Solomon Islands in a Nutshell
The Solomon Islands has some of the most pristine dive sites in the world. Unspoiled because of the remote location, there are not many divers or fishermen to put pressure on the reef and fish. The marine diversity of the Solomon Islands is hard to beat!
Intro to the Solomon Islands for Dive Travel
For incredible reefs, lots of fish, and very few others divers, the Solomon Islands is the place to be. You find wrecks, caverns, wide-angle reefs, large sea fans, soft corals, and lots of macro. There’s an incredible diversity of hard corals. The Solomon Islands rival any other Indo-pacific dive travel destination for coral reefs, marine life and diversity. Topside, you get great cultural experiences like villagers and children in dugout canoes visiting your boat for friendly commerce and interaction. Your options in the Solomon Islands are limited, which may be a good thing. There are only a couple resorts and liveaboards.
Solomon Islands Typical Dive
On a liveaboard, 5 dives a day is typical and that usually includes a night dive. You can dive solo or go with friends and/or a guide. Although some dives are from a big boat, tenders are more common. The tender is usually waiting for you - in the event you surface early, they’re available to bring you back to the boat.
Diving is fairly easy with not much current, good visibility, and plentiful marine life. Most divers use nitrox due to the repetitive diving. Depths are standard for Info-Pacific reefs, with the best marine life between 20-80 feet deep. On most dives you can get into the shallows, so long dives upwards of 70-90 minutes are possible. Motoring between sites is usually done during meals or at night, allowing you to maximize your time spent in the water.
Most trips do 2 - 4 dives on 1 or 2 wrecks, like Wreck of the Ann. These wrecks are usually at 50 - 100 ft. depth and have plentiful marine life such as soft corals, sponges, and many lionfish.
Solomon Islands - Best Areas and Dive Sites
Mary's island is a popular site with plentiful reef sharks and big schools of jacks and barracuda. Big bumphead parrotfish are commonly seen here and you may see an occasional napoleon wrasse or tuna. Typically, an entire day of diving is done here. This is the main place for "big stuff" - definitely a wide-angle site.
Barracuda Point: This site is on Mary's Island. Here you’ll find hundreds of jacks and barracuda in multiple schools swirling toward the sun. It's a photographers dream to shoot away as divers become engulfed by a wall of fish unconcerned with firing strobes.
Devils' Highway: This is an advanced dive with strong currents, but it’s where the mantas cruise. You are dropped a couple hundred yards from the wall in about 15' of water, hovering like a skydiver only a few feet from the rock shelf floor. Once you approach the drop off to the wall, kick hard downward and find a place to hold on. (Don’t forget to pack dive gloves!) You will be delighted by the dozen or so mantas that continue to swim back and forth along the top of the wall, feeding in the current.
Florida Islands: The Florida Islands are close to Honiara, and have many excellent dive sites. One of the most famous is Twin Tunnels. It's a sea mount with two big lava tubes. You can descend into either tube and come out in a cave on a reef wall at about 36m. This dive is great not only for the lava tubes, but for the huge schools of fish that swirl around the sea mount, and the fabulous reef on top. There are lots of fans with pygmy seahorses, barrel sponges full of hairy squat lobsters, there are cuttlefish, octopus, eels, rays, and literally hundreds of species of fish and corals. This is just a gorgeous dive and everyone loves it.
Russell Islands: The Russell Islands lie between Honiara and Western Province. The highlight would have to be the caves there - not scary enclosed caves, but shallow caves that are really just cuts in the reef, with gorgeous big shafts of light, and you can look up into the jungle canopy above. Leru Cut, Custom Cave, and Mirror Pond are three well known sites.
Marovo Lagoon: Located on the east side of New Georgia Island, Marovo Lagoon is the world's biggest saltwater lagoon. Uepi lies on the edge of it, and is home to the highly regarded Uepi Island Resort. The renowned Liveaboard, the Bilikiki, visits many sites here. One favourite is Kicha, which is known for lots of reef sharks, big schools of friendly spadefish, barracuda, and a beautiful reef covered in hard and soft corals.
About an hour's flight from Honiara, on the west side of New Georgia, is Munda, another off-the-beaten-path destination that offers spectacular walls, caverns, and coral gardens, as well as numerous WWII plane wrecks. There is plenty of history evident above the surface too, along with cultural sites including skull collections left behind by previous generations of headhunters!
Western Province: The provincial captitol, Gizo, is roughly a 90 minute flight from Honiara, and offers a good mix of healthy reefs, wrecks, and diverse marine life. It's also a great example of a sleepy South Pacific island community, with several small resorts, a handful of shops and restaurants, and an open-air market. Like the rest of the Solomons, this region is steeped in WWII history, including the island where John F. Kennedy and crew met a Japanese torpedo aboard PT-109.
Wreck Dives in the Solomon Islands
Near Honiara there are three Japanese wrecks that locals dive all the time. They are the Hirokawa Maru, Kinugawa Maru, and Kysyu Maru. Two of them are at Bonegi Beach, which is a 20 minute drive from the centre of Honiara. The third is a few kilometres past Bonegi Beach. Locals call the wrecks - somewhat uncreatively - Bonegi 1, Bonegi 2, and Bonegi 3. They are super easy shore dives, you simply walk into the water and the wrecks start at a depth of just a few metres. The back end of the B1 wreck is around 60m I think , B2 goes to 30m, and B3 is around 50m at the bottom.
B1 is a favourite, some locals have done it 300 times already and say they could easily do it 300 more. There are lots of swim throughs in the wreck to explore, torpedo holes you can go in and out of, big open cargo holds with cars and other junk inside. Also simply incredible marine diversity, there's interesting macro subjects every square metre of the wreck. Divers have seen sharks, turtles, rays, and there are often big schools of snapper, sweetlips, and jacks. It's also a great night dive, schools of flashlight fish can often be found in the cargo hold, and eels, octopus, and cuttlefish abound.
B2 is a smaller wreck. It's shallower, and the top is poking out of the water, so lots of people go there to snorkel. The sand slopes either side of the wreck are full of garden eels and blue spotted sting rays.
B3 has less coral than B1 or B2, but it's an interesting wreck to explore. It has some really nice swim throughs that don't involve any tight squeezes.
Solomon Islands Marine Life & Photography Subjects
Lying at the eastern edge of the famed "Coral Triangle," the Solomons offer an impressive diversity of marine life, ranging from exquisite nudibranches to friendly cuttlefish and a wealth of other critters. Fish life is also abundant, including massive schools of trevally and barracuda, along with a vast assortment of colorful reef fish. Many reefs offer forests of healthy hard coral, sponges, fans, and soft coral. Underwater terrain is similarly varied, including walls, slopes, coral gardens, and pinnacles, plus dramatic and highly photographic caverns like Leru Cut.
Lens Selection: You can use a fisheye lens for wide-angle, schooling fish, wrecks, lionish and cuttlefish, and 60mm or 100mm macro lenses for macro subjects. Supermacro opportunities are also good, and there isn't much surge.
Photographers should pack both wide angle and macro lens as you will get opportunities to capture walls with mega fans, large schools of jacks or barracuda, mantas, and reef sharks. The macro shots include nudibranchs, blennies, sea horses, leaf scorpion, and every type of ghost pipefish.
Underwater Video of Solomon Island Marine Life
Watch for the salt water crocodile at 02:29!
Best Time To Dive The Solomon Islands
January - March is the rainy season, but diving is still good then; any other time is great. Cyclones rarely hit the Solomon Islands. The weather is always hot and humid, 23-34 degrees Celsius/74-93 degrees Fahrenheit.
Solomon Islands Water Temperatures
Water temperature is generally 26-29 degrees Celsius/80-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Solomon Islands Underwater Visibility
Average visibility is around 15 meters/50 feet, though at times you’ll enjoy 21-30 meters/60-90 feet or more.
From the US, some people fly direct to Brisbane or Cairns, changing planes once. You can also fly to Fiji, make a plane change, then head to the Solomons' capitol, Honiara. Here you’ll board your liveaboard or take a small plane to your resort.
Non-diving Activites in the Solomons
Most itineraries revolve around diving, but there are several natural hikes, waterfalls, and World War II sites to explore. For true culture shock, visit the local Kwaio Village. Here, religion has a strong presence and customs and traditions are unlike anything you’ve experienced at home. You can also go on fishing trips, go kayaking, surfing, sailing, or on war tours of battle sites and memorials. Around Honiara there are lots of hikes to do. Many of them involve walking through beautiful villages, along jungle trails, to scenic waterfalls where you can swim and picnic.
Outside Honiara, resorts are able to arrange activities including village visits, looking at carvings, and local cooking lessons. Carvings from the Solomon Islands are worth a special mention, as some of the artistry and workmanship is exceptional...be sure to leave some extra space in your luggage! Don't worry though; if you run out of room, arrangements can be made to ship your treasures home.
Visiting Savo Island
Savo Island is an active volcano that lies just off the coast of Honiara. It can be visited as a day trip, or you can stay at Sunset Lodge (which is run by Sir Allen Kemakeza, former Prime Minister). A typical day trip involves a 30 minute drive from Honiara to Vila Village, where you'll board a 'banana boat' (tinny/ tenders/ small boat with motor). The 30 minute boat ride to the island generally includes dolphin sightings, and flying fish are virtually guaranteed. When you get to Savo, you can climb the volcano to see bubbling hot springs and geysers, visit the megapodes (a chicken-like bird that uses the volcano's heat to incubate its eggs), or even go swimming with the dolphins.
Solomon Islands Essential Facts
Money - Local currency is the Solomon Islands Dollar (SI$). Credit cards are accepted by major tourism businesses, but elsewhere you will need cash. Currency and major traveler's checks can be changed at a few banks in Honiara and other population centers.
Electricity - 240 volts, with Type I (Australian) and G (UK) plugs.
Entry Requirements - Make sure your passport has a blank page and is valid for 6 months. You'll also need an onward ticket and adequate funds. Visitor permits for up to 3 months are granted upon entry and visas are not required for most nationalities. However, citizens of communist countries, the Indian subcontinent, Kiribati and Nauru should check with a Solomons Islands embassy before traveling.
Language - English is the official language, but Melanesian pigin is the language of choice for most people.
Health - As with any travel, it is recommended you are up to date on routine vaccinations such as Typhoid, Tetanus/Diphtheria, Hepatitis, and Polio. Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended if you plan to go ashore around dawn or dusk, especially for land-based resorts. Check with your doctor 4-6 weeks before travel for specific recommendations.
Safety - The Solomon Islands are generally quite safe, with incidents of violence against visitors being rare. Just use common sense, as you would in any other remote area.