July 22-August 1, 2017 Trip
Bilikiki's last 10 day trip can truly be described with only one word: exceptional! We were joined by 18 divers from Korea, New Zealand, USA, Switzerland, Australia and Sweden for some incredible underwater encounters.
On the first day we were very lucky to spot the resident saltwater crocodile in Mirror Pond in the Russells, seeing a crocodile was on the "bucket list" for some of our guests. Happy campers all around the boat even though it did get the adrenaline pumping! Day 2 took us to Mary Island and right before our last afternoon dive we were in for the treat of a lifetime. Our captain Alan spotted the blow of two whales and immediately identified them as orcas by their high dorsal fins. We headed out in the tinnies to investigate and were about to witness an incredible event: the orcas were hunting and caught a small scalloped hammerhead shark right under the tinnies!! We saw the bigger orca surface next to our tinnie with a big fish in its mouth and shake its head violently, but we were not aware of the full story until we reviewed all the video footage and photos that were taken by our guests. How lucky was that? Not only to see these magnificent animals up close in open ocean but to witness them feeding right in front of us must surely be a one in a billion chance! Of course this event dominated the talks on the boat for the next days and we were wondering what else we would possibly see?
The rest of the trip was "just" the usual fantastic Solomon's diving and we had beautiful dives in the pristine coral gardens of Marovo Lagoon and Lologhan in the Russells. We were thrilled to see that the ornate ghost pipe fish have returned to Wickham Island, and many divers fell in love with all the critters in White Beach and Maravagi, from twin spot gobies to devil stingers, nudibranchs and cuttlefish - it was all there. In the Floridas we were joined by a formation of 11 mobula rays gliding gracefully above our heads - another lucky encounter!
Our guests loved to meet the local villagers during the canoe markets and the village visits with beautiful carvings on display. The people of Karumolun treated us again to a brilliant performance of their traditional singing and dancing. For the pan pipe music at the end, everyone was clapping along.
A truly memorable trip with a great group of people has ended. We hope to see you all again and would like to thank you all for visiting us here in the Solomons. Who knows what the next trip will bring?
With best fishes,
Tina & Oli and all the Bilikiki crew
We have just had this update from Tina onboard:
This trip is starting amazingly well...
Yesterday, we had the croc in Mirror Pond and almost all the guests saw it.
But today..... we just had 2 ORCAS at 4pm swimming outside of Mary Island!!!! Capt Alan spotted them and we headed out in the tinnies. One of them had a massive fish sideways in its mouth, and we were able to see them right next and under the tinnies... Simply incredible - only day 2!!
And on top the weather is nice and the viz at Mary was fantastic.
July 11-July 22, 2017. Another 11 days of diving around the Solomon Islands has come to an end. This time we were joined by a group of 17 diving friends from the United States, they had all met during previous dive trips! For all, it was the first time exploring this remote area of the world.
As diverse as the weather during this trip were the many beautiful dive sites we visited together. Mary Island was once again a favourite with the jacks forming a thick school right on top of the reef and allowing the divers to come very close. Mbulo Canyons with its magnificent hard coral and swim throughs was equally impressive, as were the many turtles we encountered in this area. The photographers were raving about the enormous sea fans and elephant ear sponges on many dive sites. We were lucky to see everything from the big to the tiniest; sharks and eagle rays, different nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, octopus and mantis shrimp, to name just a few of the things we saw. Tulagi Switzer in the Floridas surprised us with a perfect formation of 6 mobula rays and Maravagi Bay was yet again a winner with several cuttlefish, nudibranchs, shrimpfish and a school of juvenile golden spadefish.
Topside, our guests enjoyed meeting the locals during our visits to the carving markets of Marovo Lagoon and the villagers of Karumolun in the Russells delivered an impressive performance of singing, dancing and playing their pan pipes for us. A memorable trip for everyone!
Once again our thanks go out to all our guests for visiting us here in the Solomons and also to the hard working Bilikiki crew for such a great trip.
See you all again - with best fishes
Tina & Oli
Current water temperatures are 28-29C (82-84F).
June 27 - July 11, 2017
Bilikiki’s latest trip was the trip of independence! Onboard we celebrated Canada’s, the USA’s and the Solomon Islands's Independence Day! July must be a good month to become independent! I think it is when the British tend to take their holidays.
It was a pleasure to have two great groups of divers onboard for this 14 night trip. We were joined by Bilikiki regular group leaders Jack & Sue Drafahl and Nancy McGee.
We were treated to some fabulous diving during our two week trip. Highlights included a hammerhead, silver tip and the usual grey and black tip reef sharks, stunning coral at Lologan and Mbulo Canyons and incredible schooling fish action at Mary Island with both jacks and barracudas putting on a show. Other critters spotted included cuttlefish, pipefish, pygmy seahorses, leaf scorpion fish, jawfish, orang-utan crabs, twin spot gobies and tons of great nudis, plus this trip some of us were lucky enough to see a harlequin shrimp as well!
In Marovo Lagoon we shopped till we dropped for wood carvings and people bought some stunning pieces. In the Russell Islands we enjoyed a fantastic display of singing and dancing by Karumolun village.
It was a fun two weeks diving with a great bunch of people, it was a pleasure to meet you all and to dive with old friends again. Thank you to Tina and Oli and all of the Bilikiki crew for making our trip so enjoyable and showing us such fantastic dive sites.
June 17-27, 2017
Bilikiki has once again returned to Honiara after another great 10 day trip around the Solomon Islands. We had a lively group of 17 people from the USA and Canada onboard, led by Todd Winner and Michael Zeigler from Immersed Imaging.
The photo opportunities kept coming, both wide angle and macro. We saw quite a few grey reef sharks throughout the trip, and on Kicha Island in Marovo Lagoon we had a wonderful dive with schooling bumphead parrot fish, barracudas, batfish, snappers and a big silvertip shark that came to look at us!
Maravagi Bay proved to be one of the favourite sites again, with about a dozen curious cuttlefish posing for the cameras, mating headshield slugs and the elusive saddleback clown fish defending its anemone. On Petrol Point in the Floridas we got lucky when a formation of 9 mobula rays swam right above our heads. Karumolun in the Russells was another amazing experience, we saw a big eagle ray gliding in the current and off the point about 20 baby grey reef sharks came past together with a massive school of jacks and barracudas. To finish this awesome dive, 3 mobula rays flew right above our heads and one of our divers was closely checked out by a very friendly hawksbill turtle. Smiling faces all around!
The villagers of Karumolun then put on a wonderful performance for us with their singing and dancing, the pan pipe music at the end had everyone clapping along.
We would like to thank all of our guests for being such cheerful spirits in sometimes difficult weather conditions, we hope to see you all again soon!
With best fishes,
Tina & Oli and all the Bilikiki crew
June 6-16, 2017
On our last 10 day trip we were joined by a very fun group of 8 French divers, 5 Americans and an Australian, all keen to see the best of the Solomon Islands. The winter months have started here in the Southern hemisphere and the water temperature has finally dropped to a very pleasant 29C, which seems to favour the presence of pelagics and the growth of the hard coral.
We had a fantastic shark dive in Kicha with a 3m silvertip shark coming to check us out and on the current exposed points of Karumolun and Petrol Point we saw many big grey reef sharks and white tips. At Mary Island, Barracuda Point was at its best with hundreds of jacks and big schools of barracudas. Maravagi Bay offered an exceptional shallow dive with dozens of headshield slugs, stunning Elysia nudibranchs and a total of 10 cuttlefish posing for the photographers. Everybody loved this dive so much, we did it a second time!
The mix of nationalities made for a great atmosphere onboard with plenty of laughter and jokes. Thank you all for a wonderful time, we hope to see you all again very soon!
Oli & Tina, and all the Bilikiki crew
Bilikiki's latest adventure was of a different kind. For the last 7 days we were joined by 17 enthusiastic guests from the USA to revisit some of the important battle sites of WW 2 in the Solomon Islands. We were lucky enough to be under the expert guidance of Anderson Giles, a retired professor from the University of Maine Presque Isle. Andy has been leading expeditions to the South Pacific WW2 sites for more than two decades and has been on the Bilikiki many times. It was fascinating to get an insight into the events of this time from him. Many participants had an emotional connection to this area, having had a relative of their families fighting on the American side during the war with Japan.
We visited the wreck of the LST 342 now resting in the mangroves of the Florida Islands where a big saltwater crocodile surprised us by taking a sunbath on the wreckage. We then visited Ghavutu and Tanambogho, the locations of the first land battles in the Solomons.
We stopped briefly on the beach of Savo Island, where a fierce naval battle took place and then headed off to the Russell Islands where an adventurous ride on the back of two old pick-up trucks brought us through the jungle to the abandoned Banika airfield.
A long crossing took us to New Georgia in the Western province with visits to the airstrip of Seghe, where we snorkeled on an American plane that was bumped off the runway, and Munda airfield, built in less than two weeks by the Americans. It was the longest airfield in the Southern hemisphere at the time!
Another highlight was certainly our visit to Skull Island, a sacred tiny island where dozens of skulls of tribal chiefs from the days of head hunting in the Solomons are kept. From there, we continued to Kennedy Island, named after the late US president J.F. Kennedy, who was eventually rescued after his torpedo boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Initially declared dead, he and his crew first swam to this tiny speck of land and then on to the next island until they were found by local Solomon scouts several days later and saved. This historic swim to the beach was performed by all our guests with great enthusiasm!
It was a fascinating trip and we can't thank Andy and his guests enough for being such a fun group and great sports in sometimes difficult weather conditions. We learned a lot during this trip about the events during the war here in the Solomons! Another massive thank you goes to all the Bilikiki crew for all their hard work, especially to our two captains Alan and Joe who spent long hours in the wheelhouse to get us to all the locations.
We hope to see you all again very soon!
Tina & Oli
May 20-30, 2017
Another great 11 day trip around the Solomon Islands has finished and Bilikiki is back in Honiara. Our 18 guests came from the UK and the USA, including a group of 9 from Island Divers Hawaii. We had a few repeat guests but for most it was people's first visit to the Solomons and everyone was impressed by the diversity of dive sites, the beautiful landscape of the islands and the friendliness of the villagers they got to meet along the way. The beautiful wood carvings in the villages of Marovo Lagoon made stunning and unique souvenirs for some.
We did some amazing dives on this trip, Leru Cut always being a favourite for everyone. Mirror Pond impressed with magical light and a stunning coral garden, while the Japanese Maru wreck surprised us with very good visibility and an abundance of critters from crinoid shrimps to elegant squat lobsters, flatworms and nudibranchs. Kicha was certainly another highlight with sharks and plenty of schooling snappers, jacks, and barracudas before finishing the dive in the amazing shallow coral garden. We were lucky again on Devils' Highway with four manta rays coming to feed in front of us after a crazy drift across the reef plate. There was again something for everyone, from the big to the small and this is what makes diving the Solomons so very special and unique!
Our thanks go out to all our guests for helping make it such a great trip and to the Bilikiki crew for all their hard work.
Best fishes from
Tina & Oli
May 9 - May 20, 2017. Another fantastic 11 day trip has come to a reluctant end, this one with 20 divers from Dream Weaver in Colorado, USA.
This time we headed out to the Florida Islands first and we were rewarded with a spectacular dive in Devils' Highway in the afternoon. After a crazy drift across the reef plate we took our positions near the reef and waited for the manta rays. It took only a few minutes until the mantas started to feed right in front of us, there were more than 10 individual rays, including a rare melanistic black one. They made very close passes in front of us, sometimes several of them at the same time like a convoy, while still more were feeding on the surface - what an incredible sight, especially for some of our guests who had never seen a manta ray before! Certainly a dive to remember! To top our luck, we saw yet another manta ray while diving on Luten's Wall!
Once again the diversity of the dive sites and habitats impressed our divers. Some were amazed by the beautiful coral gardens and gigantic sea fans, while others loved the caves and cuts with magical light, and still others simply loved all the dives. Eagle rays, mobula rays, sharks, turtles and of course the tiny little jewels like nudibranchs, flatworms, pygmy seahorses, elegant squat lobsters, and even pygmy pipefish - the highlights just kept coming and there was something for everyone in every dive. The huge schools of jacks and barracudas on some sites are certainly always impressive and we were lucky to see some massive bumphead parrot fish on a few different sites. Simply beautiful!
Our guests also enjoyed getting in touch with the local islanders during our visits in Marovo Lagoon for the wood carvings and when the flotilla of dug out canoes came around the boat for the fruit and vegetable markets. The villagers of Karumolun in the Russells played their wonderful panpipe music for us and put a big smile on everyone's face.
It was a wonderful trip and we would like to thank all of our dear guests for diving and visiting the stunning Solomon Islands with us. We would like to see you again soon!
Many thanks and best fishes from
Tina & Oli and all the Bilikiki crew
Photos by Tina Gauer