My year in Vanuatu deserves a special mention in this blog, so I am writing this one as a retrospective.
Spending the whole of 2001 in Vanuatu really rekindled my love of fishing. Having grown up loving fishing, by 2001 I was probably more into my scuba diving, and started off in Vanuatu furthering my diving career through to PADI Instructor level. But the fishing opportunities were just so good, I spent just as much time on the end of a fishing rod.
I was pretty lucky to be a 'kept man' that year, with Belinda working for ANZ. I got to hang out with the locals and go exploring, it was so good to pack so much fishing and diving into one year, there was no way I could go back to a 'normal' life!
By the time I left I was determined to get home to New Zealand and make a career out of fishing and diving tourism. That really was the seed to me starting Epic Adventures, and by the time of my last two weeks in Vanuatu I could visualise that business, somewhere in the Coromandel, in my head. It took me a while to get the guts to do it, but when I did do it, the experience I had in Vanuatu influenced a lot of what I did with my first business.
Vanuatu is such a special country, the locals are just so happy with what they have. But like any time spent in a country the thing you take with you is the lifetime friends. My time in Vanuatu were influenced by three top men in particular - Anthony Honeybone, Peter Phillips, and Paul Brown.
I still fish with Ants every year in the Nationals. Pete from Nautilus was my inspiration for getting into fishing tourism, and I've made a lot of decisions based on 'what would Pete do'. I've been back to fish with Pete numerous times and still keep in touch. And one day me and Paul will catch up for a mission - it is on the to do list!
I've got so many memories from fishing and diving Vanuatu but my top ten memories would be:
1. On the very last week in the country, Pete did a special trip for me out to the Devils Point FAD and we got the fish I was hoping for the whole year - a 70kg+ yellowfin! Those big yellowfin are just such a cool, hard fighting fish, I remember doing it pretty tough on that fish.
2. Good mate Chalky coming over to stay with us for a week, and winning a local comp with a solid yellowfin tuna. And another mission straylining for Doggies in the dark at Hat Island with some locals and wondering whether we'd get home....
3. The many early missions on the good ship 'Ahi' - A Stabicraft bought into Vanuatu by Ants and modified. We had plenty of cool adventures offshore chasing wahoo, mahimahi and Blue Marlin
4. My family coming to visit, and Dad catching his first mahimahi
5. While Dad was there, Ants father Gordon catching the first marlin for 'Ahi' - after that there was no stopping the boat - we got Ants first marlin that same week as well
6. Diving for lobster and crabs at night at Hat Island, and one of the most insane feeds afterwards of crab, lobster and fresh yellowfin sashimi
7. A 'bait run' Pete and I did one Sunday afternoon for skippies.....after ten runs past the FAD and every line getting hit each pass we came back to port with a mountain of mahimahi, yellowfin and wahoo
8. Straylining for Doggies in the dark at Hat Island with Paul.
9. The many mind-blowing dives at my favourite dive site ' Pauls Rock' - swimthroughs and caverns, doggies and GT's holding out on the fringe, and the top covered in colourful corals and turtles swimming everywhere
10. Friday nights at Nautilus. Pete and Leanne's knack for hosting their guests was infectious.