Leaving on a jet plane, I don’t know when I’ll be back again, oh babe I’m set to go. (Now all the Australians of a certain age have their hands in the air swaying from side to side with the music.) But Oh what a time to leave Honiara. Just when my email inbox tells me there are thousands of local hotties wanting to meet me … oh well always best to leave them wanting more.
Before I go a quick summing up of some of my peak experiences of the Solomons before Veronica and team take over the editorship. And, of course, a chance to share some of those contacts I have been too slack to get out there before this.
You can go out on the boat from Dolphin Beach and chase the local pod of dolphins up and down the coast. It can feel a bit like you are harassing them. But they can swim two or three times the speed of the boat and hold their breathe for an hour and yet they keep coming back and frolicking in the bow wave and leaping and spinning for your entertainment, so you have to figure they are not two upset by it all. And they are still there by the time your petrol starts running out. Of course you have to get in the water and try and swim with the dolphins but they never let anyone get close.
There were a dozen or more calves out of a pod of roughly 50 when we were there the other day.
Lunch on the beach is included in the boat trip and it is a beautiful place to hang out. Snorkelling off the beach is great with fields of hard coral and stacka fish. They even have their own wreck. Post WW2 and not a great lot of coral actually on it but a magnet for sizeable fish.
Alistair and Kuvien and family, your hosts, make everyone feel very welcome and are happy to leave you alone or chat as you desire.
There is a basic sleeping accomodation hut on site with a separate kitchen hut and western toilet. One of the best nights out of Honiara and Kuvien’s cooking is generally excellent. And my favourite bit is the three sided cold water shower open to the beach and sea but quite private. (There is another four walled shower with door attached to the toilet block.) and only half an hour west of Honiara. About $200 a night. Great for couples our threesomes.
Alistair and Kuvien – Dolphin View Beach – phone: 8627704 or 7654058
Snorking with the Manta Rays at Maravagi:
Maravagi has some of the best soft corals anywhere in the Solomons so snorking there anytime is pretty amazing and very safe and family friendly. But if you manage to get there when the currents are working right and the manta rays are feeding it is mind blowing.
These gentle giants of the sea are filter feeding in the current and totally unfazed when you plop out of the boat up stream. They glide past you only inches away and with a lazy flick of a wing leave you miles behind. Just when you thought you were about to disappear down that huge open maw.
You do need to be a bit more confident in the water as the currents can be treacherous. And getting back in the boat requires a certain amount of upper body strength and a complete lack of dignity. Why they don’t make a ladder for the boat is one of those great obvious questions that come constantly to mind as you explore the Islands.
Accomodation is spartan but hopefully improved by recent renovations. Huts closer to the beach get better airflow, sometimes, and just keep telling yourself that they are native rats. They’re not, but I believe the distinction helps a lot of people.
Food is basic but filling and a few rubber bands and a bit of string in the kitbag to repair mosquito nets is always very useful. And check the fan as soon as you get to the room. Many don’t work, but you can usually swap. And, of course, remember the insect repellant.
Also, based on my recent experience, I would suggest you don’t kick any of the increasingly ubiquitous crown of thorns starfish. They really, really hurt and cause profuse bleeding. Not a good thing when your a long way from home in shark infested waters.
Maravagi is just across the Sound in that group of islands you see north of Honiara. Their yellow 8 passenger OBM boat leaves, by arrangement, from the really yucky beach next to the yacht club.
Phone: Joyce – 8738777, John – 8855470, Mathias – 7324472
And of course there are other marvellous weekends out of town in the Floridas: Patrick and family at Roderick Bay (the wreck of the World Discoverer) and Nugu and Bob and Yvie at Tulagi Dive (my first octopus in the wild) and more. Each with there own charms. And if you are a diver, like I wish I were still, your priorities are probably different … but Wow …. manta rays!!! And all these are available through Charis Travel (see below).
Sitting at the war memorial, looking down along the Mataniko River is spectacular and always on our easy grade tourist introduction to Honiara.
You are right over the squatter settlements and the ever expanding suburbs along the Mataniko. The site is rich in WW2 history set out in excruciating detail in the memorial and in the foxholes along the ridges around you.
But it is the view I love. You can see all the different sides of Honiara before you. If I were a landscape painter I would have spent a lot more time there. It was much better before the razor wire and metal bars went up all around, but still worth it. Then contrast it with the Japanese Peace Memorial Mt Austen Road for another aspect of the war and post war cultures.
Uphill at the council roundabout and first left. Everyone will know where you are headed so ask at the markets or just go straight ahead.
Free but now ask for a donation.
Drive and dive at the convent at Visale:
One of the best, safest, cleanest beaches on Guadalcanal. Getting there is half the fun. The drive takes in some of the worst (downtown Honiara and White River) and the best (beautiful scenery of rivers and mountains and beaches and gorgeous weapons free villages) on offer and easily accessible on Guardacanal.
The beach is in the grounds of the catholic convent and school to the right of the increasingly psychedelic Catholic Church at Visale on Guardacanal’s western tip. 43 kms from Mambo Juice and anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes drive depending on road conditions. Watch out for the do-it-yourself speed traps. A sharp shallow trench cut into the road without any notice.
The coral has taken a hammering in recent storms coming in from the west, but the fish can be amazing. My personal best sighting was a family of four huge bump headed wrasse ambling along like gentle cows of the ocean. And I’d just been to the Arnovans to see such things and then found they were right on my door step all along.
$50 custom fee to use the beach. There’s usually someone on the gate on weekends but during the week let yourself in the gate and find a nun and give the money. Fresh water showers on the beachfront and basic western style toilets make for beachside luxury.
I believe they have accomodation on the grounds too. Another missed opportunity. Oh well. Enjoy it for me someone.
And depending on your timing stop off for lunch dinner or breakfast at The Ofis at White River and enjoy chocolate and banana pancakes or pizza by the water. Best dining location in Honiara.
Turtles of Arnavons via Vavaghio Guesthouse:
And I must mention once again the trip to the Arnavons to see not only the turtle breeding grounds but all the spectacular marine life in the marine protected area between Isabel and Choiseul.
Wonderful snorkelling along the channels with evil looking barracuda and sharks. Amazing underwater landscapes passing by as you drift with the currents. Stacka sting rays in the bay and I believe they too have manta rays at the right time.
This is a project well worth supporting on many levels.
But it is a long way away and by far the best way to break up the journey is via Vavaghio Guesthouse run by Gary King and family. Gary was involved as a volunteer in getting the Arnavons running successfully so knows all there is to know and has all the right connections to set up everything you want to do. Thanks Gary for a really fascinating trip for both Cat and I on different occasions.
Vavaghio on Vakao Island, Santa Isabel is a gorgeous destination in its own right. Beautiful setting with awesome surf in the right season, great snorkelling, village visits, croc and bird spotting and on and on. The place is well run and great food. If I were ever to retire to write a novel I think sitting on the balcony surrounded of a night by phosphorescent bugs would be the place to do it.
Best moment: playing with a couple of spotted rays by myself in a big sandy bowl in the middle of nowhere.
Contact: Gary King – phone: +677 7512262 satellite: +870776102049
You can also book through Charis Travel Services in Honiara
Garedd Porowai of Charis Travel:
Thanks so much to Garedd for such unmissable adventures such as Wogasia in south Makira, and the Busu Shell Money and Artificial Island Festival in Langa Langa Lagoon, Malaita and the batcave walk from Parangiju Mountain Eco Lodge and so much more.
Garedd is great with advice and assistance and it’s so much easier to leave the contacting and booking to him when no one answers phones or replies to emails as is the Solomon way. And he knows all about the regular festivals and one off events and is often organising group travel which you can join. For singles and couples it is a great way to go as travel is the big cost getting around and much more manageable shared.
He also organises waterfall walks Polynesian village cultural displays and all those other things we have sadly missed. N.B. Strike while the dry (drier) season is on. Much harder to organise anything in the Wet season.
Phone: 7427395 or 24193
Our house at Lenggakiki:
And last but by no means least is our house perched on the hill above Nicky’s on the edge of Lenggakiki. This is what made even the worst of days in Honiara endurable.
Only five minutes walk from Telekom down the ladder, but often 10 or 15 degrees cooler than town. It is only 35 minutes brisk walk to the Honiara Hotel on the other side of town so you can almost totally avoid the stagnant traffic.
We nearly always had a wonderful cooling breeze on our balcony where you could sit and look out over Iron Bottom Sound and the Floridas. Off one end you catch gorgeous sunrises and from the other the ruddy sunset blooms through the afternoon burn off. Ah Honiara.
Inside the house is full of huge open spaces and light. Quite an indulgence for two people in Honiara when you think that our lounge room is probably three times the size of the average local house. We managed to spread out and thoroughly occupy the four bedrooms between us though the balcony was our main room for everything. With natural airflow and luck of placement we never even needed to switch on the air con in the bedroom. That is pretty amazing in this climate.
Contact Baoro Koraua our kind and helpful landlord. And the man behind many a great day out of Honiara on the 360 Discovery. Phone: 7495224 or email: email@example.com
East Guardacanal waterfalls and weavers:
One last contact you may find useful if you are interested in going for walks to beautiful waterfalls and the village of the weavers east of Honiara is Debbie Lukisi Debbie used to work with Red Cross but has thrown it all in to work with the weavers from her local area on the upcoming Weaving Festival she also organises walks to her village with beautiful swimming hole in the cave under the waterfall and up higher in the mountains to the village of the weavers (you know those beautiful big sensual round tightly woven baskets you see at the gallery sometimes. Those weavers )
Contact: Debbie Lukisi phone: EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The secret to enjoying Honiara is to get away from it oFien and regularly and for long enough. So thank you to Cat for making that happen. And thank you to everyone who made this last couple of years special.
Live long and prosper!