Introducing Espiritu Santo
It’s called the Capital of Adventure, the Divers’ Mecca, Espiritu Santo – Spanish for ‘the Holy Spirit’ – and mostly just plain Santo. The adventure starts by zapping down a river from an amazing cave, rounding cattle along the coconut plantations, trekking through the jungle to huddling little villages, searching for the elusive Lysepsep people, and swinging from trees into the brilliant blue waters of a blue hole. The diving is world class, with the magnificent wreck of USS President Coolidge accessible to anyone with certification, and the coral reefs often just steps from the shore. And as for the spirit, it may not be holy but it imbues everyone with enthusiasm for the place.
Santo is Vanuatu’s largest island and has the country’s four highest peaks (all more than 1700m) – Mt Tabwemasana, Mt Kotamtam, Mt Tawaloala and Santo Peak – rising from the mountainous spine that runs almost the full length of the island’s west coast. In contrast, the much flatter southern and eastern coastal strips have been developed for cattle grazing and plantations. This is where most of the island’s fascinating history has been acted out.
Santo has an interesting mix of city slickers, who live along the southern and eastern seaboards, balanced by villagers who are quite isolated, dress in clothes woven from the leaves of the jungle, and are totally self-sufficient. As kastom demands, there are important nimangki (grade-taking) ceremonies throughout these villages.
The island draws many travellers and facilities are just fabulous.