Looking down, you descend into the blue depths. The dark silhouette of a shipwreck appears beneath you. Your dive computer shows your no-decompression limit (NDL) getting shorter and shorter. Entering the wreck through the engine bay, you pass gauges and long-rusted levers. The massive dining hall looms ahead. As you swim past statues and old chandeliers, you’re now well past your NDL. A 30-minute decompression stop among the coral gardens awaits. This is the world of technical diving in Vanuatu, and it’s fantastic. Going tec in Vanuatu means longer dive times and extra depth. Tec training will give you confidence in your abilities as well. Read on for some of the reasons that technical diving in Vanuatu offers something for novices and experienced tec divers alike.
Why should you try technical diving in Vanuatu?
Vanuatu is one of the world’s best dive destinations for new tec divers. Once you’ve completed your first tec-diving course, you’ll be itching to explore an exotic location with your new skills. With the new ability to dive deeper for longer thanks to your training with NDLs and gas management, you’ll want to choose a location where depth and time restraints limit recreational divers and you can utilize your tec skills. Shipwrecks are a common tec-diving destination since it becomes easier to explore the ship’s interior with the extra cylinders you will take along. Other benefits include the ability to do repetitive dives, as the depth of some dive sites means that you must often cut the second dive short — not from lack of gas, but from hitting your NDL.
The SS President Coolidge
Vanuatu features multiple wreck and reef sites, with depths of between 30 feet and 200 feet (10 and 61 m). These dive sites are enormous, and it will often take divers multiple visits to see just a sampling of what’s available. The SS President Coolidge is Vanuatu’s most famous dive, and arguably its best. The ship was in service during World War II as an ocean liner that was converted into a troop transport. While docking to resupply during the war, the ship struck a friendly sea mine and consequently sank. Of the 5,340 men aboard only two lost their lives, including the captain, who went back to search for another sailor.
Located off the nation’s largest island, Espiritu Santo, the enormous wreck sits on a gradually sloping seafloor. The stern sits at 80 feet (24 m), while the bow descends down to 200 feet (61 m). Visibility often exceeds 50 feet (15 m) and water temperatures hover around 75 F (24 C), making for excellent conditions. You’ll want between a 3 and 5 mm full wetsuit for protection from sharp sections of the wreck and any fire coral. Because of the gradual depth change, divers can explore this behemoth well within their comfort zone. Proximity to shore means divers complete their safety stop in a vibrant coral garden, with calm waters and no current. The combination of calm conditions, easy decompression stops and a spectacular wreck make the Coolidge one of the world’s ultimate tec dives.
Why should you tec dive the President Coolidge?
The wreck has some noteworthy features at recreational depths, such as gun turrets and cargo holds, but some of the ship’s deeper areas hold unique attractions as well. The swimming pool at 164 feet (50 m) might be the quirkiest structure you’ll ever dive. Swim into the pool and check out the vibrant pool tiles alongside old ladders. place, no wreck certification is needed nor are you allowed to go down yourself and run reals. Twisting corridors lead through the ship’s interior, and its time spent in wartime service and as a luxury liner mean the rooms each offer something unique. Cargo holds feature old military vehicles while you’ll see mirrors and chandeliers in dining areas. Guides lead every dive on set routes, as the ship can be confusing.
Tec dive sites on the wreck
The swimming pool isn’t the only worthy dive spot when it comes to tec diving on President Coolidge. The engine room, at 157 feet (48 m) offers a fascinating peek into the ship’s inner workings. Divers enter through a hole torn in the ship’s hull, created when the first sea mine exploded. You’ll cruise past enormous pieces of the engine, which easily dwarf your entire dive boat. Gauges and dials are clearly visible and in remarkable condition given their age, unlike the control levers that are rusted stiff. The guide will take you through a few tight turns and up an old corridor or two before you’ll emerge into the dining hall and former ballroom. Artifacts like chandeliers and mirrors are scattered around. It’s here at 140 feet (43 m) that divers will see the famed statue The Lady, sitting atop a unicorn.
After exploring the dining room, check out the medical supply room located at depth of 100 feet (31 m) , which still contains old medicine jars and bottles. After spending almost an hour inside the ship, exit through a small hatch on the bow. Outside the ship, other great tec dives include the prop shaft at 200 feet (61 m). Here divers will swim beneath massive hulks of metal that once held giant propellers. Even if you aren’t doing especially deep dives, the extra time, which can be from 10 minutes to hours depending on your qualification, is more than enough reason to try technical diving in Vanuatu.