After leaving Awei, we spent a few nights in Gaspard Bay and then worked our way around the southeastern lobe of Malekula to Banam Bay.

We visited Gaspard Bay to spend more time with the dugongs. There is a resident community of five or six living among the mangroves in the grass-bottomed bay. We spent one squally afternoon watching their spines crest and their tails pop up out of the water. One morning, they were circling Helios and I hopped in for a swim. I heard them munching on the grass, and one swam and surfaced a few feet away. The visibility in the water was so low I didn’t get a clear look, but I appreciated the pink fuzzy form and the flipper flapping in my direction.

Both bays had excellent hiking. Fabrice is the local village leader in Gasbard Bay, and he sent his 13 year old son Marshall, four year old daughter Michelle, and his wife Cindy to guide us on a hike to the main road. Marshall had his machete and hacked through any vegetation threatening the trail and gathered papaya, cacao (the seeds are roasted and shipped to Europe for chocolate and the fruit tastes just like green apple jolly ranchers), spongey sprouted coconut, and mandarin oranges for us to enjoy as we went.

In Banam Bay the people were equally friendly. A gaggle of little kiddos greeted us at the beach when we first landed, playing soccer, holding our hands, showing us their cartwheels and somersaults. A group of five or six teenage boys led us to the local waterfall. There was a long, flat road circling the bay that made for excellent, leisurely walking where we spotted chestnut mannikins, green ground doves, and these technicolor parrots that fly in cacophonous flocks all over the island.