By Erin Gleeson
Behind the foothills of Honiara are some amazing day hikes, most following the curves of local rivers to reach tumbling waterfalls and cascades. I highly recommend setting out on one of these adventures and making the most of your time in Honiara. You will return home tired and a little muddy, but above all appreciative of the beauty behind the dusty capital.
A quick disclaimer – the hikes and their difficulty will naturally change due to water levels and recent rainfall – this is a general guide only. Prices may also change. Also much credit to the team who put together the 2007 guide to treks and adventures in Solomon Islands which guided us when we set out on these walks. You can find their country wide guide here: www.exploringsolomons.wikispaces.com/ I recommend you check out the wikispace – there are a few other hikes listed there which I havenʼt done, including the easy, short walk to Bonegi village, also mentioned here: www.welkamsolomons.com/todo/walks/macedonia/main.html
Make sure you take plenty of water, snacks and a waterproof camera on your hikes, and a tyre inner tube for the Mataniko hike. Remember to be sun smart and wear sensible shoes. Try and leave early in the morning to beat the heat and not rush the walks.
1. Kahove or Trenches Creek Falls – Kakabona, West of Honiara
This is a great day hike, following the Kakabona river up to the 40m high (guesstimate) Kahove waterfall. The river levels were low during our hike, allowing us to walk up the river the whole distance. At other times, you may need to reroute in-land. The beginning of the walk is a fairly easy incline up the relatively dry creek bed which then changes to some lovely natural pools, tree canopies and amazing canyon walls. It then gets more difficult as the river narrows and you need to wade through the water and clamber over cascades and boulders. We went after the massive April 2014 floods which had brought a lot of debris, logs and rocks downstream, which made the walk slower than usual. There was also a sizeable landslide near the waterfall. The advantage of this hike is you can stop at any point and enjoy the natural swimming pools, rather than going the whole way to the waterfall.
Duration – 6 hours return (approximately 14km return walk)
Difficulty – Moderate/Difficult
Directions – Starting point is Kakabona village. We organised a guide through Godfrey Eric who works at the Australian High Commission and lives directly across from the bamboo gates of Kakabona Beach. You can also contact Ann-Marie who is a guide on 7780302.
Cost – SBD100 per person for kastom fee/guide.
2. Mataniko Falls (and River Tubing) – Behind Chinatown
This is probably the most well-known hike in Honiara. The hike to the falls takes around one-two hours and is tough. It involves a steep climb up-hill, a tiring up-and-down walk across a shade-less ridge (wear a hat!) before a very slippery and steep descent to the falls. You will need to be reasonably fit. The Mataniko River was a front line during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Along the track, we found manholes, fragments of World War 2 bullets and shells and a Japanese bomb, so keep an eye out for these fragments of history. It is said that Japanese soldiers hid out in the Mataniko Falls caves during the War.
The double-sided Mataniko Falls are beautiful with some good swimming holes and a cave system that you can explore (you need a waterproof head-torch). Depending on the river level, you can float back to the village. We did this and it was great (take some beers!). We had to leap about 4m from the second waterfall to get in to the river, though. The river changes depths at different points so there is the occasional bump and scrape, so be careful. Towards the end, we had to give up the tubing and walk the last section back through the village.
Duration – 5- 6 hours (approximately 2 hours to waterfall, 1/2 hour at waterfall, 2-3 hour swim/walk back)
Difficulty – Difficult
Directions – Starting point is Tuvarahu/Lili village. Go the Chinatown, and if you are coming from the Honiara Hotel direction, take the left turn before the Old Mataniko Bridge, where the ʻWaltzing Matildaʼ sign is. Follow this road (and the river), pass the school and go around the bend until you get to a double story green house on the right. Contact is Pascal – phone 8684279.
Cost – SBD100 per person kustom fee/guide + SBD50 per car for car parking
3. Tenaru Falls
The 60m tall Tenaru Falls and its deep pool is probably the most spectacular on this list. The walk to get to it is long, flat and tiring. On the plus side, it is through a shady rainforest with some refreshing river crossings. It takes around 2-3 hours each way. If you are able, when you get to the falls try and swim behind the curtain of rushing water – there is a little cave which you can sit in and enjoy its awesome power. Some of our more adventurous colleagues also joined the locals to jump off the cliff-sides.
A depressing aspect to this hike is that you are likely to encounter confusion and disagreement about the kastom fee with two villages claiming ownership of the trail. We paid the first village who provided our guide and car-park, however, 15 minutes down the walk, another village demanded kastom fee. After 45 minutes of ʻhe says, she saysʼ we were able to resolve the issue. We did the hike in 2013 and I believe this issue is ongoing. I am not sure how to get around this, but I would recommend not paying the guides from the first village until the end of the trip and ensure they solve the dispute with the next village. Alternatively you could arrange a professional guide through the Solomon Islands Visitor’s Bureau.
Duration – 6 hours return
Difficulty – Moderate
Directions (taken from the wiki page) – Starting point is in Tenaru. You will need a 4WD. Go out past the airport and turn right at the sign for St Josephʼs School. Follow the road and pass the school. Around 5km down this road take the right fork. At 9km you will find the chiefʼs house. Ask for a guide.
Cost – SBD100-200 per person for kastom fee/guide and car-park (below photos courtesy of Callum Sutherland)
4. Borare Cascades (West Guadalcanal)
The Cascades are a nice short(ish) walk, just a little more than 1 hour each way. The walk follows a old logging track which has become overgrown with vines; so unfortunately what should be a easy walk is made harder as you are constantly tripped up by the plants. It is also a little slippery and tricky getting down to the cascades, but generally the walk is fairly easy. The cascades are gorgeous – starting with a small rocky waterfall, flowing down to a long series of cascades, perfect for a dayʼs swim.
Duration – 3 hours return
Difficulty – Moderate
Directions (Adapted from the Welkam Solomons website) – Drive west from Honiara past the various beaches. From Bonegi Beach, travel a further 3.6kms and turn down a well- maintained gravel road on your left. Follow this road for 2.5kms and just past a shallow river ford is Vura village where Marcel Mino lives (who also runs B3 beach). His house is a further 200m along the road on the right behind a copra dryer. Ask around for Marcel or his wantoks to act as guide. They will jump in the car with you to drive a further 8km to the beginning of the walking track.
Cost – SBD50 per person for kastom fee/guide