Paradise at Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay Beach House

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Holiday Houses Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
sailing cruising vanuatu

Vanuatu Sailing Cruising and Island Ferries

“Vanuatu is so diverse that just sailing from one island to the next feels like a voyage across continents. The isolation and extreme geography of the islands is packed with over one hundred languages, a history of cannibalism, and vibrant superstitious rituals. People are still very tribal and there are beautiful villages with houses built from woven grass mats–nothing has changed here for hundreds of years.”

Vanuatu is a Y-shaped archipelago consisting of about 83 islands. They stretch for over 1,300 km across the Pacific (810 mi) although he gap between islands is rarely more than 30km. Vanuatu offers easy, deep water sailing and cruising without dangerous reef passes or shallow areas to navigate. For a comprehensive guide to cruising the Vanuatu islands in your own boat click HERE. Otherwise read on and find out how to hire a charter yacht, join a cruise or hop aboard an interisland ferry or supply boat to travel between the islands. 

Yacht Charters & Cruises

There’s limited options when it comes to bareboat charters and crewed sailing charters. Vanuatu Yacht Charters is one of the few businesses that cater to this on a regular basis. They are based on the island of Efate have a 46-foot Fountaine Pajot Bahia catamaran available for day charters, overnight and multi-night sails around the nearby islands.  Dropcast Fishing based on Havannah Harbour on Efate Island also do extended charters aboard their 46ft Cresta/Custom Sportfisher vessel. And a new operation called Sea Lion Experience based in Santo is also offering 7 days or 4 days. live-aboard cruises around the nearby islands on their 13-meter monohull. This is a crewed charter run by Ruth and Damien (experienced sailors) and they can take 4-6 persons in 2 double-bed cabins plus one cabin with 2 separate beds. Check out their website HERE

Ocean Sailing Expeditions is another extended crewed charter boat that does expeditions around Vanuatu but they are not based on the islands and the expeditions are yearly one-offs. Check their website for expedition dates 

It might also be worth paying a visit to the Vanuatu Cruising Yacht Club in Port Vila to see if there are any local sailors looking for a crew on a sail around the islands. They are located at Woroloa Point in the Port Vila Boatyard, on Efate Island.  Contact is 775 0795 or email : info@vanuatucruisingyachtclub.org .

South Sea Sailing run by Simon Hamer in Port Vila (Efate) operate an 18m catamaran called South Sea Vagabond. They offer day sails around Efate as well as extended overnight cruising throughout the Vanuatu islands for up to 10 passengers (check to see if they are still operating).

For the motor-yacht enthusiasts, Island Escape Adventure Cruises , based out of New Zealand, offer two different 6 night luxury escape packages from Espiritu Santo, the Mystery of Vanuatu Cruise and the Secrets of Vanuatu cruise. These operate between the months of May – September.

sunset sailing with vanuatu sailing cruising
interisland ferry  vanuatu sailing cruising

Inter Island Ferries & Cargo Boats

The Big Sista Company operates a ferry service that runs between Port Vila and Santo, stopping at Epi Island and Malekula along the way.  They leave Port Vila every Monday night and return from Santo every Thursday night. It costs around $150 AUD and you can even upgrade to business class!

Vanuatu Ferry operates a regular weekly ferry service between Port Vila and Santo stopping off at Malekula island along the way. They also do another regular service run between Port Vila and Tanna Island and from Santo to Port Vila via Ambrym and Pentecost. In addition to cargo their three large ferries also take passengers – its a relatively cheap and inexpensive way to get around the islands as long as you have time on your hands.

There is a slew of smaller companies that operate cargo boats to the more remote islands of Vanuatu as well. Of these the most reliable that takes passengers is Silent World Shipping. They have 3 ships, LC Tevanu Star, LC Brisk and LC Tina1 which provide weekly Inter-Island Freight and Passenger runs. Other shipping companies include Makila, Tinawan, Freedom, Regim and Young Bloodz. But be warned – you use these cargo boats and ferries at your own risk. Schedules change on an hourly basis, and can quite often be canceled due to poor weather. The smaller cargo boats are  basic so expect the main cabin to be outdoors, without seats or any sleeping provisions. Toilets are terrible, best not to have to use them. There will be no food or drinks available onboard, so come prepared. You can read a full review on taking a cargo boat in Vanuatu HERE.

turtle bay safe anchorage for vanuatu sailing cruising

Turtle Bay, Santo – The Ultimate Boat & Yacht Anchorage

If you are planning on visiting Santo as part of your Vanuatu sailing cruising holiday, then you need to consider Turtle Bay for your base. It’s one of the safest and best anchorages on the east coast. Getting into the bay is a little tricky (the best way is through the channel at the north side of Oyster Island) but once inside the depth is an average 10-12m all around the bay and there are no coral bommies to negotiate. Turtle Bay Beach House has two registered and surveyed moorings you can rent for your boat at the northern section of the bay (ring Willie the caretaker of TBBH for more info 7788590 or email the owner on ambortoli@gmail.com). Cost is $10 a day or a case of Tusker for the week!  Accommodation is also available at Turtle Bay Beach House for a very reasonable price where there is a laundry hot showers wifi and fresh water. Book HERE . You can also get meals and drinks at nearby Turtle Bay Lodge Plus there are two blue hole and crystal rivers to explore in your dinghy. 

Rocket Cruising Guide to Vanuatu

Finally for all other anchorages around the rest of Vanuatu we recommend the Rocket Cruising Guide. This is by far the most comprehensive cruising guide for Vanuatu. Best of all you can virtually explore 158 Anchorages, 149 GPS Routes, and 500+ full Color Images. Richard Chester, the brains behind the guide, has created a visual database – known technically as a Geographic Information System – that enable cruisers and yachtsmen (and women) to look anywhere in Vanuatu and zoom down and see it at very low altitude – even on the ground and underwater. Here is what it looks like : Screenshots from the Cruising Guide to VanuatuThe guide uses a series of simple icons to overlay information on the satellite and aerial images – depths, navigation aids, sailing directions, routes, gps points, anchorages, and buttons on the islands and anchorages themselves to reveal what a cruising skipper will find on arrival. The guide also provides information on Vanuatu maritime Weather for cruisers with information on what to expect and how to get local and long range forecasts. There is a section showing a satellite image of the entire south pacific with routes to and from Vanuatu along with details on ports of entry, and clearance formalities for Vanuatu