Published: February 24th 2009January 26th 2009
the US tank-landing ship
Solomon islands were the last stop on my journey. And probably the most difficult. Anyway, they were well worth the effort. First of all, there are battlefields, shipwrecks and rusty iron from the WWII. And the atmosphere is pristine since there are almost no tourists.
In six weeks that I’ve spent there, I only met one backpacker. And a couple of tourists in pricey resorts. The other foreigners you meet are normally people working on some research, humanitarian projects or British medical students doing their internships in the local hospitals. The reason for absence of tourists is probably remote location and the fact that you need both time and money to travel Solomons. And not many people have both :))
Since there is not a lot of information available online about the Solomons, I would present them in short to a potential independent visitor.
Solomon Islands are a mixture of a big number of ethnic groups with their own languages, habits and interests, who often don’t have much in common. This often causes disputes and ethnic tensions, which can still be felt today.
Traveling the Solomons was good fun!!! Weather:
second half of a year is recommended because there is dry
see the sign: no make rubbish here
season with lower temperatures and humidity. Anyway, it can still be hot. I visited the Solomons in August and September. However, some islands have the reverse distribution and climate changes in recent years sometimes cause unexpected weather. Guidebooks:
Unfortunately, recent editions of Lonely Planet are brief with little information on those 30 pages, recommending mostly expensive resorts and tour operators. I used the edition from 1997 with more than 250 pages. Prices and some other facts are of course not accurate any more, but maps and descriptions of sites (incl. dive sites) are invaluable, if you plan traveling on your own. Things don’t change quickly in the Solomons :)) Sights:
Apart from WWII sites and wrecks, which interested me the most, there is a possibility to see quite untouched traditional Melanesian way of life. You can explore jungles, lagoons and caves or climb volcanoes. Supposedly, there is unbelievable fauna to see on Tetepare islands and sharks around Uepi island, but I missed them because I had other priorities. In general, don’t expect sandy beaches to laze around, rather cliffs and murky lagoons. One beautiful exception are some parts of Western province. Costs:
Solomon Islands are not as cheap as one
would expect although they are still affordable. I was told that all prices went up for 50% in 2008 due to increase in price of oil and lack of their own goods to export. Sleeping: about 20 eur for a double room in a hostel. Lunch with meat and rice in the cheapest restaurant: about 4 eur. A can of 0.33l beer in a liquor shop: 1 eur. Diving is really expensive: about 100 eur for two dives. Excluding diving, I spent a bit over 20 eur a day on a backpack budget. Sleeping and eating in village stays can reduce the costs to less than 10 eur a day, but it may cost you a fortune to get to remote places by motorboat. Safety:
is not a reason not to visit Solomons although it is worth to consider some safety precautions. After ethnic tensions with riots and killing some years ago, the foreign RAMSI forces established and maintain peace in the Solomons, which is stable now. Some murders still occur, usually between different local ethnic groups. Avoid drunk locals at all times although sometimes you can have a beer with a friendly local. Normally the locals either don’t drink
at all or they drink until they fall down. On the countryside, you are absolutely safe but make yourself familiar with local habits and taboos in order to avoid any compensation fees. Health:
tourists normally take antimalarics and so did I. There is a number of potential serious diseases but, as they say, the probability to catch any is low. I often used water purification pills. Eating is normally safe and I had no diarrhea problems but I was disadvised (by some Australians living there for years) from eating fish&chips on the markets. Take care of any wounds, even the small ones. I didn't and I had to start taking antibiotics. They can get infected very quickly in the humid tropical climate. Transport:
Chaos. And foreigners say it’s getting worse year by year. Don’t rely on anything. Schedules (even by airplanes) change in terms of days so it is better to be in the capital a couple of days before your international flight. Apart from that, flights are OK, but not cheap - about 100eur for one-way fare in average. Traveling with express boats or passenger ships is OK as well, but cargo ships are suffer - and I don’t
consider myself spoilt. To reach the remote villages you will often have to take the motor canoe, which can be really expensive: e.g. I paid about 45 eur for 15 kms ride because the driver had to return the same way. The means of transport and the lack of them are the main reason that it’s so difficult to travel Solomons. Honiara
Everybody spends more time in Honiara than he wants - because the schedules are changed that often. I would never say that dusty little town with often unsealed streets could be a capital of any country. But it is and its inhabitants are much friendlier than in any other capital. It is worth some exploring, particularly the market but save it for the time when you get stuck in Honiara.
Mataniko Falls were a refreshing trip from Honiara. I hired a local guide and went up there. I swam inside the cave with stalactites and the gorge reminded me of our Slovenian Lepena. Good fun! Guadalcanal - around Honiara
Surroundings of Honiara saw fierce fighting between American troops invading the island and the Japanese defending it. Some tour operators offer the excursions
through the battlefields but we did them on our own for a fifth of price by public transport by vans, which are functioning very well - except Sunday. Otherwise, anybody having space would give you a lift.
So we went around together with Steve, the only backpacker I met in the Solomons. We were predominantly interested in remnants of WWII so we visited some sites. Amtracks, the armored amphibians left behind American army behind Tetere Beach are now wasting the courtyard of some villagers who use them for drying clothes and can’t understand why white people come to see that. A “war museum” in Vilu was good fun too, especially for Steve and me who read a bit too much about WWII or engineering or both :)) You can still fold the wings of fairly well preserved US Navy F4F Wildcat. Tulaghi
The former capital of the Solomons was so demolished in the WWII that the capital was moved to Honiara. Which is very promising to see the rusty iron again!!! It is a small island with some cliffs just offshore Nggela Sule island. On the western side, the Americans invaded the Blue beach which could be
changed to Rusty beach now. See the pics.
Again, I was the only tourist and I wanted to see the wreck of American tank carrier LST-325 resting in the murky water at mangroves in the lagoon. I admit, it was not too wise to climb it since the rust was falling off all the time and you never know when it is going to break. But if you travel to the other side of the world to see it… And not far away, there is the Japanese destroyer Kikutsuki which was bombed in the lagoon. It was much safer to climb it because the ship was armored and the shell is much stronger. Supposedly, these ships were run by steam turbines and I saw something which could be a vapor-condenser. Ahhhh, engineers again!!! And there is still a big gun to see.
For your sake, I'll do the other provinces in a shorter way.
There are more photos below