FAQ | Kayaking and Snorkelling in Tuk-Tuk Bay ?

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Anywhere and everywhere is the simple answer. For most, straight in front of Flametree is perfect and kayakers and snorkelers are often out there together. It is easy paddling just up and down the immediate coastline of Tuk-Tuk bay, with plenty of channels, house’s and coastline to investigate along the way.

If you want to explore further afield, we have taken several trips across to the other side of the bay, which takes about three hours as a round trip. Generally this is done by first heading down the coast towards the end of the bay, and when the coastline starts to flatten out (and become more estuarine) head over to the further shore. This side is all farmland and is a part of one of the largest beef farms on Efate. There are plenty of little-hidden coves along this coast and is a great area to explore. When you have gone along enough, then you can either retrace your steps back, or head straight over across the bay directly back towards Flametree. It is a great trip and one which you will likely remember.

A couple of words of caution: Firstly, the direct trip back from the other side of Tuk-Tuk bay takes about 45 minutes to an hour of so depending on your ability in a kayak, and the feeling of really being in the open is readily apparent. So for those less confident, we recommend retracing your steps. Secondly, the trip across Tuk-Tuk bay should only be done in good weather – we once did the trip where we were half way back when rain clouds with thunder and lightning come on over the sea – this can obviously be disconcerting.

For those that crave adventure, swells develop the most at the two heads of the bay – Devils Point and Tuk-Tuk Point, and even in calm weather the swells can be significant. At the head of Tuk-Tuk point is a large inlet which is great to investigate. We need to advise of caution however, as the swells head straight onto the coral coast, and in developing seas or windy weather these two points are dangerous and should be avoided – without exception. Devils Point which is the outermost point along the North-western Coast from Havana Harbour to Mele Bay, got its name from sailors who had to navigate past the point in stormy weather.



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The coral reef is immediately just off the coastline in front of  Flametree  – Approximately 15 metres offshore. There is no inner shoreline with an associated outer reef. Instead, the sea floor is deep out to sea, until about 30 metres out from the coast, where upon it steeply rises forming a coral plateau towards the shore. In places a vertical face of the sea floor creates a coral wall and along with its bright tropical fish, making snorkeling there fantastic. There are plenty of reefs with deeper valleys and troughs all along the coast, with plenty to see for snorkelers of all abilities. Comments from our guests are that, Tuk-Tuk Bay has some of the best coral reefs that they have seen in the South Pacific

Closer to the actual coast, the seafront becomes more tidal and during low tides you are able to investigate the ‘rockpools’ for crabs, small colourful fish, and other marine life.

We recommend that you bring either reef shores, or ‘croc’s’ to protect your feet, as coral cuts anywhere in the tropics can get infected quickly and sometimes badly. Wash all cuts immediately, and apply iodine or antiseptic cream – it is not a time to worry about children complaining because it hurts. Like anywhere, it is good to bring a basic amount of first aid things.


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For some reason, non of us really think too much about the tides in the tropics, and we have an expectation that the waterfront will remain in pretty much the same state that those glossy magazine photos show.

Reality is different and the the truth of the matter is that the tides are the greatest at the equator and their least at the poles. Tides are due to the gravitational pull of the moon ( and to a lesser extent the sun), which manifest their effect predominantly on our oceans. Gravity is proportional to the distance between the location on the earth and the moon, which transtates into the greatest high and low tides being associated with the closest and furtherest away points on the earth (to the moon). These are of course at the equator, and a typical tide in the tropics is about three(3.0) metres, which seems extreme until you get used to them.

The Spring tides which occur during a new moon and a full moon result in the highest and lowest tides and the compounding affect of the suns pull with that of the moon, gives an extra 30% height rise or lowering – or a tide of up to four(4.0) metres. These each roughly occur once a month, but obviously there is a gradual transition throughout the month.

Practically, this has some affect on what you would do anywhere in the tropics. When the seas are low the coral is much closer to the surface, making snorkeling a bit more difficult, both wading out to it, and swimming out over the coral. Kayaking is likely to be better, as while there are a couple more obstacles getting out, once you are there you are able to view the coral more clearly.


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At low tide the front of the coast is revealed and you are able to walk along the shorefront. The small pools of have an abundance of small bright blue fish, starfish, skippers and other marine life that you just forget about when the tide is in. The coral is generally not sharp but as discussed above you should always wear croc’s or reef shoes when exploring the rockpools.

Spring tides provide plenty of opportunity to investigate those places than are generally covered most of the time. It is in these pools that you are likely to find the largest numbers of colourful fish, as they would have been caught unaware, and must wait until the tide comes in, to get out again.


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Most fishing is done out in the ocean away from the coral reefs. A substantial proportion of all coral reefs in the Carribean and Pacific are affected by ‘Ciguatera’, which is is a foodborne illness caused by eating fish off of coral reefs, and which gives most people food poisoning but can give more serious long lasting symptoms. There is no cure for Ciguatera at the present time, and it is odourless, tasteless and heat resistant so it cannot be detoxified by cooking.

Basically, some forms of Dinoflagellate’s (a form of marine plankton forming one of the largest groups around tropical reefs), adhere to the coral and have a significant amount of toxins in their makeup, which gets distributed throughout the reef food chain. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the larger fish do not have this, as the larger predator fish have a high content due to the amount of smaller fish that they eat. Barracudas, snapper, parrotfish, grouper are all likely to have this disease if caught from the reef. Fish caught off a kayak will not provide any assurance that they have not been contaminated.

There are various traditional means of detecting whether or not a caught fish is contaminated, with the most common being that if ants won’t go near it, then it is most likely to be contaminated. Some wider reading indicates that this is also one of the means of detecting whether or not a reef has the specific toxin causing organism.

Locally, a good many of the staff that work along Tuk-tuk bay  fish and eat fish from the reef with no ill effects. Further,  one or two owners along Pangona also fish ( one being a notable doctor).  However, this being said our recommendation is not to eat any fish caught locally off the reef, and of course, that usually determines whether or not you would also fish off the reef.

By Greg Watt avid traveller and author of travel websites and blogs. You can keep up to date and share travel insights with Greg at Vanuatu Traveller's Facebook Page for things in the Pacific, or Traveller-Info's Facebook Page for things elsewhere in the world,  or with Greg himself on his Linkedin Page or  Google+ Page.