Thanks to my mate Cath, I had booked my berth within weeks of arriving in country and it was really lovely to get out of town and be spoiled for a change. We volunteers don’t often get to experience the finer things the Solomons has to offer, so I enjoyed every minute and it was worth every penny.
Sunrise in the Russell Islands
The MV Bilikiki (named after a local sea bird) is a dive boat out of Honiara that offers luxury 7-14 day live-aboard trips exploring the Floridas, Russells, Mary Island and Marovo Lagoon. They also offer occasional highly sought-after weekend trips to Honiara locals. For our Easter long weekend we left Honiara on Good Friday evening and returned on the evening of Easter Monday, and were offered five dives a day for the first two days and three dives on the final day. The Bilikiki comes with all the trimmings – hot freshwater showers on the dive deck, air-conditioned rooms with comfy beds and blankies as well as en suite bathrooms with hot water showers, great food, fantastic staff and the diving isn’t bad either.
Our diving schedule for the day
Our first day was spent in the Russell Islands diving at Kovilok Bay, Leru Cut, Custom Cave and Mirror Pond during the day as well as a night dive (which I didn’t do). I took the opportunity to experiment with my new(ish) underwater camera and strobe – bought last year for my trip to Komodo and only used twice before – so I finally have some photos to share. I forgot my red filter though, so the wide angle shots are a bit blue…
Pink anemone fish hiding in its host anemone, Russell Islands
The highlight of Day 1 for me was Leru Cut, a volcanic passage with a sandy bottom terminating in a cavern. My strobe wasn’t much use in the dark, so my photos aren’t great but you get the idea.
Diving the Leru Cut, Russell Islands
Outside the cut was a different story – a new species of anemone fish (check out the bonnet) and some beautiful gorgonian fans, complete with pygmy sea horse. Wonderful healthy reef with staka fish as well.
Bonnet anemone fish, Russell Islands
Gorgonian fan with feather star, Russell Islands
After a great day of diving (and in between dives as well), the crew fed us fabulous food – starting with sunset canapés on the upper deck and ending with divine chocolate tart. I don’t even like chocolate, but I forced it down to be polite. There’s nothing worse than a sobbing chef, so I sacrificed myself for the greater good. I would have taken a photo of it, but it didn’t last long enough. Sorry.
Sunset canapés on the top deck of the Bilikiki
After dinner we weighed anchor and steamed to Mborokua (Mary) Island , an uninhabited (and virtually inaccessible) volcanic island covered in jungle located just west of the Russells.
On Day 2 we dived Barracuda Point, Jackfish Point, Mary Bommies and back to Barracuda Point, with a night dive just under the boat (again, not done by me!). This was my first experience of diving in close proximity to an active volcano. I was super excited to be back in the water – so at first I thought I was having heart palpitations – but it turned out to just be a bit of seismic activity. There were some pretty loud rumbles and strong vibrations! As well as the excitement of the volcano, the reefs at Mary Island are packed full of spectacularly healthy hard corals.
Mary Island has fantastically healthy hard coral gardens
I’m told there are usually a lot more pelagics than we saw, but perhaps they were on holiday. The best I could do was some trevally and barracuda.
School of barracuda at the aptly named Barracuda Point, Mary Island
That night we headed back east and woke up in the Russells again. Our last three dives were at Rainbow Reef, Fonagho Island and Lolaghan Island, and I was in love. Rainbow Reef was spectacular. Komodo-esque even. It is a sea mount, just like Castle Rock in the Komodo National Park, and was our first dive of the day so still a bit dark, but wow – it was pumping. Beautiful healthy reef, a bit of wall (I love a wall), heaps of fish feeding in the current and staka small stuff as well.
Fishes and plankton aplenty at Rainbow Reef, Russell Islands
Even the safety stop was interesting – we saw (and felt, not so much fun) some big plankton near the surface, along with a school of teeny tiny cuttlefish. Totally awesome.
Baby cuttlefish at the surface, Russell Islands. Cute huh?
But it wasn’t all about the diving. In between dives we didn’t just stuff our faces, we also met some of the locals.
Local villagers tie up in their canoes to sell us fresh fruit and veges, Russell Islands
And enjoyed the view from the upper deck.
Above the water the Russell Islands are equally attractive
Sunset over Guadalcanal
We also stuffed our faces 😉 Thanks for reading!
Bilikiki Cruises is supporting Red Cross Relief & Recovery efforts in the Solomon Islands. For every donation over AUD50 you can go into the draw to win a 7 night live-aboard dive trip.
For the full version of this article, and many more great posts, check out Liz’s blog My Indo-Pacific Adventures