Our visits this past week to Rano Island, Vanuatu, and Utupua and Santa Ana in the Solomon Islands were truly memorable, both for the incredible array of colorful sights, and for the warmth of our welcome by the villagers. Here are some brief excerpts from emails we’ve received from our staff on our Faces of Melanesia voyage:
...One thing that stands out—and everyone has commented about it—is just how amazing it is that each island is still so different. The dances are different, many of the flowers and plants are different, the people look different, and their clothes (or sometimes lack thereof) are different. But the warmth of the welcome is always the same! We are all loving coming to these remote places… when the Zodiacs hit the sand the entire village is there, often with flower leis or palm necklaces to greet us. They have huge smiles and are eager to shake our hands and welcome us. In many of the villages the little kids run up and hold our hand and escort us through the village… It’s very special and touching each time.
Luganville, Espiritu Santo Island – The dive at the Coolidge wreck and snorkeling at Million Dollar point were absolutely fantastic today. With all the military equipment and chunks of metal from World War II strewn all over the sea floor, you feel like you’re peering into a junk yard; but we were reminded that all of this is now a thriving nursery for fish and coral, and a huge part of the local ecosystem.
Utupua Island – We were welcomed by nearly the entire village—dancers of all ages put on a series of vigorous and colorful dance performances. We decided to reciprocate by having many of the passengers perform the hokey pokey, and of course, the villagers just loved that! Afterwards we visited the school and met a young boy named “Little John” after our Expedition Leader—“Little John” Yersin. Our Little John had met the boy’s father on a previous visit and gave him a snorkel set. In remembrance, the man named his child after him.
Santa Ana Island – We went ashore in the rain here, but it stopped almost right away and as the sun came out the dancing began. Again, the entire village turned out and there were some incredible photo opportunities as the children loved having their pictures taken.