We have been in Lamen Bay, Epi Island for more than two days and have a most entertaining time. The greastest source of entertainment has come from the marine life. This afternoon, for example, we sat on the aft deck of Sabbatical III watching three large sea turtles diving nearby, predatory fish leaping into the school of small fry that hide under the boat, a dozen dolphins putting on a show of synchronized swimming, and one large, slow moving dugong coming up for air every four minutes as he dined on the sea grass 30 meters away. All we did is point and exclaim to each other as each animal in turn did its tricks seemingly for our benefit. The dugong, a cousin of the manatee, got so close to the boat late in the afternoon, I jumped in the water to get a better view. He is an odd looking creature who looks as if he weighs 1000 pounds, and who seemingly vacuums up the sea floor, while four remora fish hang on to his flanks with their suckers. He sticks his huge, fleshy face into the soft sand and sea grass and slowly moves forward sucking in the bits that he likes, leaving a cloud of grass, sea critters, and sand beind for small fish to pick through. He seemed totally unpertubed that I was swimming over him in 5 meters of water, but I made sure that I was not in his way when he surfaced for air.
Perhaps the most surprising display of animal life came yesterday as we were returning by dinghy from Lamen Island which lies about two miles away from where Sabbatical III is anchored. Two schools of small dolphins merged around us, numbering perhaps 25 to 30, and started to play with the moving dinghy in the same way that dolphins have played with Sabbatical III on numerous occasions. The effect is so much more dramatic in the dinghy where we are inches over the water and the dolphins are zig-zaging in pairs and triads just a foot off the bow of our little craft. Every so often, one would leap clear out of the water, which was always followed by one or two more doing the same thing. We just motored around Lamen Bay for 30 minutes watching them and taking some video with our little digital camera. We finally got too much sun and went back to the boat, leaving the dolphins to continue on without us.
Every two weeks there is a market day in the village, and that day is tomorrow. We will go in early and get Laura some birthday bananas, yams, and peanuts, the later being Epi Island’s most famous product. Lamen Bay, which is known for its sea life, is also known for its rolly anchorage. Except for a few hours the first night, we have been very lucky as the boat has been comfortable. The wind and swell will start to come up on Sunday, so we will likely leave for Pentecost Island with a stopover in Malekula Island.