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May 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 33, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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MV Taka, Solomon Islands

and a word about the Bilikiki

from the May, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver,

MV Taka with diving RIBsHaving dived the Solomon Islands twice on the Bilikiki, I returned in February, this time to join the MV Taka, a newer boat with a different itinerary. The Taka (otherwise known as the PNG/Solomon Master), is owned by an Australian, operated by the Solomon Islands Dive Expeditions (that is, a Canadian, Shannon "Shaz" Kozak), and marketed by the Master Liveaboard Group. If this sounds confusing, it is, and so was booking the trip.

Booking a month before departure, I contacted both SIDE and the Master group, and Shaz got right back and told me to book with her. I did, but I waited and waited for confirmation and payment instructions, and without my perseverance, I am unsure I would have completed the booking. As it turned out, Shaz was on the Taka and couldn't respond until she had a satellite connection (the boat has no internet or satellite link and spotty local cell service) and the office, too, had fallen short.

After I retrieved my bags in the Solomons' airport, a Taka representative crammed all the other divers who were on my flight into his ratty old van and headed to town through dust clouds and traffic. Though Honiara is the gateway to Guadalcanal, it has, at best, a limited tourist infrastructure. We were dropped at an air-conditioned sushi café, where I longingly looked out the window at the Taka as the crew readied the boat for our journey. It would be six hours before we were permitted to board.

My first impression of the boat was "this is not too bad." The dive deck was spacious, the main salon looked cozy, and my buddy and I had been upgraded to the master cabin. Before we could settle in, we were summoned by the cruise directors (Adam, an aspiring English photographer who plugged his work throughout the cruise, and Carmen, an excitable young Romanian environmentalist), for a muster station drill wearing our life jackets. Afterward, we were briefed in the lounge, sat down to dinner, then showed c-cards, signed waivers, and listened to an extended orientation, while the boat departed for its six-hour journey.

Solomon Islands Map

The next morning, I jumped off the stern at Coral Garden into calm water and spectacular visibility. Parrotfish displayed their full-color spectrum, and clownfish were common. Sea fans, as tall as I am, ran from the surface to as deep as one dared to dive, while thick swarms of fusiliers flitted about the reef tops, among layers and layers of hard coral. Though the soft coral population is much less than, say, Raja Ampat, could it be that reefs here were in better shape? The Solomons do not have the biodiversity of Indonesia, but there were no bombed-out reefs. ...

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