Diving the Solomons
The walls, reefs, pinnacles and coral gardens of the Solomon Islands provide an amazing variety and quantity of sea creatures. While pelagics have been declining here in recent years, the variety of the seascape is breathtakingly beautiful. Brilliant soft and hard corals, huge sea fans, plenty of caverns and swim-throughs into and outside of island lagoons -some surfacing in freshwater pools- provide ever-changing backgrounds to enchanting as well as dramatic dive experiences.
The variety of species is staggering. Within a small space, anemone fish, angel fish, butterfly fish, humphead parrot fish and other reef dwellers can be seen individually or in schools, while just a short distance away schools of barracuda, big-eye trevally and other pelagics cruise in the blue waters. Popular with underwater photographers and those with a keen eye for the small and unusual critters are "muck dives". Mantis shrimp, ghost pipefish, and pygmy seahorses are only a few examples.
The Solomon Islands were the location of some of the most violent fighting during WWII; therefore, plane and shipwrecks of all sizes can be found everywhere in shallow waters as well as in the deep trench of Iron Bottom Sound between Honiara and the former capital Tulagi. Bear in mind, the wrecks in Iron Bottom Sound waters are too deep for recreational divers and liveaboard vessels in the Solomons are not offering dives on those wrecks. There are a few small WWII wrecks here and there in very shallow waters overgrown with colorful coral, which might be dived during your liveaboard cruise. None of the more famous wrecks in Iron Bottom Sound, like the Aaron Ward, or the Toa Maru in Gizo are featured on liveaboard ships standard itineraries.
Bilikiki Cruises offer some wreck dives on every cruise, but how many depends on the interest of the divers on the individual trip. They don't have that many wrecks in recreational limits to choose from. Those they offer to dive at include The Ann in the Russell Islands (a former coastal trader and more recent wreck, not WWII) and Japanese transport ships in Marovo Lagoon, only on their 10-14 night cruises. Divers still find ample evidence of the war action that sunk these vessels, lots of ammunition and machinery in the holds, as well as dishes, bottles and other evidence of ship board activities.
Marovo Lagoon
Marovo Lagoon in the New Georgia Island group is spectacular. Reputedly the longest saltwater lagoon in the world, it is nominated for World Heritage listing and described by James A Michener as "the eighth wonder of the world. With its idyllic Pacific Island setting, Uepi Island Resort is the place to be if you want to dive Marovo Lagoon land-based. There are amazing walls that drop-off to 2000 m (6500 ft) on the ocean side with the some of the best coastal diving we have experienced in this part of the world!
Rarely will you view such high concentration of fish, sponges and corals. You dive in a diverse environment, ranging from coral gardens to vertical drop-offs of over 600 m (1950 ft). Do you want to see big fish? This is your place. If you are after rare tropical marine critters - you'll find them here too. Depending on the currents, you can do some thrilling drift dives or just stay stationary at one of the deep points, attach your reef hook and watch the food chain in front of you.
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