Composed of rugged volcanic islands and tiny low-lying coral atolls, the Solomon Islands archipelago is the third largest in the South Pacific. The 992 islands that make up the Solomon Islands lie south-east of Papua New Guinea, covering a total area of 28,450 sq km. With soaring mountain peaks, dense tropical rainforest, cascading waterfalls, palm-fringed beaches and traditional villages, the Solomon Islands are known for their unspoilt beauty and relaxed pace of life. The group's capital, Honiara
, is the gateway to the Solomons, and is located on Guadalcanal Island
The Solomon Islands have a world-wide reputation for superb diving, and the clear waters, with their spectacular variety of marine life, offer wonderful opportunities for snorkelling, game fishing, cruising, sea kayaking and sailing. The Solomon Islands were the site of fierce fighting between Japan and the allies during World War II, and there are sunken battleships and other military relics for history buffs to explore. 'Island hopping' is a great way to experience the outlying provinces, which include Western, Malaita, Temotu, Makir, Central, Isabel, Choiseul, and Rennell and Bellona.Population:
400,000 Capital city:
Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal Area:
On the western fringe of the Pacific and bounding the Coral Sea at a latitude 5º-12º south of the equator and longitude 155º-170º east. Climate:
Tropical, with an average daytime temperature of about 29ºC and high humidity. Evening temperatures may drop to 19ºC.Wet season:
November to May are the wetter months and squalls and cyclones may occur. Time zone:
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus 11 hours. Major attractions:
Guadalcanal Province & Honiara, Western Province, Malaita Province, Temotu Province, Makira Province, Central Province, Isabel Province, Rennell & Bellona Province, Choiseul, historic battle sites, diving, boating, fishing, surfing, volcanoes, culture, island picnics, birdwatching, cultural tours, cycling, fightseeing, nature tours, guided bushwalks, cultural feasts, crocodile spotting.Attractions:
- Guadalcanal Province & Honiara
The largest island in the Solomons and home to the national capital of Honiara, with its picturesque sea port. There is good diving in Iron Bottom Sound, and military relics dating back to WWII.
- Western Province
The country's largest province boasts sparkling lagoons, prime dive sites, dense forests, ancient skull caves and the world's largest lagoon - Marovo. Gizo is the capital and a major dive centre.
- Malaita Province
This culturally diverse area has 15 tribal languages and dialect groups, and is known for its 'artificial' islands built on boulders heaped on top of sandbars. Auki is the capital.
- Temotu Province
The Solomon's most easterly point, this remote province includes the sandy atolls of the Reef Islands, the volcanic islands of the Santa Cruz and the Duff Islands. Lata is the capital.
- Makira Province
Sometimes called the Eastern Solomons, this small group is well known for its preservation of ancient traditions and its skilled dancers and craftspeople. Kirakira is the capital.
- Central Province
Comprising the Savo, Russells and Nggela islands, this province offers copra plantations, caves, thermal springs and diving. The capital is Tulagi.
- Isabel Province
Visit the eco tourist villages near the capital of Buala, the stilt villages of Kia and the rare turtle nesting grounds in the Arnavon Islands. Buala is the capital.
- Rennell (Mu Nggava) & Bellona (Mu Ngiki) Province
With their soaring cliffs, these islands are known for their ancient burial places, caves, temples and Polynesian traditions. On Rennell, the South Pacific's largest lake, Te Nggano, is a haven for birdlife. Tingoa is the capital.
- Choiseul (Lauru)
This area offers attractive villages, plantations, cascading waterfalls, rivers, ancient carved stone burial chambers (Ndolos) and deserted sandy beaches. Choiseul Bay is the provincial headquarters.
- Historic Battle Sites
Fierce fighting took place in the Solomons during WWII. The bloody Guadalcanal Campaign saw the loss of 38,000 lives and today, local guides offer tours to visit military relics and learn about their history.
One of the world's leading dive destinations, the Solomons offer a host of marine environments including, reef, wreck, lagoon, night and beach dives. Underwater visibility is good to about 30m and water temperatures are some of the warmest in the world. There are six independent operators and a wide range of courses are available. The main dive centres are Honiara (Guadalcanal Province), Gizo and Munda (Western Province). Divers can see schools of barracuda, trevally and lion fish, as well as giant clams, hammerhead sharks and the rare whale shark. WWII wrecks include a Japanese freighter, Douglas Dive Bomber, Corsair and Nell Bomber. Uepi Island in the Western province is famous for its coral walls which drop down hundreds of kilometres.
The beautiful and sheltered waterways are ideal for yachting, cruising, sea kayaking and canoeing. Locals still use the sea as a highway between their villages and towns, particularly in the remote Temotu Province.
Good surfing sites include Pailongge on Ghizo, Poro on Santa Isabel and Tawarogha on Makira. There is also surf at Beaufort Bay in south Guadalcanal. Surfers should ask permission at the local village first.
New Georgia waters offer sailfish, marlin, shark, tuna, barracuda and wahoo. Charter boats are available. If you're fishing over a reef or river, ask permission first. Take care in coastal rivers and swamps where there are saltwater crocodiles.
Among the best-known volcanoes are Kolombangara Island in Western Province, a conical volcano with a crater rim 1,770m high, and Tinakula in Temotu Province, the country's most active volcano. Climbing Kolombangara is a two-day walk, but the summit enjoys wonderful views over Western Province.
Villagers refer to traditional ways and beliefs as Kastom, and these may vary from island to island. In the Malaita Province, ancestor worshipping is observed by the Kwaio tribe, and the ancient tradition of shark calling is also practised. Some of the more remote areas still use shell and feather money as a currency.
Traditional crafts include pottery, bukaware weaving, banana fibre baskets, hats and mats, shell jewellery and ebony carvings. The fine carvings are often inlaid with nautilus or trocchus shell.
Birdlife on the Solomon Islands is diverse with about 223 species including 16 species of white-eyes, rails, honeyeaters, fantails and thrushes. The most unusual bird is the megapode or incubator. This fascinating bird lays its large eggs in the warm volcanic sands of the thermal areas. The eggs hatch after about 40 days and the chicks are quickly able to fly short distances after digging themselves out.
- Other Activities
There are plenty of options including island picnics, birdwatching, cultural tours, cycling, flightseeing, nature tours, guided bushwalks, cultural feasts and crocodile spotting.