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Dive Review of Bilikiki Cruises in
Solomon Islands

Bilikiki Cruises, Apr, 2013,

by Angie Jameson, MD, US ( 1 report with 1 Helpful vote). Report 7192 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Getting there - is not easy from the states, and especially not from the east coast. We flew into Fiji (about 10 hrs from LAX), stayed a few days, then flew on to Solomons (abt 3-4 hrs), as we wanted to give ourselves a little cushion against delayed flights. Upon arrival in Honiara, we were met by the Bilikiki, and taken to a hotel lobby to wait while they finished turning the boat. We boarded about 4pm or so. We disembarked around 8 am on the return - again waiting at the hotel lobby. The airport is small - and you can't get to the gate area until just before your flight. I don't recommend planning to spend extra time there. The wait at the hotel was annoying, but given the unpredictability of flights, understandable.

Weather - it was warm, though we had a mix of sunny and cloudy days. It only rained on the last day of diving. The water was also warm - most of the day I dove in a rash guard and board shorts - though I sometimes put on my lava core shirt/shorts towards the end of the day. But that was more about repetitive diving than water temp. Water temp was coming up around 84 degrees on my computer. If you get cold easily you might want a 3mil, but I think most people would be fine with less.

Water/Current - the surface was almost always flat. Very little surge or chop - and not a lot of back and forth motion on the boat. Very pleasant conditions to be out on the water in. Some dive sites had current and some didn't - just depended on where you were diving at. The crew always went down first and gave good reports on the current strength and direction. We did a manta ray dive where there was very strong current - you basically anchored to the reef and watched them go by. . .I'd estimate about 20% dives with moderate to strong current. The rest were very gentle or no current.

Boat - the boat is not fancy but is clean and well maintained. Same goes for cabins. If you are looking for first class accommodation, this is not it. But it was clean, the crew was friendly, the food was good, and we enjoyed our time a lot and we were perfectly happy with the accommodations as we are more about having good diving than a luxury boat experience. There was a large charging station upstairs - we didn't need adaptors or anything - and I had no problem keeping my camera batteries and other electronics charged. There was basically no phone or internet coverage - some people got some spotty coverage here and there, but I would not rely on it. (My phone was turned off - hello vacation!) There was plenty of hot water in the cabins, and my favorite feature was the open showers on the dive deck - perfect for rinsing off and/or warming up after a dive. (Also a great way to rinse your wet suit or dive skin - a lot of us just peeled it off under the water as we rinsed.) Dress is very casual - shorts and t-shirts. They do ask for shorts to the knee and to cover your shoulders (t-shirt is fine) if you are going into the village.

Food - was tasty and with good variety. They barter with the locals at many sites, so the fresh fruit and veggies were fairly plentiful. They serve breakfast before the first dive, a snack mid morning, lunch, snack in the afternoon, nibbles and then dinner before the night dive. My dive buddy is vegan - and they totally accommodated her on that - though she was careful to discuss it with them in advance. But they always had vegan options at each meal - not just side dishes. They also stocked some vegan snacks and soy milk especially for her.

Dive operations - there were two people that traded off leading dives - both did a good job with briefings and leading dives, tho my buddy and I often didn't follow them. They will definitely let you dive your profile - and plan your own dive - and the briefing is very detailed and helpful in doing that. They often highlighted particular fish or critters to watch out for on specific dives. You set up your gear on-board (analyze tanks, hook up your reg, set whatever you want set) then the crew puts your gear on the tinny (small metal motor boat) and you get on with your fins, mask and camera. You gear up on the tinny - crew helps you out if you need it, then when at the reef, you do a back roll into the water. When you are done with your dive, you surface, and the tinny comes and picks you up and runs you back to the boat, where the crew unloads your equipment and fills the tanks. They are very quick to come get you in the tinnies after the dive - there was almost always a tinny there right away when we surfaced, or if there wasn't it was a very short wait for one (less than 5 min). There was short ladder on the tinny, so you hand up fins and cameras, go up the ladder, drop your tank into the seat slot and then take your gear off, which is so much nicer than having to take gear off in the water and roll/wiggle back onto the boat. They helped out with broken or malfunctioning gear (my fancy fin strap came undone and I was having trouble popping it back in the socket)and were generally just as friendly and helpful as you could want.

Diving - They offer up to 5 dives a day. Most days I did 4 dives - sometimes skipping the night dive though I started doing them at the end of the trip and wished I had pushed myself a little harder to do those early night dives. In hindsight, I would have skipped some of the wreck sites, instead of the night dives. These were some of the most interesting night dives I have ever done - so many different crabs and shrimp, lots of nudibranchs/slugs, this crazy thing called a pleurobranch - just some really amazing night dives.

There were a lot of wreck dives on this itinerary - I would have liked to know that ahead of time, as wrecks are not really my thing. Most of the wreck dive sites did involve at least some sort of wall, or reef area close by that you could explore if you were bored with the wrecks. I'd say about 1/3 of the dives were wrecks. Some were more interesting than others - the ones I would repeat are the Upright Tuna boat (and the wall next to it), the Sege planes (night dive especially) the Hirokawa Maru and White Beach - all of these had lots of coral and fish on or nearby them and were spread out enough that we weren't on top of the other divers. I would dive at White Beach all day - it was a really excellent site and this was probably one of my favorite dives on the trip. Other than the ones I named, I thought they were kind of blah for me - but if you like WWII history and bomber planes etc - lots to keep you excited here. I would still recommend this trip even for non wreck enthusiasts - I would have just planned which dives to skip a little more carefully I think. Also I think if we'd asked, the crew might have dropped us off in a different nearby location a couple of times - not all sites would have had that option, I just wish we had asked about it. I don't know, maybe they would not have done so. I guess my POV is that wrecks are fine when there isn't anything else, but why do them if there is awesome reef nearby?

We did some dives where there were tunnels, or crevasses along the shore line - there was a lot of interesting topography on these dives, and I really enjoyed them. One we swam through a large crevasse up into a little cave where you surfaced and there were bats on the ceiling, another was a series of cuts into the shoreline you could explore. Leru cut, Bat Cave and Mbulo Caves - all very interesting dives - would absolutely dive them again. At Karomulan Pt, you could hear an underwater volcano (about 20 miles away) erupting - it was kind of a sonic boom/vibration - it was a pretty cool experience too.

I would dive any of the reef dives again (and again). There were just always interesting things to see on the reefs. My favorites were Lologhan, Mary Island, and Tulagi - but I would do any of the reef dives again, there wasn't a bad dive in the lot. There were so many varieties of anemone fish, butterflyfish, wrasse, damsels and anthias. Some highlights for me. . . flame angelfish, large swirling schools of jacks, anemone fish (I can't get enough of them) pyjama fish, disco clams, moorish idols, pygmy seahorse and mandarin fish -tho I didn't get a good picture of the last two. Lots of beautiful soft and hard coral. Lots of different nudibranchs.

While the coral, tropical fish and small critters are plentiful, there is not a lot of big pelagic activity. Devil's Highway was a manta dive and the Mantas were awesome - a couple different varieties, and large numbers of them but we only saw them on that one dive. Turtles are pretty scarce - I guess they are considered a delicacy with the locals. We saw sharks on several different dives - mostly blacktip reef sharks or grey sharks though not in large numbers - but we did see some. There is a specific dive just for finding mandarin fish - they were really bashful for us, and it wasn't one of my favorite dives, but I was excited to at least get to see one.

I recommend bringing a safety sausage - not that I used mine, but if the water hadn't been so flat (making it easy for the tinnies to spot us), I might have needed it on a couple of dives where we didn't follow the group. I wish I had taken a reef hook and gloves for the manta dive, and one of the reef dives where we were looking for sharks in heavy current. You will want full skin coverage on few of the current dives - either a dive skin or wetsuit - just to prevent scrapes if you get banged around by the current a little. Most of the time, I dove in board shorts and a rash guard though and was perfectly fine. Other than that, I would say just your normal gear and good set of flashlights if you want to night dive.

They also do some short trips into the villages - I recommend them, they were really interesting, and they schedule them between the dives, so you aren't missing out on anything. They have nice presentation on how to respectfully barter with the locals for craft items,and I definitely brought home a few beautiful things. Some people did bring items to gift to the local village - the crew took charge of them and presented them to the chief for distribution - they advise against giving out things yourself, unless using them to barter for something. Their website has suggestions for that - school supplies, clothes, things like that.

This was a two and half week vacation for us, with the flight, four days spent in Fiji, and the Bilikiki cruise combined. The costs added up with all those pieces, but it really was a fabulous trip, and worth every penny and every minute of travel time to do it. I would absolutely go back and do the Biliki again.
Websites Bilikiki Cruises   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Red Sea, North Carolina, Bonaire, Little Cayman, Grand Cayman
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather cloudy, dry Seas calm
Water Temp 82-84°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 0
Water Visibility - Ft/ - M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions There was a DM on each trip to follow, but they let us do our own thing - we often went separate or trailed way back. It was dive your profile. There were a few dives where they asked to keep it 60 min due to boat logistics, but usually you could stay down as long as you want-within reason
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments I don't dive with a large camera rig - just a small point and shoot, but I got some amazing photos - there was some interesting topography, beautiful reef, tropical fish and critters to capture. There was separate rinse tank for cameras and and area in the main cabin to keep your stuff when it was dry. They were very accommodating about handing your gear down once you were in the water, and I didn't hear any complaints from the folks with the big camera rigs. There were lots (pretty much one per dive pair) of photographers - About half had SLR camera set ups.
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