(Liz is an Australian volunteering in Solomon Islands. She is a marine biologist with a passion for fish and fisheries, and everything underwater)
Last week I flew to Gizo for meetings with stakeholders to talk about protected areas. I’ve been to Gizo before, so I knew what to expect, but it was still pretty awesome.
I flew out on Sunday in a Dash-8; the views from the window were amazing. You really get a sense of how many islands there are when you see the country from the air.
I was seated next to a lady and her gorgeous little girl – who kept trying to resist sleep to stare at me with big wide eyes.
On arrival at Nusatupe (the island where the plane lands), I was picked up by the dive boat and taken to dive the Toa Maru and Grand Central Station with one of the volunteers based in Gizo. Honestly, neither of the sites was outstanding (Komodo you have spoiled me!) although GCS had the potential to be a great dive. The Toa Maru was quite interesting as wrecks go – it’s a WWII Japanese transport ship with lots of artefacts including saki bottles – but didn’t have outstanding marine life as I’ve seen elsewhere (let’s face it, I’m a marine biologist – I see wrecks as substrates for colonisation!).
We spent our surface interval on Njari Island with a group of friends, where we were served a freshly-cooked lunch of yellowfin tuna, salad and roasted vegetables served on leaves, followed by fresh fruit.
Then it was back to Gizo (town) for a refreshing ale overlooking the harbour, then a delicious crayfish dinner with my colleagues from NSW Environmental Defender’s Office, who are sponsoring my volunteer assignment.
The next few days were taken up with stakeholder meetings and site visits. I felt really honoured to meet such a range of Solomon Islanders who are passionate about protecting their natural resources and preserving their culture and customs – we had people there from Malaita, Isabel and Munda as well as locals from Ghizo (island) and nearby Kolumbanggara.
Our site visits were to two communities living close to Ghizo who want to protect their local environment and manage their marine resources effectively. The boat ride was tough.
I also got to visit one of the nicest places to stay in the area – Oravae Cottage. It’s an eco-resort run by an Australian-Solomon Islander couple, and it’s just gorgeous. It’s definitely going on the bucket list!
I was also lucky enough to meet the good folks over at the Worldfish Centre on Nusatupe. While there I snuck in a snorkel to check out the giant clams they have been growing out and was followed around by a curious black tip reef shark.
All together I spent 5 days in Gizo and am already planning my next trip back. I’ve made some firm friends there, and was well looked after by everyone.
For the full version of this article, and many more great posts, check out Liz’s blog My Indo-Pacific Adventures