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Pristine untouched paradise found in Solomon Islands

Pristine untouched paradise found in Solomon Islands

How do you describe such a pristine untouched paradise that is the Solomon Islands in one word, well that’s extremely hard because there are many words that could be used to describe this extraordinary dive location and for the lucky few of us that have just returned from 12 days diving in the Solomon’s all I can say is WOW!!!!

Our journey started with a 3 ½ hour flight from Brisbane to Honiara the capital of the Solomon Islands, from there it was a quick walk over to the domestic terminal and a short hour flight to Munda our first stop on the trip.

Flying into Munda and seeing the crystal clear waters, awesome reef and small islands we knew before we even arrived that we were going to be in for something special and we truly were.

Upon landing in Munda we were greeted by the resort staff and a short walk from the airport we were at our accommodation the Agnes resort.

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Once we were settled into our rooms and cooled down we headed around to the dive shop and met Belinda and the crew at Dive Munda. From the start we could tell that it was a professional and well run operation and that we would be in good hands and we were. The staff were super friendly and more than helpful with Belinda sitting down and finding out what sort of diving we liked, what we wanted to see and what we wanted to get out of our time in Munda.

After a good night sleep and a hearty breakfast we were more than ready to jump into the water for our first dives of the trip. Our first dive was Shark Point and within the first few minutes of the dive we knew that the diving in Munda was going to be a feast for our minds.  Our Second dive of the day at Eagle Nest was just as exciting as the first

While at Shark Point and Eagle Nest we were greeted with black and white tip reef sharks, rays, turtles, large schools of barracuda, snapper, and yellow tailed fusiliers. In the shallows we had large groups of clownfish, blue tangs and hundreds of other reef fish.

The water temperature while diving was anywhere between 29 to a lovely 31 degrees even at depth and visibility was anywhere from 30-60m.

Our second day was full of World War 2 history with dives on a Douglas SBD-4 Dauntless Bomber which crashed in the harbor in 1943. 50 years later the pilot Jim Dougherty came back and dove on the bomber that he had crashed. The plane mainly intact was a fantastic dive and gave a good sense of how the plane crashed and how hard it would have been for Jim to get out before it sank beneath the waves.

The other dive we did was on an American P-39 Airacobra largely intact the place was part of the 68th fighter squadron and was a great dive in 27m of water.

The third day of diving was a reef day with dives at Aussie Point and Mushroom Island. Aussie point which was only discovered in the last 12 months was host to a giant coral wall full of hard and soft corals. It was also home to reef sharks, rays and we even saw a hammerhead shark out in the wide open blue water, a fantastic dive with visibility of at least 40+ metres.

Mushroom Island was also a wall with a lot of soft corals and large schools of reef fish with plenty of Nemos and Dories to say hello too.

That evening we also went on a night dive to one of the local islands and came across blue spotted rays, crabs, bat fish, painted crays, sleeping parrot fish and lionfish just to name a few of the species we saw.

Our final diving day in Munda saw us diving on the Katsu Maru a Japanese freighter which was bombed on July 2 1945 by the US air force while unloading trucks and fuel. The wreck lies in 17m of water and you can see were the bombs hit and see the destructive force of the explosions. The wreck still has bombs and ammunition on board which you can see while diving.

Our second and last dive of the day was a site called Alice in Wonderland. This site was 2 sites on one with the start of the dive on a F4F-4 Wildcat, sitting upside down in 12m of water you can see the gun fire that bought the plane down. From there we move onto the reef which is full of massive plate coral easily the size of a large dining table and hundreds of years old make this site a spectacular reef dive. 

The afternoon saw us visiting Barry a local in Munda who has dedicated his time and life to collecting and preserving World War 2 artefacts from the area. He is extremely knowledgeable and has set up a museum in his backyard.

He has a collection of grenades, ammunition, plane parts, guns of all types, engines and he even has a 500lb bomb in his collection. He will keep you entertained for hours with stories about the items and the history of the area. Well worth the visit and a real eye opener about the war in the area.

Unfortunately our time in Munda had come to an end and it was time to move on to Gizo our next stop on the trip. Munda is a fantastic place to dive and will definitely be a place I will come back to and dive again. The staff at Dive Munda are friendly and fantastic and I could not find any fault in the time that we spent with them. The diving is out of this world and we only just scratched the surface on what Munda has to offer. It defiantly is an untouched paradise and one that will always be a favourite of mine to visit and dive at.

The following day we transferred to Gizo by an hour boat trip though the islands and beautiful scenery and along the way stopped at Skull Island. The island is home to a shrine composed of the skulls of chiefs and warriors. The bodies are buried beneath the rocks that make up the shrine. The heads/skulls are placed on top of the rocks and are quite remarkable to see.

Our first day of diving in Gizo took us to the Gap, an inlet into the harbor area from the open ocean. Walls either side were covered in hard and soft coral reef housing large schools of reef fish, barracuda and even reef sharks. A great start to our diving time in Gizo.

The second day took us to the Tao Maru a reasonably intact Japanese transport ship of around 140m long that is lying on its side. The wreck sits in about 37 metres of water. Things to see on the dive include saki bottles, medical supplies, office equipment and rounds of ammunition. Larger objects include bombs, a motorbike and a tank.

The second dive was at Grand Central Station which is located at the north-western tip of Gizo Island and is the merge point for oceanic currents in the area and it’s here where we got to see fish life big and small.

Our final day diving in Gizo took us to three World War 2 planes starting with a Corsair sitting in 27m of water. The plane has broken into around 5-6 pieces as it hit the water hard when it crashed after being shot down. We were still able to make out the landing gear, engine and propeller, guns and even the radio. Also on this dive we had reef sharks, bump heads and lion fish. In the shallows on the safety stop were the usual reef fish you would expect to see on a beautiful colourful tropical reef.

Our second plane was a Japanese Float Plane which was sitting in 12m of water, The dive is only 2-3 minutes from the dive shop and easily accessible from either boat or shore. The plane sits upside down and from the moment you enter the water you are surrounded by a large school on bat fish on the wreck. The wreck was easy to find and easy to make out the parts of the aircraft however the high light of the dive was definitely the 20-30 batfish swimming within inches of us not giving a care in the world that we were there.

From the float plane it was a short 20m swim to the third and final plane a Japanese Zero. Sitting in 8m of water this was one of my favourite plane dives we did. It was a beautiful plane to look at and the fish life surrounding it made it something special. The cockpit was basically intact and was just a nice way to end our dive time in Gizo.

Our final full day in Gizo was our down day from diving and we decided to go on a World War 2 tour and see some of the history and sites in the area.

We started by travelling to one of the Islands to a locals home and looking at an American Stuart tank left behind at the end of the war. The tank was hit during fire fight and left stranded in the remote jungle.

The Americans in the tank survived and one of them was able to come back years later and view the tank that he had served in. Giving a good looking over of the tank showed just how small you had to be to fit inside the tank.

From here we travelled to one of the nearby Islands and after a short walk through the jungle we were exploring the underground tunnels built into the hills by the Japanese when they invaded the area during the wall. In the tunnels there was an old underground hospital which still had medicine bottles, needles and even a shovel in the tunnel.

The next tunnel we took a look at housed ammunitions and there were still signs of these in the tunnels with bullets, gas masks, mines and grenades in the tunnels.

Very interesting and extremely dark in the tunnels. The tunnels during the war were lit by lighting they had running through the tunnels run by generators.

Our final stop on the tour was in a shallow bay of 8m, in the bay was an extremely impressive Hellcat fighter plane which we snorkelled on. The plane completely intact except for the right wing which is missing was an awesome site to see, The plane looks like it has only been there a few years not 70 years and you could clearly see and make out all the dials in the cockpit. The canopy was in one piece and clearly make out guns and all parts of the plane and awesome and fantastic way to end the tour and our time in the Solomon Islands.

On the way back to Gizo we were suddenly surrounded by 60-70 dolphins who put on a great show for us, jumping, spinning and following our boat for over 10 minutes, The only down side was when they decided that playtime was over and just suddenly disappeared.

The Solomon Islands is definitely a place to visit, with warm clear water, fantastic diving and friendly locals. It certainly was a wonderful trip and a clear favourite of everyone that was on the trip. We have already said we would definitely be back and even talked about the next time we visit the Solomon Islands.

It definitely is rated as one of my all time favourites and will be on the top of my list of dive locations to revisit very soon in the future. I can’t wait to head back and explore the warm waters of this underwater untouched paradise.

Adam Booth

Solomon Islands Tour Leader

 


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