A beautiful afternoon on Epi, Vanuatu
by Danielle Diehm
Continuing on our quest to tick off as many islands as we could in gorgeous Vanuatu, we found ourselves on the way back from Pentecost land diving & in need of a little lunch.
Our Unity Airlines pilot, Cameron, suggested we pay a visit to the secluded island of Epi for a bite to eat, some snorkelling & to see if we could spot the resident dugong. As we came down through the clouds in our tiny 10 seater we found ourselves flying right between the islands of Paama & Lopevi. As we swung back around we were over Ambrym & Melakula. Instantly I thought what a great base Epi would be for exploring all these other islands in such close proximity, with no need for a big plane trip but perhaps just a little local knowledge & a boat.
We landed safely at the tiny airstrip beside Lamen Bay. Despite hubby having a coronary when he saw where we were about to land, it was as smooth as he could have hoped for!
One of the Lamen Bay locals, Charlie, was waiting for us with his small boat & we were taken along the shore of the bay towards the Paradise Friendly Bungalows. This bay is rather open & exposed despite the surrounding islands & there was plenty of evidence that Cyclone Pam had not spared Epi when we visited just a couple of weeks post cyclone. The community had been working hard to clear any debris & get this pristine bay back to its best & the people of the area were very happy to have some visitors come for lunch.
The Paradise Friendly Bungalows are simple, comfortable, lovingly cared for & positioned right on the water. This would be a great place to stay for a few days if you are the kind of traveller who is into getting out of the main tourist hub & experiencing life as a local. This bay area had a lovely relaxed feel to it, the scenery is just gorgeous & the best part is you could probably have it all to yourself. No pool bars, cruise ships or kids clubs, just you, the village locals & the surrounding volcanic islands…perfect!
Lunch was cooked & ready to go for us in the bungalow community dining hut. We enjoyed icy cold drinks, Curried local beef, rice & yam cakes, all of which were delicious & cooked to perfection. We were happy to get the opportunity to chat to some of the locals & find out what life on Epi is all about. They had all pulled together as a community to clean up after Pam & had done great job, now they wanted to spread the word about their little slice of paradise.
After lunch we travelled once again by boat across Lamen Bay in search of the famous dugong that calls this bay home. Unfortunately the tide was not in our favour & with time being limited the dugong will have to wait till another time.
Next stop was Lamen Island for a swim & snorkel & some shell collecting on the beach. With the exception of the locals we were lucky enough to have the whole bay & islands all to ourselves. It was nice to walk along the calm shore of this tropical beach while enjoying the swimming, snorkelling & hanging out with the local families.
The Lamen Bay kids really enjoyed meeting my children as this is not a place on the main tourist trail & they don’t come across too many Aussie kids. My 10 year old daughter really loved showing them some holiday pics on her iPad, a big group of them gathered around & the looks on their faces were priceless.
We sat on the beach looking over the bay towards Lopevi & Paama, watching the smoke pour from one of the active volcanos. I could picture myself sitting in that exact spot right on dusk with a cold Tusker in hand, it would be a spectacular experience I’m sure & one I will add to the bucket list for next trip.
We enjoyed afternoon tea with the Lamen Bay people & purchased some huge cowrie shells from them that had washed ashore & were absolutely perfect specimens. Back on the boat we were joined by some of the local kids who were keen to get up close to our plane & wave us off as we hurtled down the tiny coral runway back to lively Port Via.
What a perfect & secluded little island, surrounded by more perfect & secluded little islands to explore. Epi was an unexpected break on our way home but quickly became another unforgettable chapter of my family adventure through the South Pacific.