A brief overview of the place
Port Vila is an extraordinary place like no other. Full of life, smiles and an infectious atmosphere that makes you feel amazing. Port Vila is the capital city of Vanuatu and is perfectly located around a beautiful harbour on the south-western coast of the island of Efate. Here you’ll find a mix of cultures – Melanesian (Indigenous Ni-Vanuatu), French, English, Chinese and many others.
What I did there.
Leading up to our arrival in Port Vila I had researched things to do here, and although I was tempted by the snorkelling trip and historic tours, the one thing that really caught my attention was this “Underwater Post Office”. Having been to so many places it’s rare that I see something completely original, so I just had to take the opportunity to see what this was all about.
I hadn’t done much research into his particular activity so I packed my swimwear, a pre-written postcard, some other things and went on my way.
From the port, 3 of us shared a taxi to another port, where we caught a boat that would take us across the lake to Hideaway Island. The speedboat we climbed onto was old and well used which made for a very interesting ride. The guy taking us over the water pulled on the engine starter rope to start it but nothing happened. He continued to pull vigorously whilst we all sat in silence expecting to have to get off the boat in a minute. Suddenly the rusty old boat came to life and we jolted away from the side with a large crash. We bounced over to the island, flying off the seats each time the boat hit the water, which had us all in hysterics. We were holding on to our bags for dear life and trying not to fall over the side.
We made our way along the pier to Hideaway Beach which was very rocky and hard to walk across. The hut we paid our entrance fee in was very small, so we all squished in and looked at the man behind the desk who stared us out until I stepped forward and said: “Can we please pay you”. He handed us snorkel gear and pointed to a bench about 10 meters away, and then pointed to a buoy floating in the sea, and then gestured down. From those hand gestures, I understood that we were to keep our things on the bench and the post office would be underneath the red buoy.
I took out my pre-written postcard which made him crack a smile and then he pointed at a range of waterproof postcards hanging on the wall behind him and told us that we needed one of those, which made complete sense.
We all purchased a waterproof postcard and wrote our messages on it and made our way over to the bench. We got into our swimwear on the empty beach and made our way into the water. The rocks were very sharp on our feet, so we must have looked very silly hopping into the water. The water was cold so I just had to jump in rather than take it slow, or I would have never got in.
Once we had all made our way into the refreshing water we started to swim slowly out the buoy. As I was swimming I heard great big splashes behind me. I stopped and turned to look at my roommate Sha-sha, who looked as though she was struggling, so Roxy and I went see what she was doing. When we got to her she was spluttering and waving her arms frantically, so we were careful to dodge her flailing arms. I grabbed hold of her and asked, quite worried, “What’s wrong”?
She then proceeded to tell us she couldn’t swim.
I shouted “What? Don’t you think you should have mentioned that earlier?” Her head was halfway under water at this point so, I put her on my back and started to swim back to the beach. She was still panicked, so she kept pushing me underwater unexpectedly, so it felt like I had inhaled about half the ocean.
Sha-Sha moved onto Roxy’s back for a bit to give me a break. It had taken us 5 minutes to swim out towards the buoy, and about 15 minutes to swim back to the beach! We got to a depth where the water was shallow, and all sat on a rock looking out to sea, panting.
When we finally got our breath back, we started laughing. “Don’t you think it would have been a good idea to tell us you couldn’t swim Sha-sha? Said, Roxy. Sha-Sha just smiled innocently, as she did every time she got into mischief. She gets away with it every time because no one can be mad at her cute little face.
Roxy and I left Sha-sha on the beach and tried again to go to the Post Office. I took Sha-Sha’s postcard for her as she decided she had done enough swimming for one day. Once at the buoy, we dove down to see the most amazing coloured fish and reefs. Situated right in the middle was a blue and white hut that was, of course, the Post Office. I dived down to the hut and posted the postcards. Mine was quite crumpled as I had clung onto it very tightly when swimming back with Sha-Sha on my back.
After our mission was complete, we spent a while looking at the beautiful coral. The fish were very friendly and weren’t afraid to swim all around you, which was magical. I felt like Arial the Little Mermaid, but less elegant, with my great big snorkel on and my flippers.
Once Roxy and I came out of the water, we all walked around the small island and took a few photos and then decided to go back on to the mainland, as there wasn’t anything else to do other than swim.
We caught the boat for the rough ride back to Port Vila, where we enjoyed a burger at a local restaurant which was located right next door to the speedboat.
I really enjoyed our day at the Underwater Post Office and would recommend it to anyone as it is something you can’t do anywhere else. Just be sure to check everyone you are taking can swim.
Most popular excursions
Glass bottom boat and snorkel safari
Travel through the ocean on a glass bottom boat. Underwater is a Wonderland that you can see beneath the boat, as the sea is so clear. Tropical coral reefs and colourful fish as you snorkel through the refreshing water.
Bridges of Eden
This eco-paradise can be explored by suspension bridges that are above the river. After crossing the bridges you can enjoy a tropical fruit platter and take a dip in the freshwater lakes.
Ekasup cultural village
This is an ancient Melanesian village where you can learn about the traditions and customs. Learn about how these people live without no electricity, and what ‘a day in their life’ consists of.
Underwater post office
Port Vila is home to the only Underwater Post Office in the world. From the ship, it will take 20 minutes in a taxi to get to the boarding point, where you will have to get a boat across the water to get The Hideaway Island. There is an entrance fee of $17 Aus.
The beach is very rocky so I would highly recommend wearing beach shoes that you can swim in as well. Once you have written your waterproof postcard, you can get your snorkelling gear on and start your drive to the post box to post your postcard. The Post Office is about 2 metres down and surrounded by colourful tropical fish.
Things to know
Where the cruise ship docks is a little out of the way, so you will need to take a taxi to where ever you are wanting to go, unless you have booked an excursion with the ship. There will be lots of taxi’s lined up outside waiting eagerly to take you to where you want to go. The further out you walk, the cheaper the taxi’s get.
There is also a big market which sells locally made goods. The markets will accept cash only.