OUR Thoughts on SOLOMON ISLANDS.

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What an interesting country for travellers to discover and enjoy!  Located north-west of Vanuatu and east of both Papua New Guinea and Queensland and forming the northern boundary of The Solomon Sea which merges to the south with The Coral Sea, Solomon Islands is still something of an unknown quantity for mainstream Kiwi tourists, especially as there are no direct flights between New Zealand and Honiara at present. However, the country is relatively close to New Zealand and it is simple for us to arrange travel between Auckland and Honiara which is Solomon Islands’ main town and international entry point.  Currently, the best serviced route is via Brisbane.  From Brisbane, Solomon Airlines fly 4 or 5 times a week (depending on the season) between Brisbane and Honiara and Virgin Australia also fly the route twice weekly.  Schedules generally necessitate a stopover in Brisbane, but, if everything runs to schedule, travel with Virgin Australia on a Monday gives a same-day connection from Auckland to Honiara via Brisbane with only a 3 to 4 hour wait between flights. The flight time between Brisbane and Honiara is just on 3 hours.  Solomons Airlines also fly once a week between Sydney and Honiara.  Air Niugini services Port Moresby and Honiara 4 times weekly.

Other travel options include combining Solomon Islands with a stay in Port Vila Vanuatu and/or Fiji. There is a once weekly flight between both Nadi and Vila and Honiara. Flight time between Port Vila and Honiara is around 2 hours and the once weekly flight between Nadi and Honiara routes via Port Vila making the total transit time Nadi to Honiara at around 4½ hours.  Solomon Airlines in combination with Air New Zealand, offer a special Circle Pacific air fare available at a good price which provides the opportunity to enjoy a stop in Brisbane or Sydney in one direction to Honiara and another stop in either Nadi or Port Vila, Vanuatu in the other direction. 

The country encompasses just under 1,000 islands. The main islands are naturally best known and sport such romantic names as San Cristobal, Guadalcanal, Malaita, Santa Isabel, New Georgia and Choiseul. Some of these names reflect the presence of Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña who is credited with being the first European to visit the country (1568). The country is divided into 9 Provinces.  Currently, the main areas offering main-stream tourist accommodation, facilities and accessible places of interest are in Guadalcanal Province (Honiara, Battlefield Tours, Iron Bottom Sound and Tavanipupu Private Island) and the enormously interesting and diverse Western Province with its 3 main centres of tourist appeal – Seghe (Marovo Lagoon, Uepi Island Resort, Kayak Solomons), Munda (Agnes Lodge, Zipolo Habu Resort) and Gizo (Dive Gizo, Gizo Hotel, Fatboys Resort, Oravae Cottage, Sanbis Resort and more).

From Honiara there are at least daily flights by Twin Otter or Dash8 turbo-prop aircraft to and from the main outer island towns of Gizo and Munda, flights to and from Seghe usually operate 6 times weekly, some of which are direct flights and others may stop at other airports en route. Direct flight times between Honiara and these 3 main ports vary from 55 to 65 minutes.  A 30 minute flight by BN Islander aircraft operates 3 times weekly between Honiara and Marau Sound Airfield, the airport servicing the Marau Region and Tavanipupu Private Island Resort.

Our Guadalcanal Island and Honiara
Honiara is the capital of Solomon Islands and is located on Guadalcanal Island.  Guadalcanal, like most of the main islands of Solomon Islands has a mountainous terrain and Honiara City spreads along the mid-northern coastal area while the suburbs extend back into the hills behind.  The country’s international airport (known as Henderson Field from WW11), is adjacent to the city.  The city faces north over a stretch of water known as Iron Bottom Sound (from the dozens of ships which sank there during WW11 battles) and the other well-known sea-battle area, The Slot, is off to the north-west. Many of the sites of WW11 battles around Honiara are remarkably still intact and of great interest, such as The Thin Red Line, Alligator Creek and Bloody Ridge. Various Battlefield Tours are offered from Honiara and Our Specialists have full details and can prebook tours.  Honiara is sometimes considered merely as a stopover to get to and from the other islands, but, for travellers seeking a rounded experience of a visit to Solomon Islands, Honiara has more to offer than merely a stopover point.  Bonegi 1 and 2 shore dive sites are only 30 minutes out of Honiara on Bonegi Beach and offer a pleasant beach experience with great wreck dives direct off the beach.  The Solomon Islands Memorial Garden near the airport is also well worth a visit as is the American War Memorial on a hill behind the town.  Further up in the mountains behind the city, there are some spectacular waterfalls accessible via 4WD which are excellent picnic spots.  The town itself has something of a ‘frontier town’ feel about it with its many cafés and bars where beautifully fresh seafood is offered. The noisy, hot and crowded Central Market is another interesting place to experience!

On the south-eastern corner of Guadalcanal, there is a really superb region known as Marau Sound.  Serviced by Marau Sound Airfield, you find a wide cluster of islands (most with a fishing village), which creates a natural sound with islands, sleepy lagoons and beaches - a gem of a location for a good-quality get-away-from-it-all resort and Tavanipupu Private Island Resort is just such a place.

Our Western Province: Gizo, Munda & Seghe
We call this region of Solomon Islands a “maritime playground”.  Almost every form of maritime activity happens here from world-class fishing to surfing, diving, amazing snorkelling, clam farming, kayaking boating, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing and parasailing.  Indeed, apart from one of the resorts we offer, arrival and departure at all our Western Province Resorts is via boat from one of the 3 local airports. In this environment you would have to expect fresh seafood to be a feature – and it certainly is! 

Gizo
The airport for Gizo is actually located on Nusatupe Island which is 2km off-shore from Ghizo Island (yes, our spelling of the island’s name is correct) so the town of Gizo, which is the second biggest town in Solomon Islands after Honiara, is very much a waterfront town and largely oriented to its waterfront as well as the surrounding lagoon, the neighbouring islands (both large and small) and the sea.  Many of the buildings on the sea side of the waterfront main road have facilities for boats to berth and many of the suppliers to the town market come in to the market by boats which tie up right outside the individual market stalls. 

Guests staying at Gizo Hotel, Fatboys Resort, Oravae Cottage and Sanbis Resort are collected at the airport on Nusatupe Island and transferred by boat to their respective resorts. Dive Gizo is located at Gizo Hotel.

Munda
New Georgia Island, one of Solomon Islands major islands and the biggest island in Western Province is where we find Munda, a small town located on the Roviana Lagoon some 100km south-east of Gizo.  Munda has an airport adjacent to the township which enjoys daily flights to and from Honiara as well as flights which connect Munda to both Gizo and Seghe.  Visit Munda for:
Scuba Diving and snorkeling on world-class sites, Sport Fishing within the lagoon for great fighting fish, Underwater coral and World War 2 relics, Land-based American, New Zealand and Japanese WW2 sites, Rainforest and wildlife fauna tours, Tropical island atoll visits, picnics and barbeques, Sightseeing lagoon tours.

Roviana Island was the wartime base for American PT Boats and it was from here that John F Kennedy (later to President of USA) operated before being shipwrecked on Plum Pudding Island (Olasana Island) which is only 7kms from Gizo Town.

Agnes Lodge is our recommended accommodation in Munda.

Munda is also the arrival point for Zipolo Habu Resort which is located on Lola Island in the magical Vona Vona Lagoon and accessed via a very scenic 20 minute boat ride from Munda.

Seghe
On the south-eastern tip of New Georgia Island Seghe Airport serves a remarkable little barrier reef island – Uepi Island, the home of Uepi Island Resort, the only occupant of the island.  This island and its immediate neighbours form the northern rim of the superb Marovo Lagoon and both New Georgia and Vangunu Islands form the southern boundary of the lagoon. Kayak Solomons operates from Uepi Island and the kayaking in Marovo Lagoon is nothing short of spectacular.

Solomon Islands has an interesting history which delivers a very unique tourist experience for today’s travellers.  The Melanesian culture is an ancient one and full of interest for those seeking to better understand our near Pacific neighbours.  Add in Spanish, German and English influences, the Japanese invasion and subsequent major battles during WW11.  Then set all this in a world of largely natural surroundings, towering interior mountains, tumbling waterfalls, exceptional bird life where many species are endemic, amazing deep and shallow water lagoons with a myriad of islands, sand-banks and secluded beaches, sensational water-based activities and genuinely friendly and welcoming people - you can see there is something special to be found here. 

This is not a place of mass tourism, slick service and major 5 Star resorts but it is a place where you and your fellow travellers will mingle together and with the local people you encounter, in a welcoming atmosphere of friendly informality while you enjoy the wonderful natural environment. 

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Currency: 
Solomon Island dollar (SBD)
Some of the hotels and resorts around the country will accept major credit cards, but not all so it may be worth checking first. 

Electricity: 230V / 50Hz

Flying time via Brisbane: approx. 6 hours and 50 minutes to Honiara from Auckland, New Zealand (not including stopover time)
Flying time via Sydney: approx. 7 hours and 55 minutes to Honiara from Auckland, New Zealand (not including stopover time)

Local Time: 11 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).  1 hour behind Auckland.

Weather:
Hot and humid all year round with an average temperature of about 27 degrees celsius with only small changes from seaons to season.  A wet season from November to April and a dry season from May to October.

Entry requirements:
* Valid passport for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay (NZ passport holders).
* A valid return or onward air ticket and sufficient funds for visits less than 60 days.

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