By Shannon Kozak
Jacques Cousteau famously said “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” That is certainly true here in the Solomon Islands as our underwater world is as beautiful as it is diverse. Scuba diving the Solomons offers a unique opportunity to explore and the best way to maximize your experience is from a liveaboard dive boat.
In a world where we so often hear about degradation of the ocean’s health due to agricultural run-off, sewage and other environmental concerns, the conditions throughout the Solomon Islands are remarkably good due to the limited number of visitors and the care with which the local operators treat the reefs.
While there are numerous locations to dive in the Solomons, my favourite is a weekend or week long trip out to the Russell Islands. After an overnight steam from Honiara to Russell Islands, you wake in the morning to views of volcanic islands surrounded by numerous other smaller islets. By the time you are ready for your first dive, the locals may already have brought their canoes out for a visit.
One of the most well known dives in the Solomons is Leru Cut. Soft corals and gracious sea fans punctuate the wall there, but the true reason to dive this site is the morning light which filters through a gigantic crevice in the face of the island. Look up and you will see your fellow divers silhouetted in the gleam of the sun.
Another phenomenal dive is Mirror Pond. There is a swim-though tunnel that exits into an idyllic pond in the interior of the island. It is rimmed by tropical vegetation and its calm surface gives the site its iconic name. Large isolated bommies arise from a plateau and fish, such as the longsnout butterflyfish, which particularly well- suited to foraging among the corals are abundant here.
A lesser known but equally spectacular site is Custom Caves where both the snorkelling and the diving is incredible. On our last visit to the site, we were surrounded by a huge pod of dolphins who came to visit and play.
A highlight location is Mary Island, just west of the Russell Islands. With two separate reefs, Barracuda Point and Jackfish Point, this region is noted for immense schools of jacks and treveally. The conditions here are pristine as this site is typically only visited on a seven day diving adventure.
There are only a few options for diving in the Solomons and the newest operator is Solomon Island Dive Expeditions. With 2 or 3 day weekend trips scheduled almost every weekend and 7 day trips scheduled once a month, locals and travellers alike have the opportunity to explore our underwater world.
Three room classes are offered for every budget and trips are all inclusive with departures on Thursday or Friday evening from Honiara. Monthly specials offer the opportunity for even greater savings such as the upcoming 2 for 1 deal on the operation’s adventure beginning September 23.