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Dive Review of Bilikiki Cruises in
Solomon Islands

Bilikiki Cruises: "Bilikiki Lived up to the Hype!", Jun, 2015,

by Eric Eckes, CA, US (Contributor Contributor 18 reports with 11 Helpful votes). Report 8719 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I've been fortunate to dive locations throughout the world with a large number of dive operators. Over the years I have heard amazing things about the Bilikiki and the one thing that surprised were the consistently positive reviews. The Bilikiki's reputation seemed larger than life and now it was my turn to find out if all the positive reviews were justified.

My wife and I joined a group photography trip to the Solomons run by Andy and Allison Sallmon. We flew from Los Angeles to Brisbane on Qantas where we transferred to Solomon Airlines for the trip to Guadalcanal, home of the Bilikiki.

The Bilikiki is owned by Aussies Kellie Oldfield and Sam Leeson and we were fortunate to have Kellie onboard our eleven night trip. Daniela Tomblon was in charge of daily operations and along with husband Csaba Erdos served as divemasters.

Dive briefings were held on the dive deck and there was a large blackboard where each upcoming dive was drawn in great detail. The dive deck offered plenty of room for our group to spread out. Nitrox was available via a membrane system that delivered a consistent 30% O2 content. Divers set up their gear and the crew took great care in moving our gear back and forth amongst the tinnies (that's Aussie talk for dinghies!) We were allowed up to five dives per day and we always had a dive guide in the water available to us.

We had heard great things about the diving and were anxious to get in the water. As this was a photography trip a lot of focus was on light whether it be catching natural light shining through Leru Cut and Mirror Pond or better use of our strobes. These dives were met with mixed success as mother nature played a critical role by sometimes denying the right lighting conditions due to heavy cloud cover or rain. When these challenges arose Dainela and her crew worked hard to find us the best locations for given conditions.

If large schools of barracuda or jacks are of interest to you then you won't want to miss Barracuda Point. The current was ripping here (can you say "reef hook?") as compared with other sites where we found calm waters. We did seven dives here and each dive presented plenty of schooling fish. Andy and Allison worked with us to ensure we didn't blow out the highlights of these silvery fish. Guadalcanal is known for fierce WWII fighting in the Pacific and we were treated to several history lessons as we dived various wrecks including the legendary Mavis Seaplane. The seaplane sits at a depth of approximately 95 feet in a muddy lagoon so buoyancy is key if you aren't to upset your fellow underwater photographers! Another interesting dive was the Upright Tuna Boat in Marovo Lagoon. Rumor has it that this boat was on its maiden voyage when it ran aground on a reef at night. Attempts to rescue it from the reef were futile and the boat ended up falling down a chasm with the bow pointing towards the sky. While we didn't have the best weather I must say there was a significant variety of diving experiences for divers of all skill levels and interests.

When we weren't underwater we were spoiled topside. Meals were plentiful and deliciously prepared by three cooks. Breakfast was served prior to the first dive. Between dives 1 and 2 we were treated to popcorn and warm cookies. The cookies were simply amazing! After dive 2 we were treated to delicious lunches. After dive 3 it was more popcorn. In the early evening after dive 4 we would all gather on the upper deck for cocktails (those who weren't night diving) and more snacks consisting of meats, cheeses and nuts. Dinner followed and those wanting a night dive were able to get in a 5th dive of the day. On our last night we were treated to a lobster dinner. It doesn't get any better than that!

The cabins were located downstairs and each room had a double bed with a twin bed above it. Each room had a dedicated bathroom with ensuite shower.

Finally, it was time to head back to Honiara, capital of Guadalcanal. As we headed back we passed through a narrow channel that has become known as Popcorn Pass. As we entered the pass we were greeted by dozens of villagers in dugout canoes. Each trip the Bilikiki cooks up dozens of bags of popcorn wrapped in environmentally sensitive bags. These bags are given to the guests who throw the bags over the sides to the villagers. Young and old members of the villages paddled their canoes furiously alongside the Bilikiki in an effort to get a bag of popcorn. Their smiles were infectious!

We spent one last night on the Bilikiki before we headed back to Brisbane. Was the Bilikiki worth the hype? Absolutely and more! Kellie and Sam run as good an operation as you will find. Daniele and Csaba were amazing hosts and every crew member was outgoing ensuring we had a great time.

Websites Bilikiki Cruises   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Truk Lagoon, Palau, Yap, Red Sea, Galapagos, Fiji, Mexico, Hawaii, Florida Keys, So Cal Local
Closest Airport Honiara, Guadalcanal Getting There Los Angeles to Brisbane to Guadalcanal

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy Seas calm, choppy, currents
Water Temp 80-82°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility - Ft/ - M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Divers had the option of diving their own profile or diving with a guide. Depth limits and times were commensurate with each diver's ability (we had one technical dive who was able to do deco dives as an example).
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Our trip onboard the Bilikiki catered to photographers so there were numerous SLR rigs along with a handful of point and shoot cameras. There was a large, two-level, table at the stern of the dive deck for photographers to store their cameras between dives. Inside the salon were plenty of baskets ranging from small baskets to hold camera accessories to larger baskets to hold cameras when the Bilikiki moved over long distances. There were two large dedicated rinse tanks that held several cameras and the Bilikiki provided separate camera-sized towels to dry our gear. Upstairs the Bilikiki had a dedicated camera room to charge batteries. The crew would load and unload our cameras into the tinnies with the utmost care.
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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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