Wow, I am so excited to finally post this one. Vanuatu had some of the most INCREDIBLE beachcombing opportunities! I can't wait for you guys to see what I've found.
For those of you who may have missed out on my other posts about Vanuatu, it is a South Pacific nation made up of 82 islands. We only made it to two of the "main" islands - Efate and Tanna. Vanuatu is not as popular as honeymoon destinations like French Polynesia or Fiji, but that's probably because it's a bit of a well-kept secret just how awesome it is. Seriously, I couldn't get enough and neither could Emmett. Anyway, without further ado - check out these rad shells!
VERY IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: When beachcombing anywhere in the world (but especially on South Pacific isles like Vanuatua) use caution when picking up cone shells. NEVER pick one up that might be alive. Though they are often small in size, the live animal has a poisonous barb that it releases that can kill you. The barb can actually penetrate thick fabric, so you're not even safe using gloves. See more about the risks of cone snails at this wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cone_snail#Risks
Epule, North-Eastern Efate
So, wow. The whole beach of this part of Efate is coral rubble. Mostly bleached white stuff with the occasional red pipe organ coral (click photos for more detail). But there were also tons of shells in there too - cones, clams, urchins, big shiva shells. murexes, cowries, urchins, and one tiny sea biscuit! I was in shell heaven... But little did I know, it would get better with each new beach we visited.
Port Havannah, North-Western Efate
Like Epule, the beach at Port Havannah was also coral rubble. However, Havannah Harbor sheltered the beach from the rough waves of the Pacific that had crushed up most of the shells near Epule. Thus, I found even more shells. Cones with cool shapes, beautiful olives, cowries, that purple patterned shell above - it was an awesome haul! The sun started to set and I decided to look for just a few more shells and THEN I FOUND IT. A scorpion conch. Probably my favorite shell I've ever found. I gave out a yelp and then ran to show Emmett. LOOK AT IT!!!
Friendly Beach, Tanna
We flew from Efate to Tanna for two nights staying in a thatch-roof hut near an active volcano. There was a really nice volcanic beach near our village, aptly named "Friendly Beach." There were quite a few shells there but also so many coconut shells and even more huge chunks of pumice stone - like the one in the picture on the lower right.
Pele Island, Efate
Pele Island is basically paradise. The beach on the south side of the island looks exactly like the picture above. Calm, serene turquoise water. Powdered-white coral sand. We had an unforgettable time staying in a no-running-water-no-electricity bungalow just steps from the ocean. (Click the first sentence of this paragraph to read more about it). On our first full day on Pele, we walked the circumference of the entire island and discovered that the north side of Pele is very rocky. Oh yeah, and Pele has the BEST SHELLS OF ALL.
The peaceful, sandy South had lots of cowries and cone shells. The tumultuous surf of the rocky North had tons and tons of pencil urchin spines, huge top snails, and pieces of NAUTILUS SHELLS. Woo boy, never thought I'd see those on the beach. Unfortunately they were all broken, but it was still really cool to see the pieces. As a seashell nerd, I kinda freaked. (Click any of the below for more detail).
All in all, Pele Island currently holds my own personal record for best/most shells found in just one day of beachcombing. My shell bag was full by the end of it all. Here's my final shell pile (a few of these went back to the beach - particularly the coral, and one that had a very well-hidden hermit crab who began crawling away...
There you have it - the beautiful shells of Vanuatu! I wish we'd had more time to explore more islands while we were there. I'm sure the more remote ones have shells like I can't even imagine.
P.S. Enjoy this bonus picture of a coconut shell we found on the beach at Epule - it's a hermit crab party boat!!