Highlight Solomon Islands Dive Sites
Remote and truly beautiful the Solomon Islands is a diver’s dream destination. Part of the coral triangle with a staggering diversity of marine species, coral and dive sites, it somehow remains one of the least dived areas of the world.
Here are some of our favorite dive sites:
Toa Maru – a Japanese transport ship sunk off Gizo during World War II. The deepest point of the wreck is by the stern, which rest in 130 feet of water, however the top of the wreck can be reached at a depth of 40 feet. The contents of the ship’s 6 cargo holds include saki bottles, ammunition clips, and a tank. However since the sinking the ship has been salvaged removing some of the cargo, and the ship’s propeller.
Helcat fighter plane – a shallow dive to 30ft; ammunition is still found in its wings. The fighter was accidentally shot down (the pilot survived and was rescued) in WW2.
Hot Spot – a small pinnacle, comes up to 5m from the ocean’s depths of 300-400m. As the tide changes, pelagics come and feed on the shoals of bait fish that congregate in and around.
Leru Cut in the Russell Islands – This site provides one of the Solomons’ iconic photo-ops as morning sunlight pierces a chasm in the island. Dramatic streams of light penetrate the jungle canopy, providing for striking available light shots of divers in silhouette. It is basically a cut in the wall that penetrates in for 300 feet and open is at the top revealing the jungle above. The bottom of the cut is 60 feet and the dive is normally done just before mid-day in order to the streams of light just right. The inside wall is covered with fans, soft corals, nudibranchs, and fusiliers, and the wall outside the cut is as good.
Mary Island – Remote, jungle-clad, uninhabited Mborokua (Mary) Island is about as far off the beaten tourist track as you can get. This extinct volcano lies west of the Russell Islands and is surrounded by deep walls with prolific marine life including barracuda, manta rays and sharks. It is one of those dive destinations that once visited it is never forgotten, Mary Island is notable for an underwater point that commonly hosts massive schools of barracuda and jacks.
Barracuda Point and, like its namesake in Malyasia’s Sipadan Island, there are huge schools of both barracuda and jacks. The difference is that these schools are much larger. One can also leave the depths to explore the coral rubble areas, for here ghost pipefish, leaf fish and shrimp gobies rule.
Mirror Pond at Mane Island – This is a wall and point site that has some great shallows with a cave entrance at the rear. Along the front of the wall there is vibrant hard and soft corals with colonies of anthias, humphead parrotfish, white tip reef shark, and cuttlefish. This site is famous for the saltwater crocodile that occasionally resides in the shallow tunnel connecting the reef face to an inner lagoon. But true to its name, Mirror Pond offers mirror like reflection opportunities in the shallows and the tall spur-and-groove surge channels lead offshore to a fairly vertical wall face. Elegantly intact stands of staghorn coral provide refuge for a wealth of Pacific reef critters.
Custom Cave – Across the bay from Leru, on the main island of Pavuvu, there are a number of caves along the wall. Most of these lead to dead ends. The entrance to the Custom Cave leads to a 65-foot tunnel that narrows and goes downward then opens out into a large round chamber. There is a hole in the roof where the sunlight filters down in a shaft of light when the sun is high. After you have explored the cave, you can enjoy an exciting wall dive with a big swim-through nearby.
Anuha – A shallow dive located in the Florida Islands, it is basically a rubble strewn sandy slope, similar in topography to sites in Lembeh Strait, such as baby batfish, harlequin snake eels and ghost pipefish.
Devils’ Highway – An advanced dive with strong currents (8 to 10 knots), but that’s where the mantas cruise. You’re dropped a couple hundred yards from the wall in about 15′ of water, hovering (like a sky diver) a couple feet of the rock shelf floor. Once you approach the drop off to the wall, kick hard downward and find a place to hold on. (this dive you wear gloves, don’t forget to pack them) You will be delighted to the dozen or so mantas that continue to swim back and forth along the top of the wall, feeding in the current.
With world-class sunken WWII vessels lying close to the shore, Most sites can be reached by car from the capital, Honiara. Some top draws:
Bonegi: about 12km west of Honiara, a giant-sized Japanese merchant transport ship, also known as the Hirokawa Maru, lies just a few fin strokes offshore.
Bonegi II: also known as Kinugawa Maru, the upper works break the surface a towel’s throw from the beach, about 500m west of Bonegi I.
Searpens: a big ship that lies upside down, east of Honiara.
Tulagi: Easily accessible from Honiara, Tulagi is a must for wreck enthusiasts, with awesome reef dives as well.
USS Kanawha & USS Aaron Ward: a 150m-long oil tanker sitting upright, and a 106m-long US Navy destroyer noted for its extensive arsenal. The catch? They lie deep, very deep (the Kanawha in 45m and the Aaron Ward in 65m), and are accessible to experienced divers only. Visibility is not the strong point here; expect 15m on average.
Manta Passage: boasts regular sightings of huge manta rays.
Munda: offers a good balance of wreck and reef. The wildlife highlights for divers are:
Shark Point: a 25-minute boat ride from Munda, this sloping reef seldom fails to produce sightings of grey reef sharks, silvertips, devil rays, snapper, batfish and turtles. You’ll have to go deep (around 50m) to see the marauding sharks.
Susu Hite: a relaxing dive, this lively reef sits in less than 20m – perfect for novices.
Mbigo: features beautiful hard and soft corals and, quite often, Galapagos sharks.
South Marovo Lagoon
South Marovo rewards divers with a host of very scenic sites off a cluster of three lovely islands – Kicha, Mbulo and Male Male Islands – accessible by 15- to 30-minute boat rides from the village of Peava.
Kavolavata Treasure (Gatokae Island): a unique combination of muck diving and reef diving, with rare species of fish and invertebrates.
Toana (Mbulo Island): a scenic drop-off dripping with luscious corals and sea fans. Another highlight is the dramatic underwater terrain.
Picnic (Kicha Island): a constant parade of reef tropical, dramatic drop-off and scenic ridge.
DIVE SEASON: You can dive theSolomon 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.
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