Dive Guide Program in the Solomon Islands Reply

The Solomon Islands is one of the premier dive destinations in the world. The pristine coral reefs and spectacular variety of marine life is rarely equalled anywhere in the Pacific. The warm and crystal clear waters beckon diving enthusiasts from around the globe to immerse themselves, quite literally, into an earthly paradise. Diving tourism has been established for some time in the Solomons, and while it is still quite modest in size, most experts anticipate significant growth in this sector.

In the small town of Munda in the Western Province, where some of the best diving in the Solomons is found, a recent initiative has germinated that involves training six young Solomon Islanders to work as fully qualified Dive Guides, to meet the growing demand for Dive Professionals.

Belinda Botha is the Operations Director of Dive Munda, and also a qualified SSI Instructor Trainer. She has been able to garnish support from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and SIVB (Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau) to provide a training internship to a number of young locals, with the goal to fully qualify them as International Dive Guide Professionals through SSI (Scuba Schools International).
Dive Munda is a multi award winning dive operation, having recently been awarded the 2016 Dive company of the year by Luxury Travel Guide, and was the recipient of the Social Media Award from the South Pacific Tourism Exchange. Belinda was also recognised at the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry 2016 Business Excellence Awards as runner up entrepreneur of the year.
Belinda is a former Human Resources executive and has worked for many years in the international diving and tourism sector. She identified a need for more young Solomon Islanders to be trained to take a leading role in promoting and facilitating tourism and diving in their country. She also recognised a need for more women to work as Dive Professionals and has a policy that half her trainees be female.  
Belinda says “I believe the Solomon Islanders are the country’s greatest resource, and I aim to deliver a wholistic level of training, not just as Dive Guide Professionals, but also in tourism, customer service and relations and general life skills”.

“This has been such an exiting project, full of cultural sensitivities and plenty of laughter. It’s so much fun seeing such happy faces, and it’s heartwarming watching people grow and develop on a fast track program. It’s just phenomenal”
One of the trainee Dive Guide Trainees, Junior Ziru, 25, says “Training to be a Dive Guide makes me feel proud of myself and my family. I love to dive in the sea and I look forward to completing the course, when I will have my first experience of working as a Dive Guide. I feel lucky to have a good instructor who has taught me many skills.”
Another of the trainees, George Kasa, 22 says “I found it was amazing, the first time I experienced swimming under the sea, and learning what is under the sea. Belinda has taught us many things and there is more to go.”
Janita Kuangan, 29, looks forward to working in the dive industry. “I look forward to having a professional job. I am really happy and proud to be one of the trainees. I’m looking forward to being with the guests on every dive, and exploring the underwater with them. We have shared a lot of knowledge and gained a lot of skills. We share love and respect for each other and the guests, and take care of one another. I understand how important it is to look after the dive sites very carefully. A huge thanks to Belinda.”
Zaza Bedford, 18 says “It has been a great experience to learn new stuff, being underwater and learning about the fish and other life. Learning professionalism in diving, learning about the environment and the importance of teaching the communities about taking care of the reefs. And a big thanks to Belinda!”
Jenorita Lamupio 26 also embraces the Dive Guide program as a great learning experience “Of how important it is to keep the reefs intact. Somehow I have an opportunity to create something myself. The program has given me much knowledge and has helped me break the barriers to talk with the guests.”
Joan Sasa, 22 says she is also very proud “I feel fine and proud. Scuba diving is amazing and I love the environment. I look forward to be a good dive guide.”
Dive Munda’s existing Dive Master is Brian Daga, he has been working as a guide for twenty years. He has observed changes in the young people from his community who have enrolled in the Dive Guide program, “I’ve noticed how excited they are to see things under the water that they have never seen before. They are meeting people from all around the world. I’ve noticed how they have learned to be punctual and on time for work, and now they have greater opportunities for work around the Solomons.”
Once qualified as Dive Professionals, the guides will be able to apply for a position at any of the dive operators in the Solomons, including Dive Munda’s sister company, Solomon Island Dive Expeditions (SIDE) operating the Dive Liveaboard boat MV Taka.
Belinda hopes to be able to expand the Diveguide training program to other provinces of the Solomons as she envisions securing further funding from stakeholders to help meet the growing demand for well trained professionals in the dive tourism market.
Written by Andrew Trahair – Dive professional for SIDE Dive Munda

Belinda Botha

SIDE Dive Munda

Operations Director

SSI IT #48303 & PADI MSDT #211565

Cell: + 677 789 6869 or Office: + 677 62156 (Solomon Islands)

belinda@dive-solomon.com or for bookings: divemunda@dive-solomon.com


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New favourite place: Roderick Bay, Central Province Reply


We first found Roderick Bay some weeks ago after a long walk about which my Dearly Beloved is threatening write some time. It’s such a special place that before we left we booked in with Patrick, Mary and John for a whole weekend. When we finally made it back across, all was as hoped – maybe better.


The most obvious spectacular feature of Roderick Bay is the wreck of the World Discoverer. Up close it’s as dominant as you would expect but far more interesting. Small trees are now sprouting out of it and birds are nesting in it. By blocking a part of the bay it creates almost a swimming pool, bounded by magnificent old trees that creep out into the water. Enter this sheltered pool by wading across the sand, or dropping from a rope swing, or throwing yourself off the flying fox that’s strung between the wreck and the shore. (Note: Contrary to advice from a mate who thinks such things should not be promoted, the flying fox does work and is strong. We saw it tested by a full-sized Aussie bloke. But of course it’s dangerous because to get on it you have to climb the rusting wreck. Plus some people have a tendency to squeal in flight, which could get annoying if you’re trying to rest.)


The snorkelling’s great. There’s staka coral claiming the wreck plus the family running the guest house is protective of the coral beds all around. Some of the coral is huge but the water is clear and deep enough to save you from worrying about scratching your tender bits as you float above. Plenty of pretty fish, as usual, and my Dearly Beloved saw a sea horse, and that was pretty special. If the sun’s a worry you can even find places to spectate on the sealife in the shade. Highly recommended.


For those who aren’t into getting wet there are various walks on offer. The village is apparently only 10 minutes away so we accepted the open invitation to visit on our own. We missed the direct path across the headland, walking instead between the small family settlements along the water’s edge. Noone seemed to mind – just lots of friendly greetings. In some more open stretches we got views of the mighty hill (mountain?) that a guide would gladly take us up but … no, not us, not this time.


We didn’t make it round to the village, partly because we were worried about the tide coming in and catching us between a couple of rocky outcrops, partly because it started to rain (though it’s not as if it was cold!), and mainly because the rest house is too comfortable and we were too keen to get back to our books and coffee and swims. Is there anything more soothing than a strong splashy storm over a secure thatch roof?


And so to the rest house! It’s one small family settlement hosted by Patrick and wife Mary, with John, Walter and other charming family members on hand to answer questions (John and Patrick speak English) and make sure you’re comfortable and happy. When you pull in at the sandy beach you walk first into what’s probably a dance ground or football yard when there are enough feet around, with shaded benches for spectators around the edges. Next there’s the long open leaf hut/hall where the thermos was always ready for coffee and where Mary served our excellent local-style meals, including yummy lots of vegetables!


Past that there are three guest bungalows. The first is not yet plumbed into the ground but otherwise fully welcoming; the third is unfinished; and ours in the middle was just right. Up a few stairs from the garden and on one side was our bathroom with a new clean dunny, shower and handbasin – to be shared with guests from the first bungalow if there are any. At the moment (but I believe not for long) there’s a problem with the dam so the tap wasn’t running but they provided buckets of fresh water for the shower and you could fill another bucket from the sea for flushing.


Across from the bathroom was our bedroom with one double and one single, and fresh flowers of course. The bed was comfortable and the mozzie net was generous. Best of all, there were long louvre windows all around to catch every breeze. Maybe even better still, off the bedroom we had our own balcony over the water. Day and evening it was paradoxically noisy with birds and lapping water and occasional distant children but at the same time totally still and peaceful.


The family that runs Roderick Bay is keen and committed to making a go of this. The spare tourist dollars they earn go into tourism development, from small improvements like the purchase of a mirror and mats for the bathroom to bigger ones like finishing the other two bungalows so that they can cater for more people at a time and bring down the cost of the boat from Honiara. Very happy to support them in return for such a precious easy escape. I still haven’t succeeded in photographing the flying fish on the way so will gladly be back for another go.



Transport: Canoe with OBM from beside the Yacht Club early Saturday morning, takes maybe one and an half hours p(more or less depending on the sea and number in the boat). Come back early Monday morning rather than wasting Sunday. I got home to shower and change and still made it to work by 9:00, perfectly acceptable by Honi standards.


• Swimmers, obviously, and water toys like snorkel and floaty rings in case you want to lie in the water with your book, plus maybe walking shoes if you’re likely to go wandering.

• There’s only a little solar electricity to provide light in the dining hut in the evening so don’t bother bringing the computer so you can catch up on work. (Haha – as if!) Take a torch for wandering after dark.

• Throw in some mozzie repellent – there’s a mean pleasure to be had watching them fail to get you through the net but you have to get up eventually.

• Be prepared with safe shoes and gloves if there’s any chance you’re going to want to clamber on the wreck.

Cost: $3,400 for a couple including all transfers, meals, accommodation, etc for 7am Saturday to 6am-ish departure Monday 

Contact for further info and bookings: Patrick, ph 7484172 If he doesn’t answer he’s probably out somewhere so send a text message and he’ll get back to you.

Clean up day HoniaraTomorrow 19th November Reply

Do you want your environment to be clean?

Please come help us stop water pollution

Saturday 19th November

8am till 10 am at the Art Gallery

(Between Heritage Hotel and Breakwater Cafe)

Point Cruz

Organised Vaiclehi, Casssandro, Nahala, Loise, Jolyn and Hendrix
Then afterwards you can visit the great exhibition of some of the best of the Solomon Islands Arts Association in the Gallery. There are paintings, based on or inspired by local culture, history or myth, and prints, carvings, weaving and fabrics. All work is for sale. 10am- 4pm everyday.
Whether it s the waitress casually emptying the ash trays over the balcony straight into the water, or the “Eco-lodge” bailing up its garbage into plastic bags and boating them out into the current off shore, or the casual dropping of everything and anything into the street, or local business emptying its rubbish down the banks of the Mataniko River, Honiara is a cesspool of garbage. 

Who would ever guess, before coming here, that a tropical paradise could be so filthy?

The dramatic increase in population alongside the introduction of plastics and other non-biodegradable rubbish have not integrated well with traditional approaches to garbage disposal. 

If you are sick of seeing rubbish everywhere come along for a couple of hours tomorrow morning and do you bit; set a good example and not only help clean up a little but spur the sort of cultural change so sadly needed in this city. Nothing changes behaviour better than seeing people you know practicing and exemplifying another way of doing things.
The general clean up day at the Art Gallery follows on from the GoGreen – Annual School Clean Up, sponsored by BSP, today Friday 18th November.
I recommend you bring your own gloves and bucket and garbage bags and any other clean up gear you have.
You can easily make yourself and kids a handy rubbish “picker-upperer” and save your back.


(Piece of dowel,old broom handle, or roughly straight stick about 120 cms long,

String, raffia, plastic tape or anything to tie with. About 1 metre,

Glue, any sort,

Strong wire coat hanger, or other firm wire

Pliers or wire cutters, or you can break the wire by bending it back and forth around the same point, but it takes a little longer.)
* Simply cut two or three pieces of strong wire coat hanger about 20 cms long. 

Firmly tie the lengths of wire to a piece of dowel, broom handle, stick with string with about 12cms overlap, as in the diagram below.

Coat the string with glue and allow to dry. 
You now have a handy rubbish picker-upperer to help make Honiara a little more beautifuller and rubbish conscious.
See you at the Art Gallery 8 – 10am Saturday 19th November 

The Shipping News – part 2 Reply

It is Tuesday in Honiara. That means there must be another luxury charter boat moored off the seafront. This week it is the MY Qing. It’s flying a Solomon’s flag but registered in the Cayman Islands.

Normally available for charter at exorbitant rates, but at the moment circumnavigating the world for three years with lots of diving in exotic locations and the occasional delivery of a water pump to needy villagers.
To quote Lucy Chabot Reed in the Triton:

Yacht departs on three-year circumnavigation with good will, supplies

Posted on Apr 30, 2015 by Lucy Chabot Reed in Crew News, News | 1 Comment

Capt. Gui Garcia and his 10 crew on the 151-foot Cheoy Lee M/Y Qing will set off from Ft. Lauderdale today at 2 p.m. on what is planned to be a three-year circumnavigation. First stop: Cayman Islands to await the weather window for Panama.
“We’re still planning it all,” Capt. Garcia said. “We’re taking it one leg at a time.”
Roughly, they expect to work their way around the South Pacific to Singapore, then across to Africa, over to Brazil and back to the United States. Along the way, they will do some spearfishing and diving in places “as remote as possible,” he said.
“Our goal is to go to places you can’t fly into.”

Hollywood Comes to Honiara 1

Sure it’s easy enough to buy cheap DVDs down town but there’s something about a B-I-G screen and surround sound. You just can’t beat going to the cinema, as we did on the weekend … in Honiara!

Taloa Cinema at Rove has been open for some weeks now. It’s just across from the Mambo Juice bus stop and the Ngossi/Tasahe turnoff, a few doors back to the east on the Rove seafront. It’s behind the DVD shop in a spacious airconditioned room with a couple of big standing fans, about 40 seats and a couple of light mattresses on the floor at the front. It’s comfortable and clean – a great escape in every way. More…

Free wi-fi 5

Honiara now has two locations where you can tap into free wifi when you are out and about.
In the bar and dining area of the Coral Sea Casino, on the sea front near Town Ground http://www.coral-sea-resort.com/, and

Lime Lounge Cafe in Commonwealth Avenue (heading down to the port), Point Cruz. (Sit near the cash register for best signal, or the front steps if the cafe is closed.)


It is all the same frustrating dodgy signal that characterises the internet for most of us in Honiara, but other than the cost of coffee or a glass of wine it is free. Get the password from the service counter.

Does anyone out there know of other places that we cheapskates can piggyback on someone’s free wifi??

Parisaia – the bat cave river walk Reply

At a bit after 7:00 on Sunday 9 October my small, unfit, arthritic group joined about 20 others for Charis Travel’s walking tour to the bat cave, Parisaia, east of Honiara and up in the hills. We gathered at Henderson where those of us without 4WDs jumped in with others then we all headed out in convoy, up past the Parangiju turnoff and onto the logging tracks along the Lungga River. Great wild scenery, but that was just a foretaste.
After a half hour or so we all pulled into a huge natural basin beside a stream where our guides were waiting. And then we started walking. The first time we had to cross the stream some folks stopped to remove their shoes and socks; the second time noone bothered.


Room with a viewParangiju Inland Mountain Lodge 3


Parangiju Inland Mountain Lodge is one of the newest places to eatand/or sleep in Honiara. And not only is the food good but the view is spectacular. The owners Stephen and Serah Riniu are rightfully proud of the venue on the hilltop lookout they have created.


Located inland from Henderson near the Tenaru Falls it looks out over the airport far below across the ocean towards Central Province. The air is cooler and drier up there, so it makes a lovely escape from the city.

The food is well above the usual Honiara standard. They use mostly fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The simple set menu is lovingly prepared and presented beautifully by chef Eh-ma. Even our fussy, never satisfied, vegetarian friend was well catered for at short notice. More…

The Shipping News Reply

I have one of the best balconies in Honiara for watching the comings and goings and hubbub of life in the city. Normally a great spot to hang out, read a book and lap up the cool breeze that always seems to miss the streets below. But at the moment I’m starring in my own private re-staging of Rear Window with my sprained ankle elevated and the trusty binoculars on constant standby.
It is amazing to watch the ever changing and erratic moods of the sea below, the schools of fish skipping across the water, the fierce flurries of frenetic feeding, the excitement and noise of the wedding party trucks in spontaneous procession and the general amble and congestion of everyday in Honiara from my eyrie on the hill.

But the most obvious coming and going of this past week are the two immense luxury super yachts intermittently parked off Town Ground; the very stylish and recently re-fitted Mystery and the even bigger Ethereal. They certainly do add a stark contrast to the usual OBMs puttering along the coast or out to central province and Savo. More…