The Solomon Islands have slipped quietly under the holiday radar for years as travellers flock to better known Pacific Island holiday hot spots. Unlike her Pacific cousins Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, the Solomon’s (fondly known as the Sollies) are not teeming with camera-toting tourists. Around 20,000 travellers visit each year though visitors will likely increase with Qantas’ new codeshare agreement with Solomon Airlines. Leaving Honiara behind to explore the thousand or so islands, it quickly becomes evident that tourism is in its infancy. Raw, natural beauty on the other hand dominates. The tropical Solomon’s are a photographer’s dream. Surfers, sailors, scuba divers and snorkelers feel right at home in the ridiculously turquoise sea. Water babies this is your kinda place! It’s equally popular with loved-up couples, hammock swingers, book readers and lobster lovers (more about food later…).
Solomon Islands sand cay by Solomon Islands Visitor Bureau
With little infrastructure beyond a couple of airstrips hacked out of forest-clad atolls there are two options for getting around the Solomon’s: boat or plane. If pressed you could walk (at low tide) or swim (at high) between islands as John F Kennedy did after his ship was sunk by a Japanese destroyer during WWII but it’s not recommended. Solomon Airlines operate domestic flights throughout the archipelago and are your best bet.
Solomon Islands from the air by Solomon Islands Visitor Bureau
Where to stay
Tavanipupu Island has evolved much since Norwegian traders purchased it in exchange for ten shillings, a musket and a smoking pipe back eons ago. The 1970’s built Tavanipupu Island Resort that sits amongst a former cocoa plantation is getting a spruce up since new management took over in late 2014. Kate and William’s visit in 2012 has helped to cement the laid back resort’s reputation as one of the country’s best. Located in Marau Sound on the south-eastern tip of Guadalcanal, getting there is a bit of an adventure. The nine seater aircrafts land on a grass airstrip on a neighbouring island followed by a short boat trip to Tavanipupu. Beneath the jetty a kaleidoscopic coral garden appears to be hovering in mid air in water with the clarity of gin. Villagers paddle past in dugout canoes, staff can’t do enough to please and the only sounds are the gentle whoosh of palm fronds in the breeze.
Tavanipupu Island Resort by Fiona Harper
Oravae Cottages are low key and even more laid back, with three rustically romantic cottages making up the entire ‘resort’. The main cottage hangs over the sea creating a splendid platform for launching yourself into a cobalt blue sea. There’s also a couple of treehouse type rooms built high on stilts on the water’s edge. Outdoor showers (there’s an indoor bathroom too if you must), beds draped in colourful mosquito nets and a communal deck with hammocks and low slung chairs make for a pretty chilled out vibe. If you’re the sort who needs hot and cold entertainment on tap, organised activities and an extensive menu this is not the place for you. Actually, perhaps the Sollies are not for you at all.
Oravae Cottages by Fiona Harper
Fatboys Resort takes its name from Charles Dickens’ character, Joe from the Pickwick Papers. Doing his best to avoid work at all costs, his life revolves mostly around eating, drinking and sleeping. Which is how Fatboys guests are encouraged to spend their days. It’s not hard considering the hotel’s hub is plopped about 50 metres from the shore. Guests get there from beachfront bungalows via a boardwalk teetering over a turquoise sea teeming with marine life. If you can lift yourself from torpid tropical lethargy, give the Fatboys’ Decathathlon a shot (warning: there’s beer involved).
Fatboys Resort by Solomon Islands Visitor Bureau
What to do
As you might have guessed, the Sollies are all about relaxation, rejuvenation and romance. Besides the water based fun mentioned earlier, there are plenty of opportunities to get to know Solomon Islanders too. Especially if you check into one of the homestay bungalows that are starting to pop up in villages. Usually perched atop the sand on ridiculously pretty beaches, these offer a terrific insight into village life.
The National Museum and Cultural Centre in Honiara offers an insight into the unique culture and customs of Solomon Islanders. Like currency, for example. Feather money in Santa Cruz, shell money in the south-east, even dolphin teeth are used by the Langalanga people of Malaita.
What to eat
The topography and the climate is a giveaway! The Solomons are a seafood lovers heaven. Lobster (or crayfish, call it what you will) is in abundance and appears on virtually every menu, alongside fresh caught fish. It’s cheap too. If you can’t get your fill of these succulent crustaceans, well, you’re really not trying. Tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, paw paw and coconut grow wild. Tomato, avocado, chilli, yam and sweet potato are cultivated in village vegie patches. Check out local markets like the ones in Honiara or Gizo and you’ll find tables laid out with tantalising, tasty fresh produce likely to appear on hotel menus.
Solomon Islands fisherman by Fiona Harper
But really, if you’re looking for things to do, look no further than Solomon Islands’ national flag. Five white stars represent island groupings while the yellow line represents the sun’s rays dividing the green of the land and the blue of the ocean. Sounds like paradise? Trust us, it is.