Traveller recently share their 20 reasons to visit the Solomon Islands… we think these 10 are the best!
1 SEE: NO MAKE-UP
Solomon Islanders like to say, “we don’t put on make-up”. This thinly veiled dig at other South Pacific destinations means they are proud of the natural beauty of the place and see no need to westernise it to attract visitors. The Solomons is comprised of 992 islands (about 150 inhabited) divided into nine provinces, and is one of the Pacific’s last unspoilt destinations. Think coral reef-rimmed lagoons, sandy beaches, tropical jungle, rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes and Melanesian hospitality au naturel.
2 SPEAK: PIJIN
“Welkam to the Hapi islands”. The greeting in phonetic Pijin often comes with a lei and coconut water. Pijin and English are the common lingoes but there are about 70 other languages still in use. Tank iu tumas (thank you too much) is a good phrase to know. On one island we met a fellow called Nudagus, so named because he was the second Gus (another Gus) to work there. In some villages you may have the local dialect translated in Pijin and then into English and back again. You’ll work it out, “no wariwari” (no worries).
3 SEE: AERIAL VIEWS
Solomon Airlines operates Dash 8s, Twin Otters and Islander aircraft to ferry people throughout the country, and the views are spectacular. Grab a window seat and see tropical cloud banks and fat rainbows reflected back off tranquil lagoon-mirrors below. Little green islands are haloed by snowy surf, and the varying depths of island inlets present a striking azure palette. Solomon Airlines recently began direct flights between Sydney and Honiara
4 SEE: TRADITIONAL VILLAGES
The Boboe community is just one example of the raw, remote and real village experiences in the Solomons. There is a national commitment to preserve the traditional customary lifestyles, or “kastom”, of the people who live away from the cities. It may be considered impolite to just drop in, so escorted tours are encouraged. The Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau can provide advice on where and when to visit, or even stay
5 DO: CALL AN EEL, VISIT A SKULL, THROW A SPEAR
You can call and handfeed eels in the traditional village of Biche on Gatokae Island, or visit Skull Island on Vona Vona Lagoon near Munda on New Georgia Island to view the skulls of venerated chiefs and their vanquished foes. Non-head-hunting-related cultural festivals include the Shell Money Festival on Malaita in August, the Wagasia Spear Throwing and Yam Harvest on Makira in June, and the Banana Festival on Makira in August.
6 DO: SCUBA
The Solomons boasts some of the best diving in the world, with soft and hard corals, precipitous drop-offs, wartime wrecks and abundant fish life, including eels, sharks, turtles, dolphins and dugongs. The area between Honiara and the Florida Islands has so many sunken WWII ships and aircraft it is called Iron Bottom Sound.
7 DO: SNORKELLING
You don’t have to scuba to enjoy the Solomons’ underwater wonderland – just grab a mask and dive in off the beach or a jetty. You will be greeted by excellent visibility and curious, colourful sea life such as pipefish, manta rays, reef sharks and clown fish lurking in the anemones. Some WWII planes and shipwrecks are close enough to the surface to be viewed by snorkellers
8 SEE: DOLPHINS
On a visit to the Western Province our small boat was surrounded by an estimated 200 dolphins, and we are told this is not unusual. The pod played with us for about 20 minutes before continuing on its way, leaving huge smiles in its wake. The Solomon Islands Visitors Board won’t guarantee repeat performances but if you get lucky, an encounter such as this will be the experience of a lifetime
9 BUY: NGUZU NGUZUS
Stone and wood carvings – or illustrations – of these terrifying and beautiful traditional figures are available in villages, souvenir shops and roadside craft stalls. Originally mounted on canoe prows to provide supernatural protection during expeditions, nguzu nguzus are busts with large heads, long protruding jaws and circular ear ornaments. They also have small arms that clutch a head (for war) or a bird (for peace) beneath the jaw.
10 SEE: BIRDWATCHING
Twitchers will love the birdwatching on Rennell, Makira, Isabel, Malaita and Kolombangara Islands, among others. Kolombangara, in particular, has a unique biodiversity and the largest conservation area in the Solomon Islands. Imbu Rano Lodge sits on a ridge at an elevation of 370 metres overlooking two mile-high mountains and is an excellent base for trekkers keen on exploring the high altitude wonders. Sleep on the deck and wake to sound of the birdlife and mist-shrouded mountains.