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Solomon Islands dive expedition, April 2019

We’ve been five times before, and can’t wait to return. The Solomon Islands—situated east of Papua New Guinea, northeast of Australia and west of Fiji—boasts outstanding biodiversity and a range of diving that’s hard to beat. With over a hundred islands covered in lush tropical jungle, the archipelago offers sheltered anchorages with stunning landscapes, rich history, and beautiful people. You’ll be aboard Bilikiki, which pioneered liveaboard diving in the Solomon Islands.  

Highlights reel from our previous trip

World Class Diving

The waters give you an outstanding mix of world-class diving: healthy hard coral reefs, sheer walls with enormous fans, caverns and caves, current-swept passages, muck sites with their bizarre critters, bommies teeming with brilliant tropical fish, pelagics, plus WWII and modern wrecks. All this in toasty warm waters with great viz and minimal dive tourism—so you’ll have the sites to yourselves. Spending two weeks at sea means there’s enough time for you to explore all three of main island groups: Florida Islands, Russell Islands, and Marovo Lagoon in the New Georgia Group. With nearly 30 years of dive experience in the region’s waters, the Bilikiki crew have discovered countless gems to show you, these are just a few:

MARY ISLAND: An isolated island with stakka fis (stacks of fish) swarming the pristine hard coral slope that drops away into the inky abyss. Grey reef, whitetip and blacktip sharks patrol the area. Jacks and barracuda in abundance. The rumbling sounds of distant underwater volcanic eruptions make this an unforgettable dive site. We’ll spend two or more days here. LERU CUT: From a sheer wall, up in the shallows, is a spectacular split in the island. You can swim 60m (200’) into the cut, and surface right inside the jungle canopy. On the way back out, stop to look for electric clams, ghost pipefish and pygmy seahorses. TWIN TUNNELS: A lush and large seamount topping out at 18m (45’). There are two tunnel entrances at the top; enter and descend down to 33m (110’), then exit on the seamount’s side. Plenty of pelagic fish action at the point where the current hits: fusiliers, trevally, mackerel, tuna, sharks. VELVIA REEF: A small seamount in the middle of a channel. Critter hunter’s nirvana. Crocodilefish, tons of nudibranchs (especially Nembrotha kubaryana), and lionfish up the wazoo. THE ANN: A modern wreck close to shore. The hull is covered with enormous elephant ear sponges. Up in the shallows, near a village, you can get shots of local children posing for you underwater. WHITE BEACH: This mangrove-lined steep rubble slope was the dumping ground for American military equipment after WWII: sunken pontoons, earth-moving equipment, a jeep, ammunition and vintage bottles. Mantis shrimp, archer fish, mandarinfish and jawfish call this place home. MANTA FEEDING STATION: Zoom across a current-swept reef, then tuck down at the drop-off to watch the mantas parade past. MIRROR POND: At the edge of a hard coral garden, enter a cave. Swim through to where the cave opens to the daylight and forest. Look out for the resident crocodile. MAROVO LAGOON: Awesome drift dives along stunning sheer walls covered in the largest sea fans you’ll ever see. This area is only visited on longer trips (like ours). Many villages with carvings for sale in this area.
 
scuba diver observes the propellors on the wreck of a WWII sea plane, in the Solomon Islands

Local Culture

Most of the dive sites are close to small villages, and you’ll often surface from your dive to find the locals have paddled their dugout canoes to say hello. With minimal tourism throughout the islands, the locals greet you with warms smiles, friendliness and a little curiosity. There will be at least one formal village visit during the trip, with traditional entertainment called a “sing sing”—it’s very impressive. Additionally, during some surface intervals there will be the opportunity to purchase excellent wood carvings and other local handicrafts. The cruise directors will brief you on the art of price negotiation, Solomons style. It’s also possible to trade for these local items, so consider bringing some goods that are sought after by the islanders.
limes, sweet potatoes and coconuts in a dugout canoe, pacific island culture and trade
two happy solomon islander children girls smiling
solomon islander women traditional dance

Life Onboard

Bilikiki has been going for nearly 30 years and has always enjoyed an excellent reputation. We were onboard in 2005, and we also worked there as relief cruise directors in 2007. In 2010 we were there for a month, and were back again in 2012 and 2014. We found the 13 long-tenured crew to be polite, experienced and hard-working—they will take good care of you during the trip. Bilikiki is a comfortable, clean, spacious and well-equipped ship. Each cabin has a private ensuite bathroom with shower, basin and toilet. All cabins are air-conditioned. The dive deck has plenty of space to gear up, huge fresh-water rinse tanks, a carpeted camera table, hot showers, and fresh towels. In the salon area is a large table for camera assembly, storage and tinkering. And there’s a dedicated charging room well away from the wet areas of the ship. Local villagers paddle their dugout canoes to the ship, bringing fresh fruits, vegetables and fish that the crew purchase to re-stock the galley throughout the trip. If you want to try some fishing yourself, you’re welcome to join the crew for an evening or early morning excursion to hand-line for wahoo and tuna.
scuba diver and a huge round head of yellow cabbage lettuce coral
scuba diver silhouette in a cave with trees behind
female scuba diver with underwater camera behind a large red sea fan

Dive Operations

The Bilikiki dive operations are extremely well run. After a detailed dive briefing, you can gear up at your own pace and go when you’re ready—there are no fixed dive groups. The crew will load your gear into one of the 21’ aluminium tenders (called “tinnies”); the tinnie departs once it’s full. It’s a 1-4 minute ride to the dive site. The crew will lift your tank up onto your back, you just buckle up and do a unison back-roll entry. There will be a tinnie to collect you wherever you surface at the end of the dive. The two tinnies do alternate watches, so there’s no need to wait for all the other divers to surface before you can be taken back to the ship. At a couple of sites the “pool is open”: diving is done direct from the ship’s stern, so you just come and go as you please. One or both of the cruise directors will be in the water as guide on each day dive. The dive crew take care of your dive gear throughout the trip—from loading it in and out of the tinnies each dive, to cleaning it for you on the last day. Diving is unlimited: the dive schedule is built around five daily dives (4 daytime dives plus 1 night dive after dinner), but there is scope to add more dives for the super keen. There are no depth or time limits on the dives, just keep your profiles within the bounds of common sense and safe diving practices.
anemonefish solomon islands
freckle face blenny
nembrotha nudibranch
endemic coral hermit crab solomon islands

Dates:

13-27 April 2019 (dates which make for a tidy 2-week holiday from work) 14 nights onboard, 13 diving days

Ship:

The excellent Bilikiki, a very fine liveaboard that has worked the region for nearly 30 years.

Price:

US $7840 per person 40% deposit to secure your space onboard. The balance is due by 13 November 2018 (5 months prior to departure).

Inclusions:

  • 14 nights onboard accommodation
  • Unlimited diving
  • Hotel or airport transfers in Honiara on boarding and disembarking dates
  • Meals while onboard: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks
  • Non-alcoholic drinks while onboard: coffee, hot chocolate, fresh lemonade, assorted teas
  • Tanks, weight belts, weights, safety sausage
  • Village excursions during the charter
  • Help with your camera, photo/video technique, and image editing, as required

Exclusions:

  • US$25/day government tax
  • Flights
  • Hotel accommodation, if required
  • Soda and alcoholic drinks
  • Personal onboard purchases, e.g.: souvenirs
  • Nitrox fills (32% mix), US$20 per diving day
  • Crew gratuities
Scuba Diver Looking At Coral Gardens

Interested?

Only one space remaining. Let us know quickly if you’d like to come along!

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