Cast away in the far corners of the South Pacific lies the Solomon Islands, some of the most remote, majestic and intriguing islets on the planet. Boasting an array of palm fringed beaches, tropical reefs and pearlescent blue seas, this double chain of islands is widely scattered and stretches for more than 1000km from New Guinea towards Vanuatu. Rich in history and culture, this unspoilt and for the most part, untouched archipelago is an adventurer's dream.
This unforgettable trip was hosted by the Solomon Islands Tourism Board and over the two weeks, we were able to experience this incredible and unique country both above and below the surface.
Getting To The Solomon Islands
One of the Solomon Islands many charms is its remoteness, with only a handful of ways to travel here, it makes this paradise the perfect secluded getaway. There are only a handful of international flights to the Solomon Islands each week. Solomon Airlines operates three flights a week from Brisbane, Air Pacific once a week from Nadi, Air Niugini twice a week from Port Moresby and Nadi and Pacific Blue from Brisbane.
We travelled with the national carrier, Solomon Airlines, on the short flight from Brisbane to Honiara. Their friendly cabin crew set the precedent for the rest of the trip and as I flew over the labyrinth of densely forested mushroom islands and cobalt blue reefs, my imagination was running riot as to what marine life could be living in the depths below.
Getting around the Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands are made up of hundreds of small islands amidst the six main islands. The majority of travel within the archipelago is through domestic flights with Solomon Airlines. Flights to each island don’t always operate daily, therefore a little more time is recommended for planning if you are hoping to island hop whilst you’re here! It is possible to travel by boat between some of the islands, however, peering out of the plane window at less than 10,000ft to the kaleidoscope of tropical islands below was an experience in itself and to make the flight just that extra bit special, we had a lady pilot!
The best time to visit Solomon Islands
The intriguing Solomon Islands can be dived year round. The dry season falls between April and October, although the winds are higher and the sea conditions tend to be a little more rough. November to March welcomes the rainy season which is noticeably more humid and warm. Diving in the Solomon Islands is great 12 months of the year!
Scuba diving in the Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands are teeming with a plethora of marine life that dance atop some of the most vibrant reefs in the world and swarm the copious wrecks that have remained on the sea bed since World War II. From turbulent channels and sunken ships to the undisturbed reefs and calming waters of the manta cleaning stations, there truly is a whole new world waiting to be discovered in the South Pacific.
Just a short boat ride from Tulagi Island perches the tiny island of Mbike. As we moored up in the shallows, we made our way down the steep sandy slope towards a purposely sunken ship wreck. As one of the of the first dives of the trip, I was a cauldron of anticipation. Sitting proudly at around 20 meters, every inch of metal was decorated with tremendous table coral, gorgeous gorgonian fans and sensational soft corals, a natural aquarium rich with life.
Simons Nature Reserve
As we left Mbike Island, our dive boat danced across the marble glazed waters of the Sandfly Passage to a secluded spot positioned perfectly in front of a small local village. We were swiftly greeted by Simon, his beaming smile was infectious and he didn’t hesitate to tell us all about his nature reserve. For the past fifteen years Simon has been protecting the reef outside of his home. In 2004 he started to collect corals from other reefs in the area, he noted the name of every coral that he took before replanting them and nurturing them to life. Simon has prohibited local fishermen from fishing his reef and now educates them on how beneficial a healthy reef can be for both tourism and for the fish population. Although the area is too shallow to dive, the reef is a sensational snorkeling spot housing almost every species of coral in the Sandfly Passage. A flash flood of color, Simons Nature Reserve will leave even the most experienced of divers in awe.
One of the most unique dive sites in the Solomon Islands and maybe even the world, Twin Tunnels are two vertical lava tubes built into the sea mount a few miles from the shore. Sitting at 15m, one by one we sank into the darkness of the tunnel walls. Lined with giant gorgonian fans, stunning sponges and whimsical whip corals, the tunnels are a sanctuary for macro life! At 36m the tubes open out into the deep blue and we meandered up the plummeting wall back to the reef plateau where huge schools of fusilier's parade across the blue, octopus skip across the crags and pygmy sea horse rock back and forth amidst the fans.
Due to the position of this dive site, the currents can be strong and unpredictable, so make sure to stay close to your dive guide and carry a DSMB like our GTS pink one!
So good they named it twice! A 45 minute boat ride from the town of Munda, we raced across the deep channels and meandered between the islets towards Parara island. As we dropped deep, we were all mesmerized by the perfectly pristine reef and gullies below. Exquisite overhangs veiled with an array of colorful corals, prodigious palegics penetrated the blues and swarms of barracuda wrapped themselves into a terrific tornado as we all gazed in awe. Roaming the reef, we glided across the plateau until we reached a pristine coral garden awash with curious oriental sweetlips gathered amongst the corals and a myriad of juvenile fish seeking refuge. We also had the pleasure of diving with Euna from Dive Munda, the only active female scuba instructor in the Solomon Islands!
Morovo Lagoon Manta Station
Uepi Island Resort is located on the stunning Morovo Lagoon, a haven for majestic manta and home to manta cleaning stations. Arising early we headed out into the lagoon, peering over the side of the boat into the shallow, crystal clear waters. As the boat slowed we caught our first glimpse. Donning our snorkel, mask and fins we slid in and watched in awe as two manta graced us with their presence. Gliding across the bottom, we ducked down and watched as they gracefully rolled up to the surface, a private show that left us speechless. If only every day could begin like this!
Dive centres in Solomon Islands
Whilst the lack of other divers is great at ensuring the health of the oceans, it does mean that resorts and dive shops are few and far between, but here are a few of our favourites;
Raiders Hotel & Dive
Just a one hour boat ride from Honiara lies Raiders Hotel & Dive. Run by Bob and Yvie, a lovely couple from New Zealand, Raiders is comfortable, friendly and professional, offering dives for all experience levels and preferences. Tulagi Island is part of the Florida Islands which are famed for not only their historical shipwrecks and plane wrecks, but also for their rich reefs too. The dive shop caters mainly to recreational divers and groups of divers attracted by the history that lies beneath the surface as well as the reefs that are layered with corals, reef fish and the many pelagics that roam the waters.
Uepi Island Resort
Uepi Island Resort offers riveting reef dives on every corner of the island. Conveniently located within close proximity to the resort, their first class dive sites are only a few minutes boat ride away and with the promise of manta rays, a myriad of sharks and an endless bounty of fish, Uepi Island is not one to be missed.
Located in the town of Munda, Dive Munda offers incredible dives off the island of New Georgia. Whether you are already certified or looking to progress, this dive shop has friendly instructors that can take you through your more advanced courses and local instructors that know the dive sites like the back of your hand. The sites dived by Dive Munda are a little further away than those of other dive shops, however, the boat ride through the beautiful islets makes the journey almost as enjoyable as the dives themselves.
What you need to dive in Solomon islands
- The water in the Solomon Islands is warm all year with temperatures ranging from 28 to 30 degrees. Shorties and rashies are a must!
- For the majority of the dive sites we experienced no current, however, on a couple of dives the current did pickup and became quite strong so we would recommend diving with your own DSMB!
- You can hire you own gear at all dive centres in the Solomon Islands, but if you are looking at buying your own before you go check out our female dive equipment guide.
- Brush up on your buoyancy and trim skills for the wreck dives and to descend the Twin Tunnels too!
- A wreck diving specialty is recommended but not mandatory
Where to stay in Solomon Islands
Located in the capital of Honiara, Coral Sea Resort is just a 20 minute drive from the International Airport and is the perfect sanctuary to spend a few nights. The resort is vibrant and modern and in our opinion has one of the best restaurants and cocktail menus in the whole of the Solomon Islands. Its the perfect place to chill post-flight and catch your first tropical sunset!
Raiders Hotel & Dive
Raiders Hotel & Dive is a small boutique hotel located on the island of Tulagi overlooking the tranquil waters of Tulagi Harbour and onward to the hills and forests of Ngella. The hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms oceanside, making it the perfect spot for those wanting to relax and dive close to the capital, Honiara. For those looking for more than just diving, the hotel also offers snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, bird-watching, fishing and local village visits too.
Uepi Island Resort
Uepi Island Resort is located in the New Georgia Islands and sits proudly amidst the largest lagoon in the world, Marovo Lagoon. This beautiful island is covered with thick, dense forest and surrounded by the warm sandy cobalt waters of the lagoon to one side and deep ocean blues to the other. Guests to the island can enjoy the spacious beachside bungalows and with only 20 guests being considered a “full house” the island feels like your own private island.
Titiru Eco Lodge lies on Rendova Island, just a 30 minute boat ride from the town of Munda. The mangroves surrounding the beautiful Saqiri Cove have created a sanctuary for many fish and birds and provides the perfect opportunity to observe the local flora and fauna. Dives are arranged through the reputable Dive Munda and the resort sits atop an array of beautiful and unique reefs. Nearby is the infamous Skull Island which is a key historical landmark when headhunting was rife in the Solomon Islands. For those wanting to experience some of the local culture, the resort can arrange activities such as paddling traditional dug out canoes, night crabbing, game fishing and a night watching a local bamboo band performance.
GTS in Solomon Islands
This is Euna, the only active female dive instructor in the Solomon Islands. in 2010 Euna was working at the Agnes Gateway Hotel in Munda. The majority of the guests to the hotel were there for the diving offered by the hotel and Euna quickly became intrigued. In the Solomon Islands, scuba diving has always been considered “unsafe and a mans job”, however, Euna broke the mould and during the same year she completed her Open Water Certification.
Over the next few years the hotel struggled to keep its dive operation afloat and eventually it closed down. In 2016 Belinda Botha reopened the dive shop and Euna realised that she may finally be able to accomplish her dream to show the Solomon Islands next generation just how fun being underwater could be and the amazing world that scuba diving can open up. Now a qualified Instructor, Euna conducts talks to young girls about reducing plastic, how they can protect our oceans and career choices for them.
“From the moment I met Euna” said Belinda, “I knew I had to provide her with the resources to grow and develop so she could empower others… The Solomon Islands is one of the last wild frontiers left on the planet, and we need leaders and strong females to help protect and preserve.”
If you’re heading to the Solomon Islands, come and visit Euna at Dive Munda and show the other girls in her town that there's a whole community of us out there waiting to explore the beautiful underwater world!
Written by GTS social media manager Charlotte on assignment in the Solomon Islands for Girls that Scuba hosted by Solomon Island Tourism Board.