Solomon Islands Dive Trip Report

Solomon Islands Dive Trip Report

 

 


SOLOMON ISLANDS ABOARD THE BILIKIKI TRIP REPORT

 

By Joanna O'Shea

photos by Joanna O'Shea  

 

The Solomon Islands is a dive destination that has it all. You want wrecks? There are hundreds of ‘em. Like exploring caves? No problems. Endless healthy coral gardens? Absolutely. Biodiversity to rival places like Indonesia, PNG, and the Philippines? Easy. Oh, and you don’t want to see any other dive boats? You won’t.


Not many tourists go to Solomon Islands, which has pros and cons if you want to go there. On one hand it’s more expensive than Asia, and it’s not as well set up for tourism as other Pacific countries like Fiji. But on the other hand, the standard of diving is absolutely world class - in fact I (and many others) think it's the best in the world. This makes the hassle well worth it.


Our trip began in Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands. Honiara is on the island of Guadalcanal, which was made famous by the fierce battles fought there in World War II.


We boarded the Bilikiki, which for years has been the only liveaboard dive boat in the Solomons. It’s not the most modern boat, but it’s extremely comfortable, well run, and has a fabulous crew. After being briefed by the dive managers Daniela and Csaba, we set sail to the first destination: the Florida Islands. This is a small group of islands a few hours off the coast of Honiara.


JOIN OUR SOLOMON ISLANDS AUG 2016 PHOTO WORKSHOP 


Bilikiki

The Bilikiki is a well run, extremely confortable liveaboard that has a fabulous crew. 


The first night dive, at a site called Battery Beach, was particularly excellent. In calm, shallow waters we found bobbit worms, mantis shrimps, cuttlefish, and juvenile crocodile fish. We also saw some really interesting snails crawling along the sand slopes, such as the venus comb murex and various types of conchs. 

 

 

Bobbit Worm
Bobbit Worms were among the creepy crawlies we found at Battery Beach.

 

Another highlight of the Florida Islands was a site called Mbike Island, which has a small shipwreck covered in coral, tunicates, and lots of critters. This wreck is known for the large amount of dusky nembrotha nudis which can always be found on it. 

 

 

Nembrotha Nudi
There were lots of nembrotha nudibranchs on the wreck. 

 

We then sailed a few hours west, to a small group of islands called the Russell Islands. Dive after dive we enjoyed pristine coral gardens, and an excellent variety of wide angle and macro subjects. There were also some cave dives, though not the dark and scary kind. Several islands have cuts into and under the reef, where you can swim through and then surface (slowly of course), in a pool under the jungle canopy on the island. It is somewhat surreal – not to mention totally awesome – to be in your scuba gear, looking up at trees and vines and birds in the interior of the island. Here is a photo of a site called Custom Cave.

 

Custom Cave

 It was surreal diving in one of these caves and surfacing in a pool under the jungle canopy.


Many guests successfully took on the challenge of photographing the pygmy seahorses which are found at several sites in this area.

 

Pygmy Seahorse
Solomon Islands offer many opportunities to photograph pygmy seahorses..

 

And at Lagoon Point, we were lucky to find a frogfish. They are relatively uncommon in the Solomons (compared to places like Anilao).

  

 

Frogfish

Frogfish are not common in the Solomon Islands but we were lucky to find one.

 

We then continued on to Marovo Lagoon, which is the longest saltwater lagoon in the world and is listed as a World Heritage Area. It encompasses 700 square km and is protected by a double barrier reef system.


A site called Wickham was a favourite for its colourful soft coral gardens. Then it was time for more wreck diving, this time on the Maru 2, which is an unidentified Japanese ship that was torpedoed during WWII. For the wreck-heads there were guns and damage and interesting parts of the wreckage to explore. For those more interested in marine life, like me, the wreck offered schools of glassfish, dwarf hawkfish, and a couple of peacock mantis shrimp who were happy to pose for us.

  

 

Mantis Shrimp
Photogenic peacock mantis shrimp.

 

 

Next it was on to Mary (Mborokua) Island. This is a small but beautiful volcanic island which stands alone in open sea between the New Georgia and Russell island groups. Mary island is uninhabited, and the Bilikiki is the only boat that goes there, so this is a real hidden gem of the Solomons.


After the first dive at Mary Island, with massive swirls of barracuda and jacks, several guests commented that it was the most amount of fish they had EVER seen, and one guest said it was the BEST dive of his entire life. Now, that’s what I love to hear!!


When the schools of barracuda swam past it was like watching a freight train, it just kept going and going, until we couldn’t see the start but also couldn’t see the end. To make things even more exciting, we could here a nearby active underwater volcano (called Kavachi)… the deep rumbling bass provided a dramatic soundtrack for the huge schools of barras.

 

 

Barracuda
An endless train of barracuda.

 

 

We then headed back towards the Russell Islands, where we dived the Wreck of the Ann twice – once to shoot the beautiful wreck in wide angle, and once to capture the wonderful macro life living in its soft corals, such as this soft coral crab.


 

Soft Coral Crab
The Wreck of the Ann had lots of macro subjects like this soft coral crab.

 

 

After the Wreck of the Ann we visited White Beach, which is a site that was used as an American supply base during WWII. When it was time for the Americans to go home, they dumped all their equipment into the water instead of taking it with them. Today, this site is home to a vast array of war wreckage and items such as forklifts and trucks, old coke bottles, bullets and shells.


It’s also home to tons of nudis, jawfish, cuttlefish, archer fish, pyjama cardinal fish, mantis shrimps and other critters. There were lots of these pipefish.

  

 

Pipefish
Portrait of a pipefish.

 

 

Some of the guests had fun photographing an adorable juvenile sweetlips – if you’ve seen how flappy and wiggly these guys are when they swim, you’ll appreciate how hard it can be to get a good shot!


At most dive sites, local villagers would paddle out to the boat to sell vegetables. The income from selling their garden vegetables to the Bilikiki provides reliable cash to these villages, which helps to pay for things like school fees and medical costs.

 

Vegetable Sellers
We had fresh locals vegetables for all our meals.

 

 

They were very happy to smile for photos – and to watch with interest as we experimented with taking split shots in the mangroves.

 

Mangrove
Spilt shots in the mangroves.

 

 

There were unfortunately a few days where the sun refused to come out, but apart from that the trip was a huge success.


And then all too soon, the trip was over! As we sailed back towards Honiara on the last night, the sunset was breathtaking.

 

Sunset
Breathtaking sunsets from the Bilikiki.

 

 

Thanks again to the lovely crew on the Bilikiki, and most importantly to the fantastic Bluewater guests who came on this trip. 

- Joanna O'Shea                                                                        

 

Group

 Huge smiles from everyone on the Bluewater workshop. Thanks for a memorable trip. 

 

 

 

JOIN US ON OUR 2015 SOLOMON ISLANDS PHOTO WORKSHOP


Led by Bluewater Photo's Mark Strickland, join one or both of our back to back photo workshops aboard the Bilikiki in 2015!

August 23rd to August 30th, 2015

or

August 30th to September 9, 2015

Email us at info@bluewaterdivetravel.com to reserve your spot today.



HOW TO BOOK THE BILIKIKI


Bluewater Travel can book you on any Bilikiki trip in the Solomon Islands, for the same cost or less than booking any other way. We know the routes, cabins, and when to go better than anyone else!


For reviews, read our Bilikiki liveaboard reviews

 

Email us at info@bluewaterdivetravel.com to start your adventure.

 

 

 
Soft Corals
The Wreck of Ann is covered in soft corals.
 
 

For more photos, view the slideshow at the top of the page

 

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