The Solomon Islands – Life off the Map

For now, the Solomon Islands hover just at the edge of the radar screen and enjoy a certain amount of anonymity, even among divers.

First some basic Solomon Islands geography: the island chain is located directly east of Papua New Guinea and just northwest of Vanuatu. Visitors will generally arrive at the capital city of Honiara, where there’s an international airport with flights to and from Australia. From here you can also catch flights to other areas, such as Seghe on Marovo Lagoon or Munda on New Georgia.  You’ll reach many areas best by liveaboard, although some ferries can get you to the outer areas as well.

Underwater Wonders

Divers will love the Solomons’ biodiversity and unspoiled reefs. There are also relatively few operators in the Solomon Islands, making for uncrowded dive sites. How many times has your operator chosen sites based on the number of dive boats in an area? Or the boat has dropped you on a site already crowded with divers? Won’t happen here — your group will have the site all to itself.

The underwater environment of the Solomon Islands offers everything from historical WWII wrecks, including large sea planes, to caves and caverns, high-current drifts and seamounts that attract pelagics. You can test your eyes in the lagoon areas, seeking the uber-macro, or experience the underwater grumbling of a volcano during your dive. Anything is possible. If you’re after a specific type of encounter, check in with your dive operator before booking and they can recommend the best time of year to come. Although the Solomon Islands cover a large area, your dive operators will be more than happy to help you find mantas, hammerheads, pygmy seahorses, cuttlefish, nudis, crocodiles and any other number of wonders.

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Topside Life

Life in the Solomons is Pacific-perfect and paced in accordance. Outside of Honiara, life on the smaller islands is simple, small and quiet. Communities may be no larger than a couple hundred people. While they have little material wealth, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more genuine smile or warmer hosts in the world. Life here revolves around farming, fishing and raising the children.

Smile and say hello if you get a chance to visit a small community. Locals care about visitors and want to both teach and learn from them. Most operators organize dive permits with local land holders, and will even supply fresh fish and produce from the communities. Village visits allow outsiders a glimpse into local lives. You can also purchase local crafts, such as beautiful carvings and jewelry. Some communities perform dances and play pan flutes for the guests. Others show you some of the local crafts and skills needed to survive.

Despite the idyllic setting, all is not perfect in the islands. A struggling government is often eager to issue illegal permits allowing outside influences to decimate fisheries and forests. But your visit can help change this. The word is getting out about the natural beauty of the Solomon Islands. Small communities have begun to value the renewable income of eco-tourism, even establishing small resorts and local marine preserves. Now is the perfect time to visit and discover the Pacific’s best kept secret.

By guest writer Adam Straub

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