Saama in North Efate (the main island of Vanuatu); is the village of a late friend of mine, Rene. We had become friends when Rene worked in New Zealand as part of the RSE scheme. We made simple jewellery together, with the idea for Rene, and others to use local items when returning to Vanuatu, and sell at tourist markets. I was surprised when Rene didn’t return to New Zealand in late 2015. I was told, Rene wasn’t well and had been to the hospital for a check. A week after that check, she had died – aged 42.
I wanted to return to Saama this time, to pay my respects to Lawrence, Rene’s disabled husband, whom I had visited once before after Cyclone Pam, when delivering food and water parcels to people in affected villages. Celine greeted me as I drove into Saama, and led me to the house of Lawrence. We chatted for some time about Rene and looked at photos that I had of Rene. We talked of Lawrence’s illness and his very slow recovery. Lawrence is determined to get well enough to continue planning his Wildlife Sanctuary in a bush area adjacent to the village.
A hidden gem
I had seen the sign saying “Top Rock” at the entrance to Saama and asked Celine if there was someone who could take me to visit the Rock. Celine agreed, as that was her job! Perfect. What a professional approach to this tourist attraction. Great signage; welcoming entrance and hedged pathways to guide you to Top Rock. A beautiful viewing area of limestone cliffs and clear waters below looking out to the neighbouring Nguna and Pele islands. Back towards the entranceway and down steps into a large “cavern” leading to the area where snorkelers or swimmers can easily enter the sea. The water was crystal clear making it easy to view the small tropical fish in the water.
I asked Celine if she would take me into the cave that was advertised. She said, “no Belinda you are too fat fat”. I never take offence when ni Vanuatu tell me this – it isn’t an insult – it’s just a simple description. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see inside the cave, however, when we reached the waters edge I could see why I was too “fat fat” to enter the cave; it was necessary to firstly be in the water and then climb the rocks up the cliff into a very narrow entranceway. Maybe another day!
I was impressed with this tourist attraction which Celine’s brother developed. Celine was an tour guide; she pointed out many of the interesting plants, gave their names and medicinal or culinary uses.
Saama Village and Top Rock is a MUST see when on a “round the island” drive. Hopefully, if Lawrence is able to manage, there will soon be the addition of the Wildlife Sanctuary so another reason to stop off when on your around the island drive.