Big Bay Conservation area in the north was the first National Park ever created in Vanuatu and is a must if you like the natural splendour of the rainforest, and enjoy bushwalking. Natural spots of great beauty include the stunning Champagne Beach, in the north and the deep, crystal clear Blue Hole whose cool spring water is a bright azure colour and is great for a refreshing dip.
Espiritu Santo Transportation
While the transportation in Luganville has improved immensely over time, it is still not plentiful. There are considerable numbers of buses, taxis and cabs which are providing services in the town that come into town in the morning and return in the afternoon. Don’t expect to find public transport on Sundays although one could wait and hitch a ride.
There are two places to find public transport in Santo. If you’re heading up the east coast then go to the Unity Store and Pacific Petroleum station (formerly “Unity Shell”). Buses and market trucks leave from 1500H. There are always people waiting here and the pump attendants know all the drivers. Minibuses are preferable for comfort and in case of rain.
For south Santo, you can wait on the roadside across from the Luganville market house, in front of the clump of bamboo. It doesn’t look like a bus stop but you can find people waiting here from about 1400h. If there are some women from South Santo in the market house, they will know which trucks are in town.
If you are prepared to tackle the pot holed roads then there are also car hire places available in Luganville or this can be arranged through your accommodation. A 4wd is the preferred transport.
Espiritu Santo Facilities
Picnic spots and public BBQ’s, there are no council parks or picnic areas in Santo, you simply pack a picnic, portable BBQ, grab a blanket and set off to find your own private piece of paradise.
The supermarket located in Luganville is basic but well stocked with everything from hardware to cheap imported Chinese goods and western fare. It is a good idea to check used by dates. Resorts stock very small supplies of toiletries, sun block and first aid supplies.
Medical Services, Luganville has the second largest hospital in Vanuatu called Northern District Hospital. The hospital provides services to residents in Luganville and people in rural parts of Santo and has it’s own hyperbaric chamber. Additionally the hospital is also serving people in other northern islands of Vanuatu such as Banks etc. It often relies on aid from overseas countries notably Australia and New Zealand. Other medical aid posts are found throughout the island, although there may be no facilities in remote rural areas.
Public Toilets are not found in Santo. Bring your own toilet paper and head for the bush toilet.
Espiritu Santo Health
No vaccinations are required. Vanuatu is situated in the malarial belt so anti-malarial medication is recommended especially if you intend to visit the outer islands. Check with your doctor one month prior to departure. There is a public hospital in Luganville and medivac facilities back to Port Vila if required. There are private and public hospitals in Port Vila and medical centres. In the unlikely event that you require extensive medical care, ProMEdical can arrange medical evacuations back to Australia, New Zealand and Solomon’s.
Getting to and from Espiritu Santo
Pekoa is an international airport, and Air Vanuatu the domestic airline, provides flights to Santo from Vila on a daily basis (2 times a day) it takes approximately 50 minutes to fly from Port Vila to Santo. Air Vanuatu has direct flights once a week from Brisbane and Sydney.
Pekoa is a busy domestic hub for the northern islands and Luganville is Vanuatu’s second biggest sea port. Boats to other islands can be found at the Simonsen (towards the airport) and Melcoffee (west of town) wharves. Passenger carriers are available for inter island travel throughout Vanuatu and generally cost as much as an airfare and take around 3-4 days. Don’t expect comfort and luxury on these vessels, they are overcrowded and very basic open air “barges”, travelling this way is really only worth considering for the experience itself.