An October 1996 trip
to Solomon Islands by LesBarker
Quote: My wife Wendy and I had two weeks at Honiara and Malaita, diving and meeting the locals.
They are called the Friendly Islands and we found that to be true. We stayed with an Australian friend but there were two tourist hotels in Honiara. There were several stores and one supermarket as well as a bakery. Fresh meat and milk was very expensive.If you shop in the markets (two in Honiara), you can buy excellent fresh vegetables and fruit for very little money. China Town was a ramshackle collection of shops and businesses where you could spend days.Honiara looks out over Ironbottom Sound where over 80 shipwrecks (both Japanese and American lie after being sunk in WW2). There are three wrecks on the beaches which are easily divisible.These are two Japanese ships known as Bonegi 1 Mad 2, and a submarine.Honiara is close to Henderson Airport which was used during the war. An extension of the runway unearthed a huge amount of buried bombs and other ammunition. When I was there some men were missing limbs. Some lost them when digging a garden and hitting something but many tried to make makeshift bombs for fishing from unexploded ammunition. One school has a complete fighter plane dug up in its grounds. Memorial Hill is worth a look but when I was there a family tried to sell me some war relics including a Japanese set of dogtags. Beware of the export laws of such artifacts.The real attraction is the diving. There was a dive shop which would hire gear and fill tanks or you could play it safe and go with one of the local dive shops. When I was there, one operated at the Hotel. Remember the nearest decompression chamber is Cairns.We dived both night and day, shallow and deep, slopes and wrecks. Bonegi 1 is a ship lying on its side. The bow is only 3 metres deep but the stern is 55 metres. One hundred dives on this wreck would not be too many.Bonegi 2 is very shallow with superstructure being out of the water. It only goes to 20 metres. A computer is s great advantage as you can plunge to your deepest depth and work your way back up. Don't forget to have a dive free day before flying home.
Be friendly to the locals and they will usually respond accordingly.Watch your gear and take nothing that is valuable with you to the Islands.When we were there we learned to watch out for the 5 ton trucks. A village will buy one of these and they drive very fast with heaps of people on board. Eat fresh foods from the markets. They are cheap and you won't get sick. Avoid their fish unless you catch it yourself or are sure of its origin. Fresh coconuts make great thirst quenchers. The market may have a ball-like doughnut. Not even the fish would eat ours. Honiara has been wracked with turmoil recently and I believe China Town has been all but destroyed.
When we were there we had access to our friends ute but we also used the Red Buses. (These were not all red). They were cheap and covered all of Honiara and some surrounding country. They also usually were a considerable wait but them there would be three together. There were also taxis. One we caught had a sign which said, "Fifteen year taxi driver, sixteen cars." As we cruised along at 30kph it sounded like that should have been "seventeen cars". If you want to go to the other islands there are light planes and boats.