The Great Southern Route : 2013 - 2014
GSR | 107 of wilderness Lodge. There is a minimal fee applicable here per person for diving or visiting some of their special sites but don’t worry, it’s well worth it. Fresh produce and some incredible wood carvings are available here besides having a chance to be welcomed into village life. As in most villages, women should dress appropriately, ie. no bikinis, and dress modestly. This SE corner of Marovo Lagoon is a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) area so from late Friday afternoon until late Saturday afternoon it’s their Sabbath, a time to visit, but not be openly active, in keeping with local beliefs. A wonderful benefit to visitors because of this is ... they don’t eat lobster! They will catch them and sell them to you for about SBD$40 per kilo for tails, about US$5.50..! Fishing and diving in this zone is great; cobalt blue waters littered with whales, dolphin, marlin, wahoo, yellow-fin, skipjack, mahi- mahi and kingfish (mackerel). 14 miles Sw of Gatokae you will find Kavachi (8° 59.6’S, 157° 58.3’E), one of only a couple of submarine volcanoes on the planet that is easily accessible and close to the surface. The surface discharge will show you which way the current is running so position yourself no closer than several hundred metres and watch and listen. More often than not, Kavachi is exploding regularly and can be seen from a long way away as rocks, gas and water are blown hundreds of metres into the air. If your draft is more than 5 metres, I suggest entering Marovo Lagoon through the wickham Harbour entrance (8° 45.2’S 158° 02’E) on the Nw side of Gatokae, otherwise pop through Bhili Pass on Gatokae’s NE corner. Drop in to see Chief Luton, in the middle of Bhili Pass, and ask to see his airplane. A small fee is charged to crawl around a wwll US four-engined bomber that crashed on his land, right on the water’s edge. You are now in the largest double-barrier salt water lagoon in the world. Dozens of villages line the foreshores of the internal islands that make up this soon to be UNESCo world Heritage listed lagoon. Unique on the planet they say! Patch reefs can be seen everywhere, safe to manoeuvre in and actually well marked considering that in one respect you are in the middle of nowhere. Chart SI 07 is quite accurate and will let you cruise Marovo safely. Seghe airport, located near the Nw entrance into Marovo, offers air access to Gizo or Honiara. Uepi Island Resort, located at Charapoanna Pass on Marovo’s NE side (8° 25.5’S 157° 57.1’E), is the country’s best dive resort. Grant, Jill and their boys will welcome you and point you in the right direction. Tetepare Island, to the west of Marovo, is reputedly second only in biodiversity to the Galapagos within the Pacific, and well worth a stop at the ranger station on the western side of the gap between Tetepare and Rendova. Across the channel on the south-western side of New Georgia Island is Viru Harbour, a welcoming place to visit with a safe entrance and wonderful protection. As you near the north-western side of New Georgia, jump across the Munda Bar and head towards Port Noro. You will pass the entrance to Vona Vona Lagoon and Lola Island on your left as you proceed through the Diamond Narrows. This is a must if you are in the area. Noro offers bulk fuel as most places only supply diesel and ULP in 200 litre drums. As you proceed towards Gizo, travel through the Blacket Straits renowned for heavy fighting during wwll and the loss of JFK’s PT 109. Nusa Tupe Island, next to Gizo, is the main airport to the western Provinces capital. The safest entrance to Gizo is from the west and the harbour offers a great anchorage. If you find yourself nearby during May, and the Vakatepe Festival (Festival of the Sea) is on, try to get an anchorage in Gizo harbour. This pretty little unsophisticated town comes alive for nearly a week as Solomon Island war canoes vie for the title of best and fastest. The Gizo Yacht Club helps with this as the Brisbane to Gizo Yacht Rally finishes during the first few days of celebrations. Customs and Immigration are available in Gizo so clearing in and out is easy and, so to, visa extensions. Gizo markets on the waterfront offers the best sources of fresh produce and there are lots of little shops in Chinatown to maybe source dry goods. I’m biased, I guess, as I’ve enjoyed nearly four years exploring this off the beaten path country. I grew up around southern Florida and the Bahamas before moving ‘Down Under’ and during my boating career I’ve been lucky to explore some of our planet’s most isolated and beautiful areas! So ... how do I rank the Solomon’s western Province? Contrary to international travel warnings it is a safe place to visit. Friendly people and truly a nation made up of villages. Few international ‘white boats’ come this way, and yet, those that do normally return. It really is a boater’s paradise, without the traffic jam at good anchorages. Plus it is north of the South Pacific’s cyclone zone at 8 ° and a bit South latitude. If you have the time... try it. You’ll never regret it!
2010 - 2011