There is only one sane reason to get out of bed at 3.15am - and that is to catch a plane to go on a diving holiday. Three planes and a canoe ride later and the sunset over Marovo Lagoon looks great. Marovo Lagoon, one of the largest lagoons in the world is located in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands and Uepi Island is 100 hectares of tropical paradise in the middle. Accommodation comprises of 6 self contained bungalows and a 6 bed lodge with 3 separate rooms and ensuite facilities. All are very private and have wide verandahs facing either the lagoon or the magnificent tropical gardens.
Off the small wharf there is a 60m drop off teeming with the most amazing variety of marine life - in fact you have difficulty getting out of the water because of the numerous lionfish which have made their home in the shallow water at the exit point. 200m along this wall brings you Uepi Point which is a "happening place", Look out from the wall at about 30m and you will find Black Tips, White Tips and Whalers cruising. Look up and you vision is blocked by large schools of Barracuda, Trevally, Rainbow Runners and the beautifully colored Fusiliers. An easy drift dive back to the wharf from here reveals gardens of magnificent Gorgonian fans filled with myriads of colorful tropical fish, countless varieties of Nudibranchs, coral shrimp and yes - Spanish Dancers!
Uepi is the ultimate place to relax and forget that there is anything more to life than great diving, wonderful food and plenty of leisure time. Our party of 12 did just that for 7 days. Todd was so relaxed he wanted wheels on his deck chair to save him walking to the main house for dinner and Jim traded the football shorts for a "Lap Lap" and native beads.
A typical Uepi day involves a breakfast of fresh fruit, juices, cereal and home made bread, followed by your first amazing dive of the morning - the majority of the dive sites are less than 10 minutes by boat, the reef running along one side of the island drops off to 300m with many beautiful gorgonian filled passage ways teaming with life. Hammerheads do frequent this area but they were elusive. Lunch is delivered to hungry divers at their bungalows and after a snorkel, a spot of reading or a snooze it's time for the second amazing dive off the day. Dinner is served in the main house but guests gather earlier on the huge verandah for drinks and to watch the sunset over the lagoon. Guests can entertain themselves after dinner and we all thank Todd for keeping us in stitches with his attempts to serenade another female guest - it's just a shame he can neither sing or play the guitar - but 10 points for trying.
After a bit of persuasion the dive guides took us to two dive sites that are very rarely dived. Getting there by boat through the mangrove swamp ( in very shallow water ) was part of the adventure. The first dive was on Penguin Reef - sheer walls, crystal clear water and lot's of pelargics. Our second dive was on the Sink Hole - here you descend to 13m and swim through a narrow passage way which opens out onto sheer 60m walls about 30m apart opening onto deep blue water. With the bonus of a wrecked barge sitting in the passageway at 40m this is a truly awesome dive. Leaving Uepi can also be a bit of adventure, especially if it rains for the boat ride across to Seghe airport ( an island with an airstrip ). Sol Air occasionally operates on "island time" so come armed with a good book and a sense of humor.
Back in the capital Honiara we spent two days diving the wrecks of Guadacanal. A 10 minute bus ride out of town brings you Bonegi 1 ( Hirokawa Maru ) one of the three WW2 Japanese armed transports run into the beach after being hit by US bombers. The wreck is accessible from the beach, with her bow in 3m and her stern in 55m and an overall length of 152m. The marine life is prolific especially in the shallows, but be prepared for the killer clownfish. A short walk along the beach brings you to Bonegi 2 ( Kinugawa Maru ), a 131m transport partially above the surface with a maximum depth of 28m. The wreck is pretty well blown apart but carpeted with the most magnificent soft corals that are home to some amazing fish like especially the Leaf Scorpion fish, Crocodile Fish and the Stonefish ( this is one ugly fish ). Other wrecks include the Ruaniu ( Kyusyu Maru ) another Japanese armed transport - filled with artifacts and a stern cargo hold full of ammunition. Honiara is typical of the townships which sprang up in the Pacific during the war - it's dusty, bustling but has some good restaurants, a great yacht club on the waterfront where the local Sol Brew beer is cheap and cold and a casino for those pining for city nightlife.
All in all the Solomon Islands is great place, the people are friendly and the pace is "super laid back' so don't expect anything to happen in a hurry. Top it off with world class diving and it makes for a great holiday.. See our video now!