Solomon Islands

We made two trips to the Solomon Islands to look for nudibranchs, the first from 13 through 26 August 1987 and the second from 28 March through 10 April 1994. For the first trip, we flew from California with three diving friends and picked up one more in Honolulu on the way. We spend a few days in Fiji, where we made a couple of shore dives and had a run-in with the infamous sword sellers of Suva. Then we were on to Honiara on Guadalcanal. The first ten days in the Solomons were spent on the 56-foot yacht Wyuna skippered by Brian Bailey. We boarded the boat on the morning of 13 August and immediately set sail for the Russell Islands about 100 kilometers to the west. That night we were diving at Karumolun. We spent the next few days sailing and diving around the Russells, stopping at Yandina, Samata, Linggatu, and other sites. We then shot eastward towards Nggela, or the Florida group. We broke up the long voyage with a stop at Savo Island, but found the animal life there quite nice and decided to spend a second night. We then completed our trip to Nggela, diving first on the wreck of the Kanawha in Tulaghi harbor. We dove a few more sites around Nggela, including both day and night dives in Mboli Channel, a meandering mangrove-bordered river-like channel with occasional small settlements and running for some kilometers between two large islands. It looked like prime salt water crocodile country, but the night dive in particular was fascinating in terms of the mollusks observed. We arrived back on Guadalcanal on the 23rd and spent three days shore diving at Ruaniu, Bonegi, Kakambona, and Luunga.

On the second trip, we flew with three Kwajalein friends down from Kwajalein, Marshall Islands with stops in Pohnpei and Nauru. It was a third the cost of first backtracking to Honolulu and getting to Honiara via Fiji again, but it meant we had to spend four days on Nauru. There’s not a lot to do on Nauru, and the reef structure makes shore diving difficult. Nevertheless, we made a couple of very interesting dives on the steep outer reef by riding the “freight train” current out the boat ramp, where much of the water waves threw up on the fringing reef drained back out. But that meant coming in through the surf on the fringing reef, which could get a bit exciting by itself. Finally continuing on to Honiara, we arrived on 27 March. We thought we had the Wyuna lined up for another trip, but it turned out there was a miscommunication and the boat was not in port. After three days of shore diving at Guadalcanal, we boarded the Spirit of Solomons liveaboard dive boat with divemasters Casey Mahaney and Astrid Witte on a four-day trip to Nggela. They were good folks to dive with. We started and finished this trip with a couple of dives in a very interesting spot near Tulaghi called Twin Tunnels. On a flat-topped pinnacle at a depth of about 18 meters, two holes, each maybe three meters in diameter and separated by a couple of meters of reef opened up. (I’m working from memory here, so my measurements could be a bit off.) These two holes dropped straight down, the walls all round covered with an incredible assortment of marine life. At about 35 meters, the vertical tunnels came together and through a short passageway opened to the outside on the sheer vertical cliff bordering of the pinnacle. Fascinating structure, and the tunnels themselves were home to some great nudibranchs. For the rest of the trip, we motored around Nggela to places like Tanavula Point, Hororo village, Mbokonmbeti pinnacle, Nembelau Rock and Anuha, returning to Tulaghi through Mboli Channel again, although we didn’t dive it; local residents told us it was indeed crocodile country. We made the passage through Mboli on a beautifully calm morning, entering just after dawn with misty low clouds and seeing reflection after reflection after reflection as we motored slowly down the quiet channel. After returning to Guadalcanal on the evening of 4 April, we spent the next six days doing some great shore diving with the help of Solomon islander Colin Munday, who had previously crewed with Brian Bailey and knew all the good places to go.

We found diving in the Solomons excellent, both shore and boat diving. When we were there, the people were friendly and interesting. However, the political situation, particularly on Guadalcanal, would seem to make travel there a bit iffy nowadays. I would not risk going back until the warring factions on Guadalcanal learn to live peacefully with one another again.

We put just about all the species we recorded during the two trips to the Solomons on this site, even listing those for which we had no images. All the underwater photos on this site were taken with an old and battered Nikonos II using film. Yes, we actually used to have to use film and were restricted to a mere 36 photos on a dive. We found this very limiting in a place as rich as the Solomons. For each subject, we had to sit and think: "Do we really want this picture?" In many cases, we lost out on photos of some species due to a lack of film, or a decision to take only one or two photos that did not come out well. Also, most of these were taken using extension tubes, which could not be changed under water and thus limited our subject material. Tiny nudibranchs shot with a 1:2 (half life size) framer meant the subject had to be blown up for images to post here, adversely affecting resolution. Likewise, animals too large for the 1:1 or 1:2 tubes we usually used permitted the capture of only a portion of an animal on film. Obviously, we will need to return one day with a housed digital SLR

List of Solomon Islands nudibranch links with thumbnails.
List of Solomon Islands nudibranch links without thumbnails.