Review: Hideaway Island (Vanuatu) Snorkelling

Hideaway Island was definitely a high point of our Vanuatu Holiday.  The snorkelling was exceptional despite the day being quite overcast, really it only played havoc with the GoPro footage a little bit and probably kept the crowds at bay.

Hideaway Island is also home of the The Underwater Post Office which has a great novelty factor, but I did find it a bit of a reach (in depth) while snorkelling.

Where is it?

Hideaway Island is a small island within the shelter of Efate Island in Vanuatu.  Surrounded by reefs the island is only accessible by boat from Efate Harbour or a “ferry” service from the nearest point on the main island.  There’s a small fee to access Hideaway Island that you pay once landed.

The bar/cafe on the beach sells a variety of food and drink at slightly higher prices than elsewhere in Vanuatu.

Getting in the water


While there’s a few ways to get to Hideaway Island with organised tours we got a ride direct with a local boat from Efate harbour area, it was a longer trip but a different way of getting around.

One of the more “odd” things to see is the Underwater Post Office which is manned by a SCUBA equipped Postman at various times of the day.  Simply buy a postcard on the beach, fill it out and take in the water for postage!

During our visit the weather was mostly overcast which probably kept some of the numbers down so it never felt ‘crowded’ however we also visited in the shoulder season.  TripAdvisor comments indicate that at various times of the year it can feel overcrowded.

Reef shoes or proper closed flippers are essential as the coral starts from the moment you step into the water and is very unforgiving.  I’d almost suggest some gloves would be ideal additions if you are thinking of being more tactile with things.

So despite a reasonable number of people in the water are there still fish to be seen?  Obviously the videos show there are, but I guess like most things the schools look larger in the brochure.  It’s still possible to be bobbing along and suddenly find yourself being surrounded by a school who will scatter at your slightest change in movement.

All-in-all Hideaway Island gave us a great experience in the water at a very reasonable cost.  It’s a great addition to any Vanuatu trip if you’re on the island of Efate.

Sony HDR-AS20 – My new Action Cam

After much deliberation over a couple of days I bit the bullet and grabbed a Clearance Sony HDR-AS20 from JBHiFi. This new camera should be a nice partner to the GoPro Hero3 Black I’ve had since 2013.

Why buy a Sony HDR-AS20?

The tip-over point for me was being able to buy a great camera with good optics and some image stabilisation at a low price (AUD149) which has a similar array of accessories to the GoPro but isn’t a GoPro.

As Advertised - $149 HDR-AS20
As Advertised – $149 HDR-AS20

The HDR-AS20 isn’t a new camera and certainly isn’t a super high-spec unit either.  Instead it’s a case of getting a better camera than a GoPro clone at a GoPro Clone price.

Some of the accessories are also a bit more flexible or innovative compared to GoPro as well.  There’s a housing that converts it to being a lot like a mini-camcorder (AKA-LU1 for AUD99) and the remote features a Live View screen for around the some price and the GoPro equivalent.

Like my GoPro Hero3 most of the housings and accessories are compatible with the later (more advanced) models, which means in a couple of years I may take the leap to 4K recording with either camera family and not ‘lose’ out on the investment.  I do feel that 1080P is going to be good enough for quite some time though as the storage and recording media demands of 4K exceed my budget.

Unpacking my HDR-AS20

Included in the basic kit are the obvious things like USB Cable, Battery, Mounts and a few stickers.  I was surprised at the inclusion of a AUD15 Voucher for Accessories from Sony Australia and an adapter to convert to the popular GoPro style mounts.

HDR-AS20 Included Accessories
HDR-AS20 Included Accessories

The HDR-AS20 is simple to use – like a GoPro – just preset the finer configurations then cycle between modes as needed. It seemed to have no issues with my 80Mb/s Sandisk Ultra 64Gb card and should record around 5.5 hours of video on it.  I’m not convinced that the iOS Apps are as good as they should be be, they aren’t as “comprehensive” as the GoPro App.  However the video “preview” via the Sony App is far superior to the GoPro with minimal lag and better clarity.

The standard housing is rated for 5m depths so will do the trick for snorkelling, pools and playing about on the water – this is not as good as the basic GoPro housings but enough for most of my potential use.

The lens optics and stability of image seem better than my Hero3 Black. Although with fewer modes to deal with the wide-angle distortion at recording time it may mean post-processing video will require a few more tweaks.

My HDR-AS20 Haul

I did pick up a few additional accessories at the same time, the Skeleton Housing for in-car use and a Hand-Grip/Tripod which I hope will be handy.

HDR-AS20 Haul
My Sony HDR-AS20 Haul

Thanks to the included voucher I’ll probably end up ordering the AKA-LU1 this week.  I’m hoping when combined with some additional Wasabi Power batteries that will be “enough”.  The Live Remote will have to wait until the right deal comes along!


Getting Rich on 2.4 cents per day

After reading yet another “wow look at me I’m a digital nomad living on a beach comfortably” article I decided to have a bit of a go at seeing just how much money could be made “passively” – after all the idea is to be sitting on the beach sipping pina coladas not slaving away at a keyboard.

the idea is to be sitting on the beach

Naturally my own creative lassitude means that setting this up couldn’t take a large single investment of time nor could the activities required to produce this income be “unpleasant”.  Becoming a crime-scene cleaner one day a week wasn’t the plan.

So I thought about my half-hearted efforts with YouTube over the years.  Here was a medium that had little to no start-up cost.  The time investment was completely manageable and most importantly it would let me try something new and get a tangible personal benefit – i.e. the few hours of footage accumulated over the years of holidays cars and cats could now get collated into viewable moments for our own consumption.

Yes YouTube was going to be the wealth creation vehicle

So I started by moving a few of my early video efforts into a clean and shiny new channel.  As my skills with video are limited they struggled for views, but I was at least getting the channel set-up and most importantly pushing myself to actually process our stock of footage.

It’s now taken a couple of months, but between a successful automotive themed video and some new content collected during our recent Vanuatu trip there’s a solid 30-40 views a day happening.

Through the editing and creation of the 33 videos currently online I’ve pushed myself to learn new skills, getting a handle on iMovie and how to cut together scenes that suit the content.  Let’s face it we want to see cats bounce & pounce, the idle time in between is just time that people will take to click away!

The travel videos on the other hand are longer and often not trimmed so that the whole presentation is given, but they’re chasing a specific audience, viewers like Kitty and I who are trying to research holidays or catch something we missed out on.

But moving back to the subject, 2.4 cents per day.  Yes on a rolling 30 day basis Youtube Analytics indicates a typical $0.70-$0.90 yield.   I’m a long way off being self sufficient on this, but I it would pay for one green coconut a day on Espiritu Santo!


GoPro Stuff – Coming to grips with it

When I was gifted a GoPro for my birthday last April I was like all “it’s so cool” but despite some tinkering around with making cat videos I didn’t really stretch its legs until recently.

Two things are immediately apparent;

  1. I need to make more and “better” raw video, the more video I can choose from the more interesting things I may capture.
  2. GoPro settings are important but they’re not the main factor, having a couple of “goto modes” and an understanding of the framing they provide is really all it takes.

To address the first problem all I need to do is actually use the GoPro.  Sounds simple but it’s true.  Sometimes a degree of self-consciousness can tip in, other times it’s too weird to carry around or have strapped into or on the car.   Then there’s the “how many times do I do the same thing” problem to get different angles or views.

The second problem is addressed through use, but also through excellent resources like Abe Kislevitz who seems to have tried enough of the settings in practice and then is able to write about them in a realistic comparative way. is essential reading for any new GoPro owner, and a thorough browse through his Blog & Portfolio, especially the user comments where Abe actually drops great succinct tips in response to questions will go a long way to unlocking the magic of these cool little cameras.

So back to my video efforts thus far, I’m most proud of my first bit of real underwater footage – It gave me an understanding of the cameras capability and captured memories that previously just weren’t possible. I’ve got another couple of hours of raw video to edit from a different day, and I’m expecting it to reflect the increased comfort I had with the camera after the first 30 minutes use in water that made this video.

The second video here is just an edit together from a single drive.  It’s the footage where I started to realise that the mounting of the GoPro really is the most important factor.  The camera was secure, but with a couple too many pieces used to position it I got shake, not much but enough.  Still, the video quality worked out OK, probably thanks to the bright sunny day.

Next challenge is to do some more on-car footage and see if we can get a complete 2-3 minute video with a number of angles and action sequences.