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Port Vila to Epi Island

Written by Cathy Siegismund
September 2003


With the boat fuelled and provisioned, we left Port Vila under sunny skies on September 12. We had decided to do day hops up through the islands on our way to Luganville, rather than any overnighters. The next island we wanted to visit was Epi, which we sailed to with two day hops.

Route from Port Vila, Éfaté to Lamen Bay, Epi

Our fist day, we motored 20 miles out of Port Vila around the west side of Éfaté to Port Havannah. We spent a quiet night in a small section of the deep bay. The next day we left through a narrow pass and set out for the 40-mile trip to Emae in the Shepard Islands. This was another calm sunny day, and we arrived at a lovely bay of Emae in the afternoon. There are several small villages on Emae. The water was crystal clear and the only other boat at the island was a liveaboard dive boat that joined us in the early evening. The bay at Sesake on Emae is only a safe bay in settled weather. As we had nice weather it was a shame we didn't have more time to explore the island and snorkel in the clear water. However, we were trying to get to the larger islands of Epi, Ambrym, and Malakula. The next morning, we made our final leg to Lamen Bay on the northwest corner of Epi Island. There were about eight boats in Lamen Bay. It is a pretty bay with Lamen Island a short distance to the west. The bay is sheltered from northeast to southeasterly winds. Lamen bay has a small airport, a nice village and a large secondary school. This is immediately evident by the large Welcome to Epi High School sign made of plants and flowers on the hillside.

As we had arrived in the afternoon, we decided to relax that evening on the boat and not put the dinghy in the water until the following day

   

Lamen Bay

Lamen Island

The following morning, friends GB and Sara on Djarrka, another Ta Shing boat a Norsman 447, arrived and we took the dink over to see them on the way to shore.  We made our way to shore where there were a number of outrigger canoes, some fitted with masts and a number of cruisers dinghies.

   

Outriggers and dinghies on the beach at Lamen Bay

As we walked the beach, and scoped out a local market, which was just winding down.

Market at Lamen Bay

   

Lamen Bay

Lamen bay has is a small guest house ashore with a restaurant, which we heard was quite good though we did not eat there. They will also take cruiser's trash for a small fee. The bay was quiet and relaxing, with nice snorkeling. A number of the Ni-Vanuatu live on Lamen Island and "commute" to the main island to work in their gardens in their outriggers. In the early evening, a few of the returning outriggers would stop by the boat with fresh produce for sale. There was no hard sell, and we enjoyed buying some fresh green onions, papaya and pamplemousse.

One of the main attractions at Lamen Bay is a friendly resident female dugong. A dugong, or sea cow, is a relation the Florida manatee. The dugong does have a few differences, the most noticeable is a fluke shaped tail like that of a whale. After our short trip to shore, we got our snorkeling gear and joined Djarrka for a wonderful afternoon swim with Lamen Bay's abundant turtle population and dugong.

   

Turtles in Lamen Bay

The turtles were quite large and seemed as unconcerned by us as any we had ever seen. They let you dive down and get eye to eye with them as they grazed on the grass on the bottom of the bay.

The resident dugong, is also quite unconcerned by snorkelers. There were often seven or eight swimming around her. She would sometimes swim over to you, and seemed to quite enjoy a good rub on her side. She was about eight feet long and spent her time diving down to graze on the sea grass, periodically surfacing for a few breathes before diving back to the bottom. We were very enamored with this gentle creature, who with the shape of her mouth looked like she was smiling. We dived with her both days we were in Lamen Bay

Female dugong in Lamen Bay

Ken swimming just above the dugong grazing in a cloud of sand on the bottom of Lamen Bay

   

   

   

Our second afternoon swimming with the dugong was as enjoyable as the first, but we ended up paying for it as the wind and sea swell swung around to the south southwest. Though the wind did not build and we were in no danger, we had one of our most uncomfortable nights to date. The swell was beam on and we were almost thrown off the settee a few times. After a mostly sleepless night, we left for our next stop, Ambrym Island. We enjoyed Epi, but for those of you heading there in your boats, watch for the switching wind and swell and be prepared to leave if necessary.

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