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Dive Review of MV Bilikiki in
Solomon Islands

MV Bilikiki, Jul, 2005,

by Sylvia Seaberg, CA, USA . Report 2084.

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 N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments We were a group that chartered the entire boat. Experience levels ranged from newly-certified (30 dives) to very experienced (well over 1000 dives). The boat did an amazing job of selecting dive sites that satisfied all skill levels. From surfacing after the first dive up to our last dive of the trip (10 days) our collective mood could be described as ecstatic. Divers manage their own dive profiles and Nitrox is plentiful. Most diving is done from tinnies that depart the mother ship, drop divers and then follow the bubbles until divers surface, a no-brainer. Diving is monitored from the deck (in-and-out to ensure all on board) and safe but not micromanaged. The walls and bommies are in pristine condition and boast a veritable cornucopia of hard and soft corals, ascidians, sea fans, crinoids and other reef life. We saw endless varieties of small critters, a huge diversity of reef fish, nudibranchs, shrimps, and many others just too numerous to name. Check out the Bilikiki website. Macro opportunities are ubiquitous and include such oddities as pygmy seahorses, mantis shrimps and Caledonian stingers among others. Wide angle afficionados will be equally pleased with endless opportunities including wrecks, colorful terrain, schooling barracuda and jack, etc. Boat Mgrs. Monte and Michelle are well-acquainted with critter types and hangouts and are happy to share their vast knowledge with those who care to join them. They did everything in their power to ensure our satisfaction; when one of our group developed ear problems and had to limit his SCUBA Monte took him out on a tinnie to snorkel and film a gray whale. Night dives are usually done while the ship is at anchor; these were quite easy but packed with plenty to see and typically lasted around 75 minutes. Photographers will be in Nirvana. We photo wanna-be's were thrilled with our shots roll after roll...when Monte gives advice, take it. Digital cameras (video and still) also hit the mother lode. Large pelagics were not viewed except the occasional reef shark, some whales, eagle rays and a manta. The water was very warm, most of us wore skins instead of wetsuits, the remainder wore mostly 3-5 mm. Currents were moderate at most, typically they were slight or non-existant, except on wrecks where they kicked up mightily (but we were warned). Weather was a pleasant combination of sun and slight cloudiness, mostly dry with an occasional tropical shower and some breeze. The boat, although old, was stable, comfortable and dry. Cabins were roomy enough for two plus a hefty assortment of large souvenirs. Each cabin had AC and private head/shower. AC not adjustable in-cabin so we had to jury-rig a cardboard diffuser. Cabins/heads cleaned daily. Fabulous dining area is on foreward deck, open air but protected, with incredible views from both sides. Salon contains good assortment of critter ID books, local history, photo manuals, novels, etc. The crew was outstanding! One of the best crews our group has ever had the pleasure of knowing. Managers Monte and Michelle were kind, friendly, funny, knowledgeable and have a unique relationship with the crew and islanders. They have been with the boat approximately 6 years. During that time Michelle has provided fruit and vegie seeds to the islands visited by the boat. As a result islanders are able to grow a variety of produce that the boat purchases at every stop. Michelle's foresight has resulted in economic opportunity for the locals as well as daily fresh produce for the boat and its customers...brilliant! Their hands-on style is perpetuated by the rest of the crew; they are sweet, endlessly accommodating, and always available to assist in any manner possible. Food was outstanding, hard to believe that such food was produced on a daily basis at the ends of the earth. Without going into too much detail, all meals included a variety of usual items accented with daily specials. All meals included hot dishes, freshly baked bread, lunches and dinners included fresh fish and a variety of salads. Special diets were happily and imaginatively accommodated; our vegetarians, fish-hater and food allergists were pleased at every meal, inform the boat in advance. Evening hors d'oeuvres were sublime and included fresh sashimi whenever possible. While not necessarily "gourmet", the meals and snacks were delicious, varied and plentiful. Evening desserts, however, rivaled the best restaurants. The bar stocks plenty of booze, but the wine left a bit to be desired. Although stored correctly on the boat, many bottles of both red and white had gone bad due to heat and/or sunlight exposure and it usually took more than one try to get a decent bottle. Booze and drinks other than water and limeade (delicious and mixes well with rum) cost extra. The boat motors at night to maximize dive times and except for one particularly bumpy ride motoring was not unpleasant. Forward cabins will hear the anchor lift and drop so bring ear plugs. Our trip included several island visits where we had the opportunity to barter for/purchase exquisitely carved bowls, figures, tables and other items. I was on the Biliki 14 yrs. ago and did not purchase anything to my lasting regret. This time I was prepared with cash, D-cell batteries and t-shirts (and bartered my fanny pack too). Michelle will give a tutorial on quality of craftsmanship and bartering/negotiating techniques. Airfare and boat costs are not cheap, however all agreed that our trip aboard the Bilikiki was one of the best, if not THE best, dive trips we have ever experienced. You must be self-sufficient so bring your own pharmaceuticals including antibiotics (and leave them with Michelle on your way out).

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving PNG, Fiji, Palau/Truk/Yap, Vanuatu, Belize, Red Sea, Australia, Bali, Hawaii, Saba, Bahamas, Grenadines, Virgin Islands, Mexico, California North/South
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy, dry Seas calm, noCurrents
Water Temp 83-86°F / 28-30°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40-100 Ft/ 12-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Depth restrictions self-enforced by Nitrox usage.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales >2
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 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 Boat was very photo-friendly. Good camera table and other photo accoutrements. E-6 film developed quickly. Dive briefings included lens and photo recommendations and dive master Monte was available to lend individual advice.
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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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