An unexpected island, Paama. Vanuatu. Black Sands and Sharks

Lopevi, the spectacular cone volcano, was only about 15 km from Lamen Bay in Epi. I wanted to land on this little visited island and explore the lava flows and abandoned village, and arranged with a fisherman in Lamen Bay to take us out there on Sunday.

Sunday dawned and it seemed calm in Lamen Bay, but a little rougher out to sea. The fisherman were not too concerned, maybe because they were thinking of the 10,000 Vatu (US $100) boat hire we had agreed earlier. We left the relative tranquility of Lamen Bay and soon hit the swell between the islands. The waves were crashing into, and over, the boat soaking us and causing our son to be seasick. We continued this for another 30 minutes, but by then we were really being smashed around by the waves and had visions of the small craft being broken into pieces. Life jackets would not save us for long, and rescue services are non existent in these waters. We agreed with the skipper to land at a beach on an island we could see 1 km away.

It took a while to navigate to the beach and break through the surf, but we were all grateful to be on dry land again. We were on Paama, at the village of Tahal. They do not get many visitors here (the islands airport is in the far North, and we were on the Southern tip) and we were soon surrounded by the local children and were a major news item! My son Karl had endured a difficult crossing but was soon in his element chatting, laughing and racing the locals.

Paama had beautiful volcanic black sand beaches, but the Epi fisherman were uncomfortable. This beach had a reputation for shark attacks, with many fisherman having lost their lives in the last few years and they were eager to leave to return to the safety of their own island. There was a carving of a shark on the beach, which acted as a totem and protector for the local Paama fishermen.

We reluctantly boarded the fishing boat for our return journey, which although rough at times, was not as dangerous as our journey over.

Lopevi would have to wait for another time…



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