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Dive Review of BILIKIKI in
Solomon Islands

BILIKIKI, Jul, 2006,

by DEE FOSTER, CA, USA . Report 2843.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving PALAU, RANGIROA, TAHITI, CORAL SEA, SEYCHELLES, FIJI, CAYMANS, ROATAN, BELIZE, LEMBEH STRAITS
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather cloudy Seas currents
Water Temp 80 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 30 to 60 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
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.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments 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 rigs.
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 40!

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 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 accomodated.
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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