The Adventure Continues.....Join me, the one and only Cathy Church, in the Solomon Islands
10 nights, October 3 - 13, 2020
I will be revisiting the Solomon Islands (for the 20th time) on the wonderful MV Bilikiki.
The MV Bilikiki
The steel-hulled, 125-foot Bilikiki has 10 staterooms, each with private shower and toilet, 8 have double lower and single upper bunk and two have two single beds. All have AC. None have windows. It has been operating since 1989, so they know the waters and the people intimately. It is a basic, no frills boat with a steady, solid reputation. The crew is seasoned, friendly and reliable. I have been on this boat 19 times and I look forward to yet another incredible trip.
The Happy Hour
Happy hour snacks are offered on the upper deck during sunset. I love this time of day -- relaxing, talking with friends, unless I am still on my extended late afternoon dive which can be almost two hours long. I love the adjustable dive schedule that often allows us the freedom to enjoy very long dives.
Meals are served buffet style and there are plenty of choices for all types of diets. Food is purchased from the local islanders who come to the stern of the Bilikiki in their dugout canoes filled with wholesome fresh produce and sometimes seafood.
We eat in the open air on the forward deck.
There is public space in the salon where we can gather with our computers after dinner to compare photos, inspire each other with ideas and solve problems.
Here I am oohing and aahing over one of Bill Gewin's wonderful photos.
The Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands is an island nation located in the southwest Pacific, 1,500 miles (2,400 km) west of Fiji and 1,200 miles (2,000 km) northeast of Australia. It is primitive, but safe and friendly. While English is the official language, there are almost 70 distinct languages spoken there, and Pijin is the main way to communicate in the outer islands.
Air travelers can easily fly to Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands on Guadalcanal and the home port for the Bilikiki Cruises. Fiji Airways flies from LAX to Nadi, Fiji and then on to Honiara and back.
Solomon Airlines flies from Brisbane, Australia to Honiara and back to Brisbane, and Virgin Australia flies from several cities in Australia to Honiara. Some options might involve an overnight in Honiara depending on the day you fly.
We will be happy to work with you to plan your air travel.
The weather is exceptionally boring - calm, flat, warm, sometimes a little soft rain, a breeze or two. Just for variety a brief squall may dash through, but then it quickly returns to the boring, calm, warm, sunny weather. The weather is cooler and drier in October than it is from November to April, so it is quite comfortable. Most island crossings are calm.
The diving routine
Dive gear is stored on the back diving deck and is handled by the crew for you. You just point to it, they load it onto the small dive skiffs called "tinnies." You step into the tinny for the short ride to the site, and your tank is lifted to be put on your back. All you have to do is fall into the water and they hand you your camera. If you cannot do this backward roll with a tank on, then optional techniques will be used just for you.
Wherever you surface, the tinnies will come and get you. The drivers are excellent. They know where you are, how many divers are still in the water, and there is always at least one of the two tinnies in the area as they ferry the earlier divers back to the boat.
Our itinerary will include the Georgias for acres of spectacular hard coral gardens, Mary Island for schooling jacks and barracuda, Morovo Lagoon for small and fascinating critters, and the Floridas for special sites from rare pygmy seahorses to shoals of fish in 20 feet of water over a bright sand bottom.
This trip always has an option for easy diving but it can also challenge experienced divers too. It is a perfect introduction to South Pacific diving. Most sites offer shallow options with no current and clear water. Many dives are along walls so that you can choose to go deeper in the beginning, and work shallower until you make your extended stop at 15 feet along the top of the beautiful and lush wall.
A few dives will be muck dives to give divers the experience of looking for interesting creatures along a sand slope or shallow wreckage. Then there are the high velocity dives with brilliant soft corals, and then a wreck dive and the dive with mounds of hard corals and the dives with tiny pygmy sea horses, or FIVE fire gobies dancing together and the dives with a large school of jacks and barracudas, and the dives with caves and the dives with sea whips and... and... and..
There is a little of everything on this trip. There is always a surprise, always something that I have never seen before. However, this area is not well known for large pelagic encounters. While whale sharks, hammerheads and even sperm whales have been seen, these sitings are rare. You can, however, depend on finding virtually every kind of anemone fish and every type of scenic found in the South Pacific.
(I was intrigued by the pattern of the rind of this gorgonian, but a pygmy seahorse kept sticking his head in my way in the photo to the right).
For LOTS more underwater photos, click here.
Price, $6,250.00 per person, double occupancy, paid by cheque, or $6,437.50 by credit card. Single occupancy cabins are available at $12,500.00.
Payment schedule in US dollars:
Deposit with reservation: -- $1,000.00 by cheque or $1,030.00 by credit card
Second payment due November 1, 2019: -- $3,375.00 by check, -- $3,476.25 by credit card
Balance due February 1, 2020: -- $1,875.00 by cheque, -- $1,931.00 by credit card
• Twin share stateroom accommodation
• All meals, snacks, coffee, and tea on board
• All unlimited scheduled boat diving
• Tanks, weights, boat and guide. Up to 5 dives per day including night diving. (Dawn dives not included).
• Transfer from the airport to the boat and back
• Rental Equipment
• Bar drinks
• Cancel by July, 2019 - receive a full refund.
• Cancel by October 31, 2019 - full refund less $250 processing fee per person.
• Cancel between November 1, 2019 and January 14, 2020 - US$1000.00 forfeited.
• After January 15, 2020 - no refund unless we can fill your space from our approved list.
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