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Dive Review of Spirit of Solomons/Bilikiki in
Solomon Islands/Florida, Russel, Morovo

Spirit of Solomons/Bilikiki, Jul, 2006,

by Michael Emerson, MN, US (Contributor Contributor 13 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 2603.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Fiji, Burma, Palau, GAlapagos, Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Rica, Austrailia
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 83 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50 to 150 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dive the computer
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments As good as any place I have been.

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Logistgics--Getting to the Solomons is half the fun. Pat at Reef & Rainforest was a real asset in putting this altogether. We were booked to go through Fiji and arrive into Honiara on Thursday morning and then we were notified that the flight from Fiji to Honiara was no longer available. Pat was able to get Air Pacific to refund our non-refundable flight (even though the cancellation was not their own doing) and rebook us through Brisbane.

The Boat--The Song of Solomon was one of the more functional liveaboards that I have been on. The boat only had four passengers for the 12 days that we on board so it is a little hard to imagine what it would be like with a full load. All of us had our own room and the accommodations were roomy and comfortable. I had the largest bed that I have had on a liveaboard and it was well cooled (the rooms downstairs were definitely the coolest even though they didnt have an outside window). The boat had very minimal means of communicating with the outer world, so its a tough time for anyone that needs that occasional fix of family and civilization. An Iridium satellite phone was available but quite expensive.

Some of the crossings at night got a little rough although no one on the boat got seasick. The food was good though not spectacular. Definitely a step down from the Naia where I spent a week last year. Much of the food was purchased from a daily market that arrived at our boat on a daily basis. The last night we had a great lobster fest. Our hosts, Kellie and Sam, were pleasant and attentive and I think that everyone had a pleasant time on the boat while out of the water.

The Dive Operation -- Everything was well organized and all dives left right on time. Diving was done from tinnies which carried us on a 2 to 5 minute commute to the dive sites. We were left to dive according to our computer and we were left to manage bottom time with minimal supervision. One or two divers often stayed considerably longer and no pressure was made to keep them within the one hour time window. Pickup was great and most dives ended with a tinny waiting to pick us up within a few seconds after surfacing.

The setup for photography was very good. The dive staff took very good care of my camera, making sure that it was secured in the tinny before we left for the site. They always washed it in fresh water and dried it off for me so that I could download photos and see my photos right away. There was a great table for organizing the photography gear.

The Diving--For coral reef lovers, this is equal to any diving that I have been on in the world. Although it lacked some of the spectacular purple and red coral of Fiji, the hard coral was almost always very healthy and covered with tropical fish and critters. The 12 day itinerary covered four primary areas:
The Floridas--Twin Tunnels was very nice with an entrance around 45 feet and an exit out the side at 110. The Mavis Seaplane is a well preserved Japanese seaplane that was covered with growth.
The Russell Islands---Rainbow Reef was the best site and maybe one of the best sites that I have ever dove. Lots of fish life with a handful of sharks to parade around the perimeter. A Solomons Island signature dive is Custom Cave where a light in the celing allows sun rays to filter down into the cave like a scene from a sci fi movie. Amazing. We dove three times at White Beach, the dump yard for American equipment after WWII. In addition to interested war wreckage, we saw a mantis shrimp, archer fish, and lots of exotic crabs and shrimp. A photographers delight.
Mary Island--The diving here was quite different than other places that we went on the boat. An isolated island halfway between the Russells and Morovo, it offered big schools of fish, a handful of sharks on every dive, and a collection of other big animals. It wasnt Cocos, but did offer enough big fish action for all of us who got tired of Angel fish and nudibrancs.
Morovo Lagoon. These sites are only visited on itineraries of ten or more days. The above water views are spectacular. Most of dives are along passages that flow water into and out of the lagoon on a tidal schedule. Kicha Corner was beautiful with sharks, turtles, and a school of massive bumphead parrotfish. Lutens Walls was also very good with lots of sharks, turtles, and schooling fish. We saw pygmy seahorses at Lagoon Point. We got great pictures of the elusive mandarin fish at Mbilili Shallows. The last dive in the area at Wickham Island was soft coral that rivals any Fijian dive site.

All in all this was a great trip. Although this was my longest liveaboard with 12 nights (I did 49 dives), I never felt bored and would recommend that individuals considering this locale go for at least the 10 day itinerary--anything shorter would miss some of the great sites. We also had several nice chances for village visits.

Although we did not use any anti-malarial drugs, I would recommend it as a prudent precaution. The Solomons have the highest incidence of malaria in the world. Ample bug spray was always available, but another level of protection would not hurt.
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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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