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Dive Review of BILIKIKI in
Solomon Islands

July, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by DEE FOSTER, CA, USA
Report Number 2843
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
80   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
30   to 60    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
No real restrictions, no one checked your profile at all. They just
reminded you that the nearest chamber was very, very far away (Australia)
and not to do anything stupid. They did ask for a max of 60 min. but that
was universally ignored by all the serious photographers.   
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Absolutely the best boat we've been on for Photographers. We were on a Stan
Waterman trip, so all 14 divers were loaded down with more equip. than I've
ever seen on a dive boat. Huge rigs with housings and lights all fit
comfortably on dedicated indoor and outdoor photo tables.  Two photo rinse
tanks were filled with clean water daily, even though the desalinators were
not running, and the boat was purchasing fresh water from local villages. 
I even saw the crew scrub out the photo tanks with brushes and soap
mid-trip.  Those puppies were CLEAN!
Also their charging room and workroom would make some dive boat operators
cry with envy.  Long clean benches with tons of charging stations, plenty
of room for everyone, lots of tools for fixing broken cameras and scuba
Absolute photo heaven for macro .  Really, you should think MICRO not
macro.  Michelle, the dive guide and boat manager(along with her husband
Manny) could find things that were no bigger than 1/16 to 1/8 inch
perfectly camouflaged on their host coral or anemone. Things like teeny
tiny shrimp, almost impossible to see with the naked eye-if you're over

Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars   
4 stars    
The good-  Super-macro photo ops.  Think multiple diopters, think tiny,
tiny, beyond tiny. If you're a little older, like us, and don't have state
of the art camera equip., like us, and your eyesight is less than
20/20,like us, you may just be pointing your camera in the general
direction of where you think the critter is, and hoping it shows up on the
print.  That's what we did, on several occasions, and actually got some
good shots.  Of course, we weren't the guys with the picture of a pygmy
seahorses' eye filling the entire frame, but we still have some bragging
rights with our local dive buddies. 
More good- the boat is a HEAVY old fishing boat,and handles the open water
crossings in a noticeably smooother fashion than most boats that were
purpose built as dive boats.  We didn't hit any truly bad seas, but the
crossings from one island group to the next (always done at night) were
pretty comfortable. 
More good-- food was plentiful and palatable, considering you're in a third
world country. Lots of fresh produce that they buy almost daily from the
local islanders, who paddle it out in their dug-out canoes.  Michelle did
most of the purchasing, and was very careful to buy a little of something
from everyone, rather than buying all of one persons crop.  This helps the
local economy, and of course, it encourages locals to keep growing things
for the Bilikiki to provision with.  It's a great win-win situation.
Lunches and dinners usually featured two kinds of protein- beef and
chicken, or fish and chicken.  Special diet requests were always
More good-- great coral, no bleaching, lots of tropicals. The diversity of
fish life is astonishing.  It's not that you see a herd of a 1000 moorish
idols, it's more like you get three kinds of fairy basslets, greenbird,
sunset, banana wrasses, parrot fish, some trevallies, an emperor angel, a
blue-faced angel, a bunch of different kinds of damsels, porcelain
crabs,and ten different nudibranchs, all on one dive. We hit much less than
the touted 100-150 vis, so if there was any big stuff out there, I couldn't
tell you.       
The bad-- breakfasts could use some variety.  It was a couple of cereals,
and scrambled eggs almost every day - even just some cheese on top of the
eggs would have been a welcome change. It's not a big beef, but with eleven
crew members, three of them full time cooks, it seems an easy thing to fix.
Also, they charge you for every soft drink...I feel this is nickel and
diming, as they are one of the most expensive dive boats out there. 
Cabins, though spacious, have no porthole, making them very dark.   
I kind of missed a window, but there's no easy fix for that. Also the boat
requires a good deal of agility to get around .  There's a non-standard
drop of about 10 inches coming out of the cabins into the main passageway
that caused more than one smashed toe- I could easily see a sprained ankle.
 Also, there are water-tight doors that require you to step over about a 16
inch high lip, and the stairs down to the cabins are very steep.  None of
this is a big deal to a person with normal agility, but if you had reduced
mobility for some reason(like bad arthritis) it could make this boat more
of a challenge than some others. That's all for the bad stuff-- really not
too much was less than great.  
The average dive day started at about 6;30 am with the aforementioned
breakfast.  First dive, like almost all dives, was from the heavy duty
inflateable dive tender. They're well designed, with sturdy holes for tanks
to sit in.  Nice big outboards that seemed quite new, never let us down.
Rarely more than a five minute ride, everyone got ready at once and
backrolled out on the count of three.  To get out, most  people handed up
all their gear to the boat driver and then climbed up the smallish ladder. 
A few gung-ho people climbed up fully geared, but I'm getting a little old
for that kind of bravado. On a few dive sites, we just jumped off the back
of the boat, coming and going as we pleased, but most dives were done off
the inflateables((there's two)at 7:30,10:30,2:30 and 5:00.  Lunch was
noon-ish, and dinner around 6:30.  Nite dives were offered nearly every
nite after dinner.  We did one, but didn't think it was that exciting, and
didn't do any more, opting instead to have wine with dinner. The general
concensus from the people who did do nite dives is that they were nice, but
not mind-bending.
The crew, 11 Solomon Islanders, were incredibly polite and hard working,
but mostly quite shy.  They are not the kava-drinking, guitar 
playing guys you find in Fiji. They kept to themselves usually.  The Ozzie
managers,Michelle and Monty, were great guys, always up for a joke, but
always aware of what was going on and keeping things running smoothly.  As
I mentioned earlier, their desalinators were both on the blink, forcing
them to buy fresh water from the local islands.  They got what they needed
without any impositions on us guests like limiting showers, which I could
have readily understood, given the situation.  They did ask us not to drink
from our taps, but there was always plenty of safe,cold water available for
drinking.  I did get a little bug, but it cleared up in a day as soon as I
started my travellers' diarrhea antibiotics.
Absolutely plan on bringing home carvings! I thought we were overdoing it,
and now I'm sorry we didn't get more,although packing it to go home was
rough. The Solomon Islnders are incredible carvers!
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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