Scuba Diving Solomon Islands
The marine biodiversity is exceptional, incredibly healthy reefs look like a Garden of Eden and the absence of crowds is a prime draw. Another clincher is the mind boggling array of WWII wrecks
The Solomon Islands is a nation in Melanesia, east of Papua New Guinea and consists of nearly one thousand islands. Some of the bitterest fighting of World War II occurred in the Solomon Islands campaign of 1942–45, including the Battle of Guadalcanal.
For those seeking an authentic Melanesian experience or an off-the-beaten-track destination, the Solomons are hard to beat. From WWII relics scattered in the jungle to leaf-hut villages where traditional culture is alive, there’s so much on offer. Then there’s the visual appeal, with scenery reminiscent of a Discovery Channel documentary: volcanic islands that jut up dramatically from the cobalt blue ocean, croc-infested mangroves, huge lagoons, tropical islets and emerald forests.
Don’t expect white-sand beaches, ritzy resorts and wild nightlife – the Solomons are not a beach-holiday destination. With only a smattering of traditional guesthouses and comfortable hideaways, it’s tailor-made for ecotourists. For outdoorsy types, lots of action-packed experiences can easily be organized: climb an extinct volcano, surf uncrowded waves, snorkel pristine reefs or kayak across a lagoon. Beneath the ocean’s surface, unbeatable diving adventures await.
Honiara is the national capital and gateway to the Solomon Islands. For most international visitors this will be your first port of call. Visit Honiara’s cosmopolitan and colourful food market in downtown Honiara, a vibrant and living melting pot
of the Solomons!
Guadalcanal (beyond Honiara) – Guadalcanal is a mountainous tropical island. It was the scene of many fierce battles during the Pacific War form 1942 to 1945. Iron Bottom Sound, the body of water between Guadalcanal, Nggela Islands and Savo is so-called because the sea channel is the watery graves for many warships and fighter planes – allied and Japanese alike.
Central Province ( Florida & Savo Island) – This group of islands comprises the Nggela (or Florida) group across Iron Bottom Sound from Honiara, Savo and Russell Islands, to the north east of Honiara. Attractions are superb dive sites and natural wonders like the unique megapode birds breeding on thermal springs on Savo Island. Tulagi, the colonial capital of Solomon Islands, boasts
historic tales and sites. Russell Islands has one of the largest coconut groves in the South Pacific.
Western Province – Comprising 11 main islands including new Georgia, Vella Lavella, Kolombangara, Rendova, Ranongga, Vangunu and the Shortlands. Dubbed the mecca of Solomon Islands’ tourism, the province boasts magnificent aerial views of verdant islands and azure lagoons. Perfect underwater visibility makes the west an excellent dive destination, teeming with marine life and corals. Fierce battles during World War II left behind wrecks that are must dive sites now like the Toa maru in Kololuka Bay and the Grand central Station near Gizo. Kennedy Island named after the late US President J f Kennedy is about 10 minutes by speedboat from Gizo. The Kavachi underwater submarine volcano offers a rare display of nature at work, and the massive Marovo lagoon is a proposed World heritage site.
Isabel Province – Isabel Province is made up of one main island lying to Guadalcanal’s north west. Buala (capital)’s laid back atmosphere is a big draw card and the provincial capital has a lot to off er to those out for an adventure. Activities range from guided bush walks, visit to a village built on silts in Kia, breeding sites for the endangered hawksbill turtles or lessons in traditional dances.
Isabel is also famous for its unique dance for women, the story of its vanishing lake and numerous skull shrines depict a
violent past. Bird and crocodile watching can be organised as well as attending a pan pipe concert.
Choiseul Province – Under-developed, Choiseul is an adventure’s haven. Ccomprising one large island of 3294 square kilometres
and lying north of Western Province, Choiseul’s main attractions are its virgin, untouched natural wonders like the nesting grounds of the endangered hawksbill turtles. Whales have also been sighted in the surrounding waters. Choiseul is home to rare pottery and weaving.
Malaita Province – A natural and cultural delight as its main attractions, Malaita comprises one main island to Guadalcanal’s east as well as atolls to the extreme north namely Ontong Java and Sikiana whose inhabitants are Polynesians.
Renell & Bellona Province – Rennell, a World heritage site, is the main attraction with the South Pacifi c’s largest inland lake of lake Tegano. The two-island province of uplifted coral lies directly south of Guadalcanal. The lake and its surrounds are home to numerous endemic birds and plants. Activities for visitors include land crab hunting, spear diving, nightfishing and dolphin watching.
Makira and Ulawa Province – Visitors will find this province lying south of Malaita and southeast of Guadalcanal is full of surprises. Some cultural practices are unique to Makira and Ulawa like ancient fi shing methods, crocodile wrestling and the shark hole underneath a church altar at Suholo village in ulawa. Witnessing the island’s annual land crab harvest should be a highlight. It is where the rare Pacifi c Ridley turtle nests.
Temotu Province – Comprising three main islands in the extreme east, Temotu offers a historical and culturally unique experience for visitors. The country’s most active volcano is at Tinakula and the unique red feather money is found here. Ancient and massive Kauri trees grow at Vanikoro and Santa Cruz. The Temotu Province offers some of the remotest diving sites in the world. Diving can be done from Ngarando Island resort in the Reef islands. Wall dives, drop off s, coral gardens & fish life are some of spectacular dives that one must not miss in this area.
SCUBA DIVING SOLOMON ISLANDS
The marine biodiversity is exceptional, incredibly healthy reefs look like a Garden of Eden and the absence of crowds is a prime draw. Another clincher is the mind boggling array of WWII wrecks – Hundreds of ships and aircraft litter the ocean floor, providing divers with a wide range of wrecks for scuba divers to explore. These machines and war relics now form spectacular, artificial reefs which attract masses of fish and an incredible variety of coral life. Best of all, the Solomon’s are dive able year-round.
A great way to see the diverse array of diving’s theSolomon’s has to offer is aboard one of the two charter boats based in Honiara.
More information on Highlight Dive Sites
DIVE SEASON: You can dive the Solomon Islands all year long.
VISIBILITY: Generally the viz runs 24-45 metres/80-150 feet.During the rainy season (roughly October to January) visibility can dip below the usual 30-45 meters/100-150 feet.
WATER TEMPERATURE: Nice warm water, varying from 82-85F (28-29C).
CURRENTS: Mostly mild, but can vary by location
WEATHER: The Solomon Islands enjoy a year-round tropical climate moderated by the sea air. Rainfall averages 10 inches per month year round, ranging from 8 inches in the dryer season to 12 inches in the wet. There is no monsoon season with extensive periods of heavy rainfall, but rain can be expected at any time, although it usually blows over fairly quickly.
SKILL LEVELS: Divers of all levels will find the Solomon Islands exciting. Deep diving experience or advanced training is recommended at some sites due to depth and wreck training is recommended for divers interested in exploring the various wrecks.
CLIMATE: The Solomon Islands enjoy a tropical climate with daytime temperatures averaging 84F (29C) and evening temperatures averaging 66F (19C). April to November is the most popular time to visit as the climate is very pleasant with little rain but the Solomon Islands are definitely considered a year round destination.
LANGUAGE: There are about 90 languages in the country. While English is taught in schools and is the official language, locals use a mixture of Melanesian and English called Pidgin to converse.
ELECTRICITY: 220 – 240 volts is the standard. Australian three pin style plugs are standard. For 110 volts, ask or buy a
voltage converter. If your electrical appliances are other international plugs, we recommend you bring an adapter with you. Electricity is not available on all islands though and supply may be erratic.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: The currency of the Solomon Islands is the Solomon Dollar. MasterCard and Visa accepted at some tourist facilities and restaurants. A surcharge normally applies. American Express is accepted in major hotels in Honiara. Generally speaking, smaller guest houses will only accept cash.
GRATUITIES: Tipping is discouraged throughout the Solomon Islands but feel free to bargain with craftsmen.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: There are high speed internet cafes in communities and popular tourist areas. Most telephone service is via cell phones with service continually expanding throughout the country.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: Citizens of the United States and most (British)
commonwealth and European Union countries do not need a visa. If you have a valid passport (minimum 6 months validity from planned date of entry) and a return or onward ticket, you can acquire a visitor’s visa valid for three months on
arrival. Tourist visas are usually issued for 30 days on arrival. There are some exceptions, so do check with the Solomon
Islands Immigration Service www.commerce.gov.sb
GETTING THERE: Honiara International Airport is currently served by 4 international airlines flying direct from Australia , Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji.
Solomon Airlines – The national carrier, flies to Honiara from Australia (Brisbane), PNG (Port Moresby), Vanuatu (Port Vila) and Fiji (Nadi) with connections from New Zealand, Europe, Asia and North America.
Air Niugini – Fly into Honiara from PNG (Port Moresby) with direct connections from Singapore and other Asian ports.
Fiji Airways – Link Honiara with Fiji (Nadi) where flights connect with services from North America and other Pacific Islands.
Virgin Australia – Also flies into Honiara from Australia (Brisbane) with direct connections from New Zealand.
CUSTOMS: 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco, and /or 2 litres of spirit or equivalent. Other dutiable goods ought not to exceed S$1500 for gifts or S$3000 for personal items.
DEPARTURE TAX: This is usually included in the cost of your airline ticket. (Consult your travel agent)
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