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Dive Review of Bilikiki Cruises in
Solomon Islands

Bilikiki Cruises, Apr, 2011,

by Frank Goldsmith, CO, US ( 2 reports). Report 6071.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Galapagos, Raja Ampat, Maldives, PNG, various Caribbean
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm
Water Temp 86 to 86 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50 to 125 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions We dove our own profile and managed our own computers and limits.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments There were two camera specific rinse tanks and a 2 tiered camera table on the dive deck which was plenty for our 11 folks, only some of which were photographers. Some had point and shoots and some had SLRs. In the lounge is another table used for camera work/setup and each of us had a basket that sat on or under the table for keeping our camera stuff together. We even used it to hold glasses, ebook reader, shirts, etc. so the boat stayed neat looking since everyone's stuff wasn't spread around. A battery charging room is on the upper deck and plenty of plugs were available for both USA style plugs and Solomons/Australia plugs.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Bilikiki had 11 guests this trip (late April) and 4 were Americans. The rest were Australians and New Zealanders, and 4 of those were expats who live in Honiara. Sam and Kellie were excellent hosts and the boat was very well run. One other important point to mention is that the boat's owners have a very respectable policy to not cancel a trip once even one guest books the boat. This policy is not only good business, but it was one of the reasons I chose to come back to Bilikiki. Two of the crew (John and Alan) even remembered me from my trip 8 years earlier.
The diving was excellent. I'd guess that 30% of the dives had significant currents, 30% had no current, and 40% has gentle/slight currents. The visibility was very good. I'd guess it was 50-125 ft with 75 being average, although I remember it being a bit better overall when I was there 8 years ago in July. Water temps were consistently 86 degrees and several folks dove in only a skin for the entire trip. We had some great manta dives where they came in close and stayed around. I did most night dives and they were all very good with unusual critters. The reef health and variety of coral are top notch and rivals my trip to Raja Ampat. The fish schools (jacks, barra, among others) seemed smaller than my prior trip but were still large and fun to watch, particularly at Mary Island. The variety here was excellent, from tiny critters to big napoleon wrasse and bumphead parrotfish. I'm not great at naming everything, but I saw amazing new stuff on every dive.
The dive operation is well run. We each had a "station" on the dive deck with a basket for our smaller gear under the seat. Most of us dove nitrox and bottom time was most often limited by air supply rather than no deco time. The boat has two large tinnies and most diving was done from them via backroll. We carried our mask, fins, and computers onto the tinnies and the crew handled everything else including cameras. The tinnies were close by when we surfaced and the crew did a nice job of predicting where we'd be. I never had to use my safety sausage even when we were moved significant distances via strong currents. The crew lifted our tanks/BCs into the tinnies and we climbed a solid ladder. The air fills were usually a bit short at 2700-2800psi and would occasionally be 3000 psi. The nitrox was consistently 31-32%. On the dive deck are two hot showers and plenty of space and hangers for hanging wetsuits. The dives were at 8a, 11a, 2p, 5p, and 8p (after dinner). At the end of the trip, the crew washed and rinsed every piece of dive gear and hung it out to dry...very nice.
The air conditioning in the cabins was comfortable, although not individually adjustable. There were reading lights over the beds and the storage space was reasonable. The showers were hot and the water pressure was excellent. We asked for an extra mattress and pillows up as we found the regular mattress too hard. Since there were some empty cabins, they were glad to oblige.
We visited several villages during the trip. The village visits were mostly about buying carvings or other items such as woven purses. The quality of the carvings varies widely and the cost is reasonable, but bargaining is expected. The boat hosts would exchange money for us but not at a great rate. You can also exchange at a bank in town before you get on the boat.
Overall, I felt that the diving was world class, the hosts and crew were top notch, the food was very good, the diving operation was very smooth and diver friendly. I'd strongly recommend Bilikiki or Spirit of the Solomons (whichever boat(s) are operating in a given year).
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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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