Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Jammu and Kashmir
United Arab Emirates
Jammu and Kashmir
If the South Pacific is laid-back, this low-key archipelago is a long tropical snooze in a beach hammock. The good news? It’s right on our doorstep – just a three-hour flight from Brisbane. The bad news? There is none. Here we’ve rounded up the best things to do on the Solomon Islands. About a three-hour flight north-east of Brisbane, the Solomon Islands are part of the Coral Triangle of the western Pacific, considered a global epicentre of marine diversity. Here, divers can glide alongside manta rays, disappear into a deep-blue lagoon filled with shy reef sharks and curious turtles or surface next to a friendly pod of dolphins. The clear seas also hide hundreds of World War II-era shipwrecks and planes, some in water so shallow they can be viewed by snorkellers. They’re fascinating historically and as an anchor point for bright corals and a shelter for fish. With the bulk of the population living on just six of the almost 1000 islands of the archipelago, you’ll find a new beach around every palm tree and likely have it all to yourself. Consider the patchy internet a pro rather than a con and surrender to a digital detox. For those who love a day out with a rod and reel, the hardest part will be deciding where to cast off. Take a charter to the reefs or the deep sea to hunt for marlin and mahi mahi or explore wild jungle rivers to reel in spot tail bass, mangrove jack and perch. On the private island of Papatura, just off Santa Isabel, it’s possible to throw a line in off the jetty and bring in a haul of fresh squid. The Solomon Islands’ tribes arrived thousands of years ago and you can still witness evidence of their ancient traditions, such as skull monuments that commemorate the islands’ headhunting past. The Solomons were also the site of fierce World War II clashes, with many battlegrounds still largely untouched. Decrepit jeeps, tanks and other warcraft are scattered in jungle hideaways and there are solemn memorials to Japanese as well as American fighters. Feeling inspired? Here are the best things to do in the Solomon Islands...
#1- National Museum
This modest museum – there is only one room – features interesting displays and old photographs on traditional dance, body ornamentation, currency, weaponry, and archaeology. It also covers the role of the coastwatchers during WWII and the influence of the missionaries.
#2- Betikama SDA Mission
In Betikama village, this sprawling property comprises a small WWII museum with an outdoor collection of salvaged material (mostly US aircraft) as well as two small Japanese anti-tank guns. There's also a handicraft shop, specialising in Western Province products and stylish modern copperware.
#3- Solomon Peace Memorial Park
The road to Mt Austen begins in Kukum and climbs up to the historical sites where Japanese troops doggedly resisted the US advance. About 3.5km from the main coastal road, this large, white memorial was built by Japanese war veterans in 1981 to commemorate all who died in the WWII Guadalcanal campaign.
About 12km west from Honiara, Bonegi is music to the ears of divers, snorkellers and sunbathers. Two large Japanese freighters sank just offshore on the night of 13 November 1942, and make for a magnificent playground for scuba divers, who call them Bonegi I and Bonegi II. As the upper works of Bonegi II break the surface, it can also be snorkelled. There’s also a black-sand beach that is suitable for a picnic.
#5- Vilu War Museum
About 25km from Honiara, a turn to the south from the coastal road brings you to this great open-air museum. Here there are US, Japanese, Australian, Fijian and New Zealand memorials, four large Japanese field guns and the remains of several US and Japanese aircraft, including a Betty bomber, a Lightning fighter and a Wildcat fighter whose wings can still be folded as they were for naval carrier-borne operations.
#6- Skull Island
A 30-minute boat ride from Munda, this tiny islet on Vonavona Lagoon is the final resting place for the skulls of countless vanquished warriors, as well as a shrine for the skulls of Rendovan chiefs. They date from the 1920s. The skull house is a small, triangular-shaped casket which also contains the chiefs' clamshell-ring valuables.
#7- US War Memorial
This superb memorial is a five-minute taxi ride from the centre. The well-maintained compound has marble slabs bearing detailed descriptions of battles fought during the Guadalcanal campaign. It was unveiled on 7 August 1992, the 50th anniversary of the US beach landings. There are also great views of the northern coast.
#8- Mataniko Falls
One of the star attractions in Honiara’s hinterlands is Mataniko Falls, which feature a spectacular thundering of water down a cliff straight into a canyon below. The hike to these waterfalls starts in Lelei village with a steep ascent to a ridge, followed by an easier stretch amid mildly undulating hills. Then you’ll tackle a gruelling descent on a muddy path to reach the floor of the little canyon where the Mataniko flows. It's roughly two hours return.
A perfect cone-shaped volcano that rises to 1770m, Kolombangara looms majestically on the horizon, due east of Ghizo island. It's a two-day hike to the top and back. It rises from a 1km-wide coastal plain through flat-topped ridges and increasingly steep escarpments to the rugged crater rim of Mt Veve. Logging has been a major activity, with Ringgi being the main settlement, on the south coast.
With its traditional-style houses raised on stilts over the shore, the friendly fishing village of Lilisiana, about 1.5km from Auki, is photogenic to boot. Lilisiana’s peaceful beach is a narrow, long, golden sand spit beside coral shallows.
#11- Bloody Ridge
From Henderson airport, a track leads south to this area that's also called Edson's Ridge, after Edson's Raiders. Commanded by Colonel Merritt Edson, they defended the ridge against the Japanese in 1942 in their determined but unsuccessful attempts to seize the airfield. There’s a humble pyramid-shaped US war memorial on the ridge. About 1km beyond Bloody Ridge, you’ll come across a Japanese war memorial that honours the 2000 or more Japanese killed during these actions.
#12- Tenaru Waterfalls
At 63m, these waterfalls are spectacular. They are a fairly easy four-hour walk (return) from a tiny settlement about 2km south of Tenaru Village. It's flat and shady all the way. The path follows the floor of the river valley and cuts across the river’s many bends, crossing and recrossing a dozen times before reaching the falls.
#13- Baeroko Bay
The Japanese garrison stationed in Baeroko Bay held the besieging US forces off for five weeks before finally being overwhelmed in August 1943. A silent reminder of this period is the Casi Maru, a sunken Japanese freighter near the shore. Its rusty masts protrude from the water. Enoghae, at the jutting northern lip of the bay, has several large Japanese WWII anti-aircraft guns still hidden in the scrub.
#14- Kwaibala Waterfall
If you need to refresh yourself, make a beeline for Kwaibala Waterfall, about 3km from Auki. This little waterfall drops into a few pools that beg swimming. It's a 30-minute walk from town, or you can take a taxi (S$20) then walk the final stretch (about 20 minutes) along the Kwaibala River to the waterfall.
The 'north road' leaves Auki and follows the coast from Sisifiu to Sisolo, providing lovely sea views. Long stretches of white-sand beach line the shore. The welcoming subprovincial headquarters of Malu'u is an obvious stop between Auki (four hours over 82km of passable road) and Lau Lagoon at the 'head road' two hours away.
#16- Riba Cave
East of Auki is this haunting cave, with stalagmites, several large subterranean chambers and an underground river. Caveat: it's very slippery – wear sturdy walking shoes. From Auki, you can take a taxi then walk the final stretch (about five minutes) down to the entrance. It's best to go with a guide.
#17- Central Market
While Honiara won't be mistaken for Lagos, the country’s bubbling principal food market covers a whole block between Mendana Ave and the seafront. It has a huge selection of fresh produce, especially fruits and vegetables, that come from outlying villages along the northern coast and from Savo Island. Also on sale are traditional crafts. The fish market is at the back. There's no hassling to buy anything, but beware of pickpockets.
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