Saturday, September 25, 2010

Good Falla Mornin To You! My holiday in the Solomon Islands.

I just came back from two glorious weeks in the Solomon Islands. Keep reading to find out about what I got up to and a little bit about this incredible paradise.

The Solomon Islands are a 3hr flight North-East of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. I visited my friends Rob and Lucy who work for Save the Children in Honiara, the capital city on the island of Guadalcanal. Some of you may know that in 1942, an intense and important battle between the Japanese and the Allied Forces was fought there. In fact, the main road in Honiara has nothing but water on one side and is called the Iron Bottom Sound because there are so many sunken ships there!
The happy couple with groom in traditional provincial outfit.

Neil @ Tulagi Dive, Honiara
In the first week I got to know the area, attended a local wedding with traditional dancing, did a PADI dive course to become a certified diver at Tulagi Dive and finished off with a weekend 3 day & 2 night cruise aboard the MV Bilikiki dive tour company. I did 7 dives that weekend and saw some amazing fish and wildlife. I was able to cope with a malfunctioning inflator and some very strong currents without panicking. Not bad for a first timer who used to be terrified of the ocean! One thing I found incredible is that while we were in the Florida Islands (most of the trip) people in canoes would paddle out to us laden with fresh fruits and vegetables to sell to the tour operators. It was mainly what we ate on board! The last night saw a canoe filled with hand made shell jewelry and gorgeous wood carvings arrive which meant, of course, I had to make some purchases. What a great response to "where did you get that bracelet?", "why I bought this from a man in a canoe".

My Volcano Crown
Me upon completing the "Big Volcano Walk".

During my second week I visited the island known as Savo, which features two active volcanoes and tons of dolphins! You can also see the Megapode birds who dig holes to lay their eggs near the heat caused by the volcanoes, just 
The Boiling Waterfall
deep enough for perfect incubation. I did the "Big Volcano Walk" and had no idea what to expect so of course I wore thongs (flip-flops). There I was, clambering up handmade ladders in a lush jungle with streams of boiling water below and I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie! There is nothing to indicate humans are anywhere nearby on the way to or in the volcano. That's right, IN THE VOLCANO. I walked inside the sulfurous den of doom and didn't last long. The heat is so unbearable. I thought my shoes might melt! I did survive though and received a crown made from a plant that only grows in volcanic conditions. My guide John walks there and back (about 3 hrs return) on occasion 3 times a day. I was the only guest on the island and I felt quite special as I was waited on hand and foot. While the resort, Sunset Lodge, was badly in need of an upgrade, everything was clean and I had almost everything I needed. Despite the hideously large spider in my room and the power only being on between 6pm and midnight, I rather enjoyed my one night getaway at Savo!

Welcome to Sunset Lodge!
Thankfully my friends spoke the local language, Pigin, very well and I was able to pick up enough to carry on short, comfortable conversations. I also did one more dive with my instructor Neil on the Hirokawa Maru, a Japanese cargo ship that was sunk in 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal. I went to 33 metres and swam inside parts of the ship. It was eerie and exciting to be there but I felt humbled as I reflected on the lost lives.  

Noki - such a cutie!
I'm already planning a trip back as there is plenty more diving to do in the 28+degree c water and about a billion more islands to go see. There are entire fleets of planes, tanks, and other things that were abandoned by both Japanese and US forces in WWII in the jungles. There are more wrecks than one can count, many too deep for most to dive but plenty of other things to see including a plane and a submarine. There's also another, bigger, meaner volcano I wouldn't mind conquering.

I loved everything about the Solomons. I liked the curious and smiling locals, the smells, the language, the food, the money, the sea and the gentle hand of "Solomon time".

I encourage anyone, especially Australians, to check out the Solomons. Less tourists, more unspoiled locations, cheaper accommodation and activities, plus world class tropical diving and snorkeling.

Save the Children Solomon Islands Please consider a donation.
Flights are available via Solomon Airlines or Virgin Pacific from Brisbane and cost around AUD$400 each way. July-September are good months to visit.


Dan said...

The dive down to the ship wreck sounds amazing. What a wonderful and, as you say, humbling experience. It sounds like a beautiful and life-enriching place to visit.

Jen said...

It was and thanks for reading!