Awei Island

The anchorage behind Awei, part of the Maskelyn group on the southern tip of Malekula, has been our favorite anchorage in Vanuatu so far. It is protected from the ocean swell by both islands and the reef connecting the two, making for waters that are consistently pancake flat. The islands define the anchorage to the east and west, letting dawn’s fingers climb slow and dusky up the mast before the sun appears and brings with it the sweltering, fly-swatting realities of spring time in the tropics.

And in this island paradise, the wild west thrills of Vanuatu continue:

I spotted a large lobster hiding in a rocky nook while diving on the eastern edge of the pass. I pointed it out to Dominic, and he speared it with marksman-like precision. When he put his hand on the reef to retrieve the catch, unknown to him a giant moray eel reared its head out of an adjacent crevice, the eel’s jaws no more than five inches from his shoulder. Back in the dinghy, I told Dominic about his close call and his face drained to a ghostly white, a white only lobster in drawn butter could recolor (and then lobster tacos…mmm).

We went out to snorkel sugar lump reef, which was itself unimpressive, but we found a bommy in the pass that looked cool so we hopped in the water. The bommy was full of fish, schools of cornets and oversized parrot fish. Once on the far edge, we looked into the blue beyond and saw a large grey shark aggressively charging, back arched, through the water. It was coming at us when we saw it, then made a sharp turn to the left. The shark bolted passed us once more, clearly hunting, and we decided to drift back to the dinghy and get out of the water as quickly as possible.

Returning to Helios after a jaunt on the paddle board, I was on all fours as I tied the painter to the board's handle. Dominic came into the cockpit just in time to say, “There is a [venomous!] sea snake swimming toward the board…the sea snake is coming onto the board…crawl forward slowly and stay calm….”. Stay calm, I did not. Thankfully, my forward motion jostled the snake off the board (and their mouths, reportedly, are too small to actually bite a human).

It’s dangerous beauty out here, y’all!