Turtles--and a dugong

Michael Hughes and Ger White
Fri 6 Aug 2010 22:29
We set off for a sail up-islands on Thursday--to get some feel for the real Vanuatu--glad we did--very different from Port Vila.
Spent yesterday--Friday--anchored in Lamen Bay on the island of Epi. Great timing--the village was having its annual party--games of football and volleyball, outrigger canoe races, tug of war etc during the day--a lengthy prizegiving late afternoon--and of course a party in the evening--very much for the locals but there were a couple of dozen cruisers there to enjoy their pit-roasted pig etc.--and a few beers---while the children and youths whooped it up with music and dancing--both "custom" and modern.
The village has little--houses--huts, rather--made of palm fronds, virtually no electricity--a generator kept a few light bulbs and the sound system going--no plumbing--reminiscent of the San Blas islands. But plenty of food--fruit, veg, fish, pigs--and everyone very friendly and interested in us.
And to cap it all, we went snorkelling in search of a gudong--we were told several of these rare animals fed on the sea-grass in the bay--and our search was quickly rewarded as one was grazing 50 yards from the boat in 20 feet of water. Enormous beast--more than twice my size--but they are shy and harmless depending on their bulk for protection. They spend 10 minutes hoovering up seagrass from the bottom--then come up for air, so you can get a really close look--boy, they're ugly--then back down for more hoovering. Look them up in the dictionary--also called sea cows as they look a bit like a cow with no legs and a tailfin!!
So we've joined the few who have swum with a dugong!!
We plan to stay here today--a bit more dugong watching--we've already seen one coming up for air near the boat as we breakfasted. And we'll deliver some goodies ashore for the local children--crayons, balloons and the like. And all is well.