Just what makes the Solomon Islands such a mecca for lovers of the underwater world?
The answer is simple – the 992 islands and unspoilt coral reefs making up these ‘Hapi Isles’, literally teem with huge numbers and varieties of marine life.
Add to this the literally hundreds of shipwrecks and downed aircraft that litter the seabed, so much so that in one area just a short journey from the country’s bustling capital of Honiara has been renamed ‘Iron Bottom Sound’.
In reality and the one thing that makes the Solomon Islands’ dive potential so unique is this amazing mix of WWII wrecks, technicolour coral pastures, steep walls, shallow reefs, tunnels, drop-offs, and a veritable pot pourri of demersal, reef and pelagic fish which literally swarm these bath warm waters. Definitely ‘no wetsuit required’.
Most of the known accessible diving in the Solomon Islands is on Guadalcanal and the Western Province – the region to the northwest of the archipelago.
But each and every inch of this South Pacific paradise offers something for someone.
So where to go? While the destination abounds with amazing dive sites – some of which still lie waiting to be discovered – the following are some of the more popular, certainly more accessible dive sites
Honiara is the perfect location from which to start a Solomon Islands dive experience. Dives on the famed Bonegi 1 and Bomnegi 2 are easily arranged and a short boat ride away lies Tulagi, the venue for the well-known dive site ‘Twin Tunnels’ and the many wrecks lying below Ghuvatu Harbour.
Of course, if you are there for some serious wreck diving, Iron Bottom Sound is literally littered with wrecks, including a recently discovered submarine.
Located north west of Honiara, from a diver’s perspective and home to one of the best dive outfits in the Solomon Islands – Solomon Island Dive Expedition’s (SIDE) Dive Munda – Munda on the Vona Vona Lagoon has it all. Swim-through caves, wrecks of planes and boats all within a short boat ride and reefs right in the min accommodation resource, the Agnes Gateway Hotel where the coral is still in pristine condition. Munda is also the place where water flow and currents create the perfect conditions required for barracuda and Jacks feeding frenzies. Barry’s Breakfast is just one such dive where you can hang in mid-water surrounded by swarming pelagics while Titan triggers patrolling the reefs below.
Offering a huge variety of spectacular dive sites, divers visiting Gizo – and the home of the very reputable Dive Gizo – can choose from Grand Central Station which boasts the highest fish count in the world with more than 275 species recorded in its teeming waters. Wreck enthusiasts too are more than catered for with a 440-foot Japanese freighter, the Toa Maru and an almost fully-intact US Hellcat fighter aircraft lying in very shallow waters a short boat ride away from Gizo Town.
The Marovo Lagoon
Recommended for a World Heritage listing, the Marovo Lagoon is renowned as one of the best locations for diving in the Solomon Islands. Mantas and hammerheads abound along with barracuda, eagle rays and swarms of jacks. The flow of water through this area drives nutrients into the water which in turn brings in the whole food chain to feast at certain states of the tide.
The Russell Islands
A group of islands lying 40 kilometres off the northern tip of Guadalcanal, and a regular venue for divers enjoying an amazing experience aboard SIDE’s luxury liveaboard vessel, the MV Taka, the Russell Islands offer special geological features that make for iconic dives. These include the Mirror Pond Cave and Bat Cave where divers surface in an ocean water pool surrounded by jungle. These is also the Leru Cut, a 20-metre deep slot, some three-divers wide which penetrates from the rocky coastline deep into the jungle.
At Karumolun Point divers have the opportunity to see schooling Jacks and barracuda, the occasional squadron of devil rays, staghorn meadows, turtles and countless numbers of clownfish.