A Visit to the Solomon Islands

There are two basic kinds of scuba trips. The first is where your housing is land-based and you go out on dives from shore or from a small boat. The second is where your room is on board a ship that navigates an area far from shore. For the Solomon Island trip, about 20 of us (not counting crew) had cabins on the Bilikiki, a 125 foot-long boat. Space in the cabins was limited: I was very lucky that my roommate was willing to take the top bunk! The trickiest part of being on the boat is that everyone was a photographer and had lots of gear in addition to their scuba equipment. This photo shows the passengers, a few of the dive masters, and all of our cameras! (I'm the one 4th from left in the front, wearing pink and blue.)


Every day we went diving in the mornings and afternoons. In the evenings, we had lectures on underwater photo techniques followed by critiques of photos we'd taken that day. The location was phenomenal; the reefs were healthy, and the fish were plentiful. Here are a few of the photos I got from that trip.


I had to swim hard to get in front of this school of Jacks -- but it was worth it! No one wants to see just a bunch of fish tails!!


We got to see small fish too. This red Anemonefish is in the same family as "Nemo."

And of course, everyone recognizes this guy:


We were so happy to get to see sharks, especially since it's rare to see them in other locations due to overfishing.

On one of the days, we got to go ashore to a village on one of the islands. The chief gave us a tour of the village and was especially proud of the church and school. We got to buy handicrafts at a market and were absolutely charmed by the children! One thing that makes the village special is that they have an arrangement with the travel company. The villagers have agreed to avoid fishing on one side of the island so that the reef in that area remains healthy. (That's where we dive.) In exchange, the scuba folks come ashore with supplies and tourists who buy their wares. It's a total win-win! We tourists also took little gifts for the children and supplies for the school. The villagers were very kind to us: the delightful little ones took our hands to lead us around. 



The last photo is a bit humorous. It looks like the boy is intending to hurt the parrot. On the contrary, he was holding out the knife for the bird to perch on. It was amazing to see little children wield big knives and prepare vegetables. Preteens managed canoes and helped with marketing produce too.

At the end of our trip, we were taught a bit of history. In WWII the Solomon and Florida Islands (now called the Nggela Islands) were a major target of the Japanese. On August 7, 1942, American forces landed on Guadacanal and Tulagi. First they pushed back the Japanese, then established supply depots on both islands. While I'm hardly a history buff and rarely enjoy diving to see shipwrecks, it was interesting to see a downed seaplane at one site and at Tulagi swim around a variety of machines and munitions that had been destroyed and dumped into the sea at the end of the war so enemies couldn't make use of them. What I didn't expect to find was remnants of recreational pursuits, in this case, a few discarded coke bottles. They're encrusted with coral, but you can still make out the classic shape.


The Solomon Island trip was amazing. Topside we got to meet a beautiful people. In the water we got to explore historic sites and healthy reefs. A traveler can hardly ask for more!