City breaks might be great, and country retreats and resort getaways are all well and good, but nothing ever beats an island escape – and the Solomon’s have nearly one thousand islands in Oceania for you to choose from!
I have been lucky enough to travel to my fair share of islands in the past – I recently honeymooned in Hawaii, explored the many islands which make up the Dry Tortuga’s, road tripped through Iceland and cruised through the majority of the Pacific Islands. The one place, however, where I would choose to return to first, would be the Solomon Islands – without a doubt!
The Solomon Islands is a hidden paradise. An archipelago of 992 islands in the Pacific Ocean, there is an incredible amount to see and do.
The diverse marine life and WWII shipwrecks are a diver’s dream, the wild interiors of local village treks offer some of the most spectacular hiking in the world, and the Solomon Islanders have a really rich cultural heritage which is completely different to anything you will experience travelling through the western world.
We were lucky enough while there to be treated to a special cultural performance from local Scouts which included music and dancing from the old age ‘Kastom’. The customs in the Solomon Islands are said to have been handed down from ancestral spirits through one generation to another, and they still form the basis of cultural values within the country.
Due to a deep and longstanding relationship with Australia, the Solomon Islands is a popular country for Australian groups who undertake aid projects. Due to a politically unstable history, the Solomons are a fairly un-developed nation.
I first travelled to the islands in June 2011 with Scouts Australia where we volunteered for two weeks to repair the Honiara Red Cross School for Disabled Children.
The capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island; Guadalcanal. During our time in the Solomon’s we were lucky enough to experience the culture of the Pacific Islanders first hand, and be shown the surrounding islands by local scouts. While the country is still recovering from an unstable political past, it’s a phenomenal place to travel to, and one of those which really changes you.
The country is very raw and very real. On our days off from the project we went trekking to the top of waterfalls and volcanoes, and learned how to cut down coconuts from trees which lined the beaches!
I was wary when the Solomon Scouts handed us machetes for the coconuts, but we managed the task without losing any thumbs! After finishing work on “project days” we would all head pretty quickly to the beaches.
The Solomon’s has 300+ days of good weather – but the heat is the first thing which hits you as you step off the plane – and it hits you like a brick wall if you’re not used to humidity!
Luckily, the majority of activities on the islands are all water based! After spending two weeks in tents in the intense heat, a few of us spent extra time at the end of the project at one of the 5 star hotels – which, with the amazing exchange rate, was well within our student budget.
Some of our favourite days were spent exploring World War Two Wreckages. The Solomon Islands Campaign was a major campaign of the Pacific War of WWII, and as such Honiara has an amazing open air war museum where the remains of aircraft used during the war have been transported, untouched. Shipwrecks from the same time period can also be seen beached on the shores of Guadalcanal.
After having walked the streets and immersed myself into the culture of the islanders I returned home with a new appreciation for the small day to day privileges we take for granted and expect in the Western World. You return home with a new appreciation for life; and you never forget how people in one of the most struggling nations had so much to offer a tourist!
The locals went out of their way to show us their islands and integrate us into their culture for the few weeks we were there. I would go back to this friendly, welcoming nation in a heartbeat and highly recommend the Solomon’s for your next island escape!