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Dive Review of Solomon Islands Dive Expeditions (SIDE)/Taka in
Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands Dive Expeditions (SIDE)/Taka: "Solomon Islands: Spectacular Coral and Marine Life - Good Boat", Apr, 2016,

by Gregg Backemeyer, FL, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports with 7 Helpful votes). Report 8904.

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 5 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Headline: Good boat (the Taka), good crew, good food, spectacular coral and marine life, safe and competent operation. 3.5 out of 5 stars..

This was my first trip through DUI Dive Trips, who I was unaware did trips/expeditions (yes, they are the dry suit manufacturer), and I used them for two reasons . First, I met the scheduled trip leader (Paul Holbrook) on an expedition to Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia in Q1 2015 who was very likable and, secondly, he promised a small group and a more intimate experience than usual (he was a paying customer and not the trip leader on the Nuku Hiva expedition). They delivered as promised with a group of only 9 divers, including the trip leader (not Paul as it turned out), which allowed for everyone to have their own cabin. We had a LOT of space as such. I'll mention here that the trip leader brought a drone which provided some amazing video/stills. He provided a "photo essay" at the end of the trip which had drone footage and also his own excellent photography. The production was top shelf. Thanks Andy!

My comments regarding the boat Taka should be tempered with the fact that the vessel was recently acquired by Solomon Islands Dive Expeditions (SIDE) and they are continuing to assess/improve/add to the boat. Nevertheless I provide candid feedback in this report. Be sure to read the UWP accommodations section of this trip report. We were blessed with mostly sunny skies and mild currents despite it being the rainy season. My computer consistently pegged the water temp at 82 Fahrenheit but others said it was even warmer. My 3mm suit was perfect. I took my LavaCore in case I needed less but it never left the cabin. Bring your gloves. They discouraged their use but oh well...

DIVE OPERATIONS are conducted from an expansive dive deck at the back of the boat. Excellent individual station accommodations. They had one minor compressor issue during the trip which delayed diving once. There are several large full facility private bathroom stalls each with a hot shower on the dive deck. These also serve as the facilities for those in cabins below and for the crew. Only the upper cabins have ensuite baths. Diving was from the boat's large steel platform at the back of the boat or tenders/skiffs depending on the site. One of their tenders was in sad shape and needed air constantly in one of the tubes. I was told a new tube awaited them upon our return to Honiara.

We were fortunate to have one of the owners on board for the entire trip as she was training the new dive masters/boat manager pair. And I think still doing a shakedown of the boat. Her knowledge of the sites and marine life was impressive. Thanks Shaz! I got the impression the captain had been with SIDE for a while starting with their previous vessel. The captain and his other crew driver(s) seemed very competent and did a good job. I always felt safe while steaming or diving. Their safety procedures are very good and include logging and monitoring statistics for each dive for everybody. As such they were watching everyone's profile throughout the trip. Perhaps a bit anal for some experienced divers but I respected and complied. They had a large selection of equipment to rent if needed and a good supply of tools available for repairs. The crew (Islanders from various areas of the South Pacific) were awesome...very friendly and helpful. I kind of had "my guy" who watched over me from the time I hit the dive deck and started suiting up until I was back aboard and showering. There were 2 chefs and the food was very good and abundant. Cabin service/cleaning was very good. The main salon is large and quite comfortable but could use an ice making machine. The upper sun deck is huge, home also to the 2 tenders, and would be enhanced with some loungers. Perhaps also some feet friendly flooring material in one area. It had some plastic chairs and they strung some hammocks which was nice. They had just bought a new propane grill which was on board but the propane canister did not make it in time for our trip. No big...

THE DIVING was excellent and the coral and marine life is spectacular. It's hard to describe but is pristine and unlike any I have experienced in recent years. For example, in the channels and other narrow down slope areas of the valleys, the amount of naturally occurring dead coral is THICK. Numerous types of coral and colors so abundant you can seldom see the sea bottom. This then provides a habitat for marine life that is very productive. I think the reefs, coral and marine life in the Solomon Islands are what we use to see decades ago in many parts of the world until degraded by human activity. A lot of swim throughs and caves. One opened up into the jungle which was cool. I will make mention of the many sea anemone here. And bring your macro setup. We did a few wrecks which were good. I especially enjoyed the Japanese seaplane. Visibility at most of the wreck sites was poor. My days of enjoying wreck diving are pretty much over so I was pleased that this part of the dive itinerary was minimal. That said, they were consultative with the group on where and what types of diving we would do on any given day.

One of the highlights of the trip for me were the 2 village visits. This I did not anticipate and recommend not missing. Understand that many of the islands you encounter, large and small, are inhabited. Often you see the Melanesian Solomon Islanders about in their dugout canoes. Some have motorized small craft. Many of the villages are still quite primitive. One of the villages we visited specialized in carvings and weavings. The artwork was awesome and affordable. Make sure you have some Solomon Dollars and the boat will buy back any excess. They take the education of the children seriously and both villages we visited had school facilities and at least one educator. But it's really about the KIDS! If you can bring a soccer ball and/or some school supples. OMG they are special. An interesting note is that a percentage of the population is blonde. This came from a naturally occurring mutant gene, now recessive, unique to the Solomon Islanders. These people are friendly and intelligent. To observe how well behaved the kids are and how they play and interact among themselves and with their elders is, hmmm, how kids should act everywhere?

One of the really cool things about this trip in one area is the underwater volcano. While we were on one dive it started to make noise. I mean NOISE. Pounding. Some of our group became frightened not understanding what was going and having forgotten the briefing. I have never encountered this and it was pretty cool. One of the crew was diving with us and I saw a couple of our group inquire while underwater. He made a hand motion which illustrated spewing from below and then swam in that direction. I thought those two were going to poop in their suits, haha.

They made available a reasonably priced 3+ hour tour of Guadalcanal and Honiara the morning of the day before we boarded the Taka in the evening. I did it and am glad I did. There is a lot of WWII history and the lasting impact on the Solomon Islands from the Japanese and then American occupations is significant. If you want to dive Ironbottom Sound/Bay (all the stuff sunk during WWII warfare and also the stuff pushed into the water after) come early or stay after and arrange on your own prior. I understand most of it is shore based. Many of the wrecks are too deep for recreational diving. They arranged the King Solomon Hotel accommodations in Honiara and it's an interesting place. The WiFi there did not work for me. The best WiFi in town is at the Lime Cafe which you can walk to and it has good food.

It's significant travel time and expense but I'm glad I went and scratched it off the list...you won't be disappointed in this diver/travelers opinion...
Websites Solomon Islands Dive Expeditions (SIDE)   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving French Polynesia, Mexico, Caribbean, Guadalupe Island, Socorro Island, Windward/Leeward Islands, South Florida, ABC Islands, Honduras, Hawaii, Panama, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas (Tiger Beach, Bimini, et al), Saba, BVIs, AVIs, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Solomon Islands and more..
Closest Airport Honiara, Guadalcanal Getting There Usually through Fiji or Australia

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 79-83°F / 26-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40-150 Ft/ 12-46 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No deco unless expressly discussed and allowed; max depth based upon your own algorithm and Nitrox fill; strongly suggested ending air pressure.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments This boat was recently acquired by SIDE and I was told enhancements are to be made. That said, the UWP accommodations were below average. No tables on the dive deck itself, only rinse tub(s). The tables were up one flight of stairs from the dive deck. Only one small table had a mat the others being bare metal. And they were small. If the boat was full there would not be near enough table space. NO charging capability at the tables.
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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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