The Solomon Islands, a Pacific nation famed for its scuba diving is the perfect place to recharge your batteries. A honeymooner's heaven in a veritable tropical paradise just three hours from Brisbane – no excuses.
Adventure awaits in the Solomons, above and below the water line. Apart from teeming tropical waters, the attractions include floating villages, macabre relics of head-hunting days – and of pitched battles fought here in the Second World War. On some islands, local guides lead hikers to volcanic craters and hot springs.
Most visitors head for the Western Province, a cluster of islands bordering New Guinea, where the waters teem with marine life, a mecca for divers, snorkellers and even surfers. Scattered dive resorts complement the simple, locally-owned ‘eco lodges’ and village homestays which cluster around the shores.
The 90-minute Solomon Airlines Twin Otter flight from Honiara to the provincial capital of Gizo proves stunningly scenic, passing over emerald islands fringed with golden sand and scattered across turquoise waters. Sunday morning’s Express Pelican fast ferry service will also take you there, stopping enroute at torpid island outposts.
Related article: South Pacific Islands Fact File
Gizo’s waterfront market teems with coral fish, red emperor and robust silvery skipjack tuna, which are landed in mid-afternoon to join fresh- picked papaya, sticky-sweet pineapple and fat hands of pudgy-fingered bananas. Just offshore on Mbabanga Island, David and Chelsea Calton run the small, funky Fatboys bar, restaurant and bungalows, the nearest thing to pure hedonism in these parts. To one side is the islet to which the US navy lieutenant – and future president – John F. Kennedy swam after his patrol boat sank in 1943. To the east looms the smouldering volcanic cone of Kolombangara. On New Georgia Island and around the magnificent Marovo Lagoon, eco-tourism possibilities include fishing, kayaking and birdwatching. Divers make for the Australian-operated Uepi Lodge, near the lagoon entrance.
Bernard and Jilly Kaniotoku’s Matikuri Lodge is one of several clinging to Marovo’s densely forested shores. Simply-furnished bungalows extend out over pellucid waters populated by schools of fearless coral fish, giant clams and even a few laid-back sharks, circling languidly. At dinner, lit by kerosene lamps, we savour fresh- cooked crayfish, mud crab and tuna; two further days until the flight back to Honiara pass as in a dream.
Photography: Phillip Game