April 2 – 12, 2022
10 nights

Solomon Islands aboard the MV Bilikiki 

Join Cathy Church on her 20th trip to the Solomon Islands

You will have time to relax, plan and make colorful and beautiful photos, or maybe an adventurous photo of a manta ray.

Every dive in the Solomon Islands is full with wonder. We’re usually the only divers as we travel from Guadalcanal to the Floridas, the Russells, Mary Island and all the way to the world Morovo Lagoon World Heritage Site. The water is generally calm with mild currents. Photo opportunities vary from numerous anemone fish (Nemo’s family is abundant) to lush, vivid coral reefs and sheer walls adorned with huge red fans.

Reserve now
 

Solomon Islands

Photo © Cathy Church

Price (USD)

Payable by check; additional 2.5% for payment by credit card

Twin Cabin

$6,900 per person, double occupancy

Paid by check

Twin Cabin

$7,072.50 per person, double occupancy

Paid by credit card

Private Cabin

$12,500 single occupancy cabins

Additional 2.5% fee for credit card payments

Included

  • 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).
  • Tax
  • Transfer from the airport to the boat and back

Not included

  • Airfare
  • Gratuities
  • Rental Equipment
  • Bar drinks
  • Nitrox
  • Travel insurance is always very important for an overseas dive trip and we highly recommend adequate cover – this is a group trip and we do not supply insurance or cover the cost of cancellation
  • Diver insurance is mandatory

Diving

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.

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.

The people are friendly and appreciative of our contributions we give them to dive on their reefs, buy their produce, and to enjoy a cultural tour. We all are better for our visits.

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.

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.

Diving sites

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 many kinds of anemone fish and every type of scenic found in the South Pacific.

Dining

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.

Getting there

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.

Weather

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. Most island crossings are calm.

20 amazing reasons to join Cathy on her historic 20th trip to the Solomon Islands 

We tell stories, visit, and just relax. Although on a few occasions, Cathy and her buddy are still in the water on their long last dive of the day.

1. Easy diving

The wonderful crew loads the dive gear, you step into the boat, and when the dive site is reached, your kit is lifted to your back and all you have to do is fall into the water.

 

 

2. Calm water

Almost all dives are in glass smooth water, with rarely any current, making diving in the Solomon’s perfect for underwater photography.

 

 

3. Long dive times


There are almost no limits on dive times when the boat doesn’t need to move – you can dive as long as you have air and bottom time.

 

 

 

 

4. Great critters

There are critters on every dive, but we also do dedicated muck diving for a whole host of interesting macro subjects including shrimp, anemones, and there is always a surprise!

 

 

5. Soft corals

You will find beautiful soft corals in the Solomon’s which make stunning subjects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Wrecks


There are even some wrecks which are always fun to explore.

 

 

 

7. Exotic fish

We see them everywhere…after all this is the South Pacific!

 

 

 

8. Caves

The Cut of Leru is a spectacular cave dive with sunlight streaming through, and there are several others which are just as photogenic.

 

 

 

 

 

9. Hard coral gardens

The most beautiful I have ever had the joy to photograph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Schooling fish

The schools at Mary Island are absolutely fantastic.

 

 

 

11. Clownfish

Almost on EVERY dive! These charismatic fish are the perfect subjects to photograph.

 

 

 

 

 

12. Friendly islanders

On island visits the islanders love dancing, and delight in bringing carvings, fresh produce and some seafoods to the boat to happily sell us their wares.

 

13. Hot deck showers

After EVERY dive. The  deck showers are protected from the wind for those of you who are like Cathy, who gets cold after her long leisurely dives.

 

14. Great vis

The visibility is stunning on most sites in the Solomon Islands, easily reaching 120ft.

 

 

 

 

 

15. Wonderful food buffets

Plenty of choice for everyone, every day!

 

 

16. Outdoor seating for meals

Every day in the balmy, lovely weather.

During a rare rain shower, the clear plastic curtains keep us dry.

 

 

17. Backup camera gear

Cathy brings a wide selection of back-up gear so you can keep taking pictures even if you have a camera problem.

 

 

 

 

 

18. Help in the water

When many people want to photograph the same rare subject, Cathy has a great system to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance.

 

 

 

19. Evening critiques and coaching

This is what Cathy is best known for. She devotes the entire evening to helping you.

 

 

20. Best sunset happy hour of ANY boat!

“Nibblies” are taken to the upper foredeck, surrounded by chairs and happy divers with a drink in their hand, watching the incredible sunset in the warm balmy breeze.

We tell stories, visit, and just relax. Although on a few occasions, Cathy and her buddy are still in the water on their long last dive of the day.

Reservation information

Checks

Payable to Cathy Church Photo Center

Mail to
Cathy Church Photo Center
PO Box 479
Grand Cayman, KY1-1106 Cayman Islands

Credit Card
345-949-7415 Cayman number

607-330-3504 U.S. direct with credit card information

There is a 2.5% credit card surcharge for all portions paid for with credit card. We accept all major credit cards including American Express.

Payments (USD)
Deposit with reservation
$1,250 by check
$1,281.50 by credit card

Second payment due 2nd June, 2021
$3,450.00 by check
$3,536.25 by credit card

Balance due 2nd December, 2021
$2,200.00 by check
$2,255.00 by credit card

Send a reservation inquiry

Cancellation Policy (USD)

Cancel by 2 January, 2021—receive a full refund
Cancel by 2 June, 2021—full refund less $250 processing fee per person
Cancel between 3rd June, 2021 and 1 December, 2021—$1,000 forfeited
After 2nd December, 2021—no refund unless we can fill your space from our approved list