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
After 10 days of beautiful diving around the Solomons, Bilikiki has returned back to Honiara. We were joined by a group of 14 American divers from Ocean First, 2 Korean journalists' and 3 divers from Germany and Austria.
It was the first Solomon Island experience for all of the divers and each one had his or her personal favourite experiences. Our guests loved the interaction with the local villagers coming out in their canoes for the fruit and vegetable markets, as well as visiting different villages for the wood carvings in Marovo Lagoon and the stunning pan pipe performance of the villagers of Karumolun, which had everyone rocking in their seats!
And then there was the diving, of course. The weather was calm and the water temperature a very cozy 30C (86F). A huge school of jacks greeted us at Ben's Point in Mary Island, and we saw many schools of barracudas and big bumphead parrot fish in different locations. The stunning coral gardens of Kicha, Mbulo and Lologhan are always favourites and make for superb pictures. Leru Cut presented itself in perfect conditions with the light beams illuminating the cut. Another highlight was our adrenaline filled current dive to observe up to 8 manta rays feeding right in front of us - what a treat! Mobula rays and eagle rays were spotted on other sites. For the macro lovers there was plenty to see as well, from pygmy seahorses to freckled blennies and winged pipefish, to name just a few.
Once again we would like to thank all of our guests for joining us on this trip, we hope to see you all again soon.
Best fishes from
Tina, Oli, and all the Bilikiki crew
Photos thank to Tina Gauer
Another amazing 10 day trip has finished, this time with 20 divers from American research organisation REEF. The trip was under the experienced guidance of Christy Semmens, who was celebrating doing her 1000th fish survey.
The participants were equipped with slates to identify as many fish species as possible on the various dive sites and habitats around the Solomon Islands. The participants were amazed not only by the variety of dive sites and habitats, but also by the number of different species that inhabit these areas. As soon as we entered the water the divers tried to note every fish they saw, some of them familiar species, others new to many of the participants. The late afternoons were filled with presentations by Christy about the different fish species, their habitats and their particular markings and colorations to make identification easier.
An abundance of fish species was recorded on this trip and we are looking forward to the complete results once all data has been uploaded to the REEF
website. The Solomon Islands has an amazing diversity of fish so the results are sure to be interesting.
Our trip also included several visits to the villages in Marovo Lagoon to see the magnificent wood carvings produced there by the local craftsmen, as well as a guided tour around the village of Karumolun by the community chief Raymond to show our guests how life works on a small island here in the Solomons.
We would like to thank all our guests for being so enthusiastic on every single dive and a special thank you goes out once again to all the Bilikiki crew for their hard work during the trip.
Tina & Oli
Photos thanks to Tina Gauer
Bilikiki’s latest trip was a 10 day adventure to some of the best spots in the Solomons. I was lucky enough to be joined by a great group of guests and we all enjoyed some fantastic conditions and amazing diving.
The trip started with a bit of wild weather but the sun came out for Leru Cut and dives on the rarely visited south side of Mary Island included some sharks, schooling jacks and a curious crocodile! The visibility was really good throughout the trip and Marovo Lagoon was no exception, Mbulo Caves is always a favourite and the amazing atmosphere of the swim throughs and caverns made for an unforgettable experience and some great photos. Other dives produced massive schools of fish, bumphead parrotfish, sharks, pygmy seahorses and some magic scenery.
Back in the Russells, we visited Karumolun village to see some traditional singing and dancing and be shown around the village by Chief Raymond. There were sharks, jacks, barracudas and bumphead parrotfish on the point and bats, pygmy seahorses, squat lobsters and eagle rays at Batcave. White Beach was fascinating for both its historical wreckage and the critters found there, including mantis shrimp, mandarin fish, spawning sea cucumbers, nudis and pipefish. The east Russells produced some beautiful fish and coral dives, it was great to see the reefs doing so well.
We finished the trip in the Florida Islands where we hit a bit more current and a couple of friendly mantas at Devil’s Highway. Twin Tunnels was another favourite and we had some critters too with sightings of demon stingers, cuttlefish, pipefish and shrimp fish to name a few.
It was great to meet such a fun crowd onboard and congratulations to Sarah-Jo and Lauren for passing their nitrox and advanced courses while expanding their knowledge on the effect of pressure on snake beans. A massive thanks to the whole Bilikiki team including Tina and Oli for hosting such an excellent trip.
Thanks too to underwater photographers Brett Lobwein and Matt Smith for the photos (Matty has a trip in 2018 so check out his page for details and more amazing shots from this trip).
I can’t wait to get back!!!
March 11- March 21, 2017
Bilikiki is back from her major yearly maintenance looking amazing and ready for her first trip of the 2017 season. Tina and Oli and all the Bilikiki crew have returned from their well deserved holidays and were joined by a great group of divers, many who had been on the Bilikiki before. Tricky, Janet, Deirdre, Andy & Tim from Dive Centre Manly in Australia, Sharon & Dick from the USA, and from Canada Joan, Valerie, Allen (Bilikiki Cruises former North American Sales agent) and the founders of Bilikiki Cruises Rick and Jane Belmare, plus myself. Not only did we have fantastic weather but we had sensational diving as well, with something for everyone. The sea was flat and calm and the water temperature was a lovely 30C (86F) on all dives, viz was amazing and the nightly conversations were highly entertaining. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so stay tuned for photos and video of the trip to come. A big thank you to all the Bilikiki crew and Tina & Oli for making the trip run so smoothly and picking out some cracking dive sites. To everyone who was onboard we hope to see you all again.
Bilikiki is undergoing her yearly maintenance and has been in dry dock having her hull cleaned while Tina & Oli and the crew enjoy their well earned holidays. There is still space available on the trips in March if you would like to join us.
Bilikiki is back in port after the last trip of 2016, it was an amazing 14 day adventure over Christmas and the new year with 18 divers from Switzerland, Germany, Holland, the UK, and the USA.
Our trip started with some beautiful reef dives in the Florida Islands along colourful walls and current exposed points where we saw plenty of grey reef sharks and bumphead parrot fish. We then headed out to the Russell Islands for not only some stunning dives but also to celebrate Christmas with the local villagers of Karumolun. We first visited their island and they gave us an incredible performance of singing and dancing accompanied by their superb panpipe music played with the help of flip-flops. Many guests were so moved they left in tears. In the evening we were then joined by 40 villagers on the Bilikiki who came to sing Christmas carols for us - our guests were very touched and in the end everybody joined in with this superb choir. A Christmas that many will certainly never forget!
Of course we had some very memorable dives during this trip too, it is hard to mention all the incredible encounters! From silvertip, grey reef, oceanic black tips and even a hammerhead shark to eagle rays, turtles and sea snakes there was plenty of big stuff. There was little beauties like pygmy pipefish and pygmy seahorses and also pristine coral gardens and walls covered in gigantic sea fans and soft corals - there was plenty to see and enjoy for everyone.
We could not have spent our last trip with a nicer group of people under the guidance of our "old" friend Sonia Goggel. It was a tearful good bye at the end of the trip but we are looking forward to seeing you all again very soon. We are very happy to say Sonia is back to host a trip next Christmas too.
On behalf of all the Bilikiki crew and team we hope you had as good a holiday season as we did and would like to wish you all a very happy and healthy new year. We are looking forward to diving with you in 2017!
Tina & Oli