Luganville Northern Seaside and Blue Hole Shore Excursion Review – Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

The Secret Blue Hole

Princess and P&O cruise ships often visit Luganville in Vanuatu, Royal Caribbean though doesn’t usually go there as part of their scheduled itineraries. We were cruising with Royal Caribbean on Explorer of the Seas when we were diverted to Luganville due to inclement weather at Mystery Island. After speaking to other people, it seems this is a regular occurrence, but I don’t understand why they rarely schedule it as a destination. Luganville is a small city on the beautiful island of Espiritu Santo with some unique attractions including stunning Champagne Bay. The town itself is not modern or wealthy, but it does have a brand new cruise terminal, ideally suited to docking big cruise liners.

Luganville's brand new cruise ship terminal
Luganville’s brand new cruise ship terminal

One of it’s most famous draw cards are the blue holes, deep, spring-fed freshwater pools that shine brilliant blue in the sun. Royal Caribbean offers the LY01 shore excursion called “Northern Seaside and Blue Hole Tour Luganville” which gives you the opportunity to experience one of these blue holes for yourself. Princess and P&O also offer the same shore excursion to their guests.

Shore excursion details:

This information is current as at the time of writing.

  • Duration: 3.5hrs
  • Activity Level: Mild – unless you want to do a lot of swimming, jumping or diving.
  • Transport: Air-conditioned vans
  • Tour Operator: Paradise Tours. Note, this tour is different to the regular tours they offer via their website.

 

Here is the info you need to find this excursion with Royal Caribbean, Princess and P&O:

Royal Caribbean

  • Shore Excursion Code:  LY01
  • Cost (USD): $92 per person
  • Shore excursion website. Note, at the time of writing, Royal Caribbean does not list any shore excursions for Luganville.

Princess Cruises

P&O Cruises

 

Here’s what happens

The Princess website quotes different travel times and times at each destination but the same total excursion time, so I’d say there is some variation. That said, the Princess website is also out of date on a few points including toilets and changing rooms. I believe the excursion is also run in reverse order so that two groups can be running simultaneously.

So, we met our tour guides right outside the cruise terminal and hopped on to air-conditioned vans. After 30 minutes of seeing the beautiful Espiritu Santo countryside with a knowledgeable tour guide telling us about everything we are seeing, the tour brings you to a secluded private beach with a small market, changing room and toilet.

The northern seaside beach, you can see the covered markets on the right.
The northern seaside beach, you can see the covered markets on the right.

The beach is sandy and very protected with islands nearby. There are small rocks and broken coral under the water in the shallows, so if you have some reef shoes it’s not a bad idea to wear them, but not essential.

Rocks and coral under the water at the northern seaside beach.
Rocks and coral under the water at the northern seaside beach.

We wore our flippers and snorkels, but even without that, it’s really easy swimming, even once you get too deep to touch the bottom.

The location is gorgeous with views to other parts of Espiritu Santo and other islands. It’s worth coming to experience this beautiful place.

Surrounded by islands
Surrounded by islands

That said, there is hardly any coral here and very few fish.

Three fish that I found in deeper water, including an angel fish.
Three fish that I found in deeper water, including an angelfish.

I found that the further out I went the more fish I saw, but they were sticking to the bottom around the limited coral and the water was not very clear.

This is what most of the small amounts of coral looks like. The blue spots you can see in the top left are little fish.
This is what most of the small amounts of coral looks like. The blue spots you can see in the top left are little fish.

In the shallows, you are more likely to spot a sea cucumber, but there isn’t a whole lot of them either.

One of the red sea cucumbers we spotted.
One of the red sea cucumbers we spotted.

So you aren’t here for the snorkelling but rather the view and to enjoy a swim in the beautiful water.

After 45 minutes here, it’s back to the vans for another 15 minutes to drive to the “Secret” Blue Hole.

This blue hole is tucked away in amongst rainforest. Unfortunately for us, it was an overcast day, and it started raining on the way to the blue hole, so we didn’t get to see it shining bright blue. Even so, it was a deep shade of blue with lighter tones towards some of the edges.

The 'Secret' Blue Hole
The ‘Secret’ Blue Hole

The water is deep and cool. It’s so refreshing in a place as hot and humid as Luganville. Since it’s freshwater, you don’t float as effortlessly as you do in saltwater, so I found I was worn out fairly quickly and had to hop out for a bit of a break. Flippers make it much easier to stay afloat.

Looking through the clear water towards the bottom, my feet are nowhere close to touching!
My feet are nowhere close to touching the bottom in this calm, clear water.

If you don’t want to hop in the water, or just want to enjoy the serenity of the place, there is covered seating and open seating surrounded by beautiful rainforest with views over the blue hole.

Some of the forest flowers by the blue hole seating area.
Forest flowers by the blue hole seating area.

Freshly cut fruit, including pineapple, is available as well. So if you’ve had enough of swimming, you can just sit back and enjoy.

Fresh pineapples ready for serving.
Fresh pineapples ready for serving.

If you are a bit more adventurous, there is a raised platform you can jump in from, standing 2.5-3 metres above the water level.

Yep, I gave the jump a go.
Yep, I gave the jump a go.

No one from our group managed to find the bottom of the blue hole; it’s more than deep enough to have some fun!

Incoming!
Incoming!

 

I was blown away by how clear the water is!
I was blown away by how clear the water is!

While you are enjoying yourself, keep an eye out around the edges and the steps, you just might spot one of the rare freshwater hermit crabs!

I spotted this freshwater hermit crab on the stairs.
I spotted this freshwater hermit crab on the stairs.

After 45 minutes here, it’s back on the van for the 30-minute ride to the cruise ship terminal.

Back to the vans :(
Back to the vans 🙁

Overall

We loved this tour. We were a little disappointed there wasn’t much snorkelling to be done at the beach, but it’s such a tranquil location that is a pleasure to just relax and cool down in the water. Do the Coral and Clam Garden tour if snorkelling is what you are after. I’ll be doing a write up on it shortly.

The blue hole is so gorgeous, I just can’t recommend it enough. Make sure you go see one while you are in Luganville, whether it’s this one or one of the many others.

Our guide was very knowledgeable, spoke excellent English, and all the people involved in running the tour were eager to make sure we enjoyed ourselves.

We had a wonderful time, and I would highly recommend this shore excursion to anyone visiting Luganville on a cruise ship.

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