The Solomon Islands, a former British protectorate in the Pacific, is famous for its spectacular diving opportunities. The area is still a relatively new destination for superyachts and therefore you can explore this part of the world almost exclusively. Winston Joyce-Clarke, captain of the 45m Y.CO charter yacht Big Fish, gives his advice on how to get the most out of this undiscovered gem.
Where and when
The Solomon Islands are a series of interesting little archipelagos. There are more than 990 islands, sprawling for 10,639 sq miles, which are divided into nine provinces.
From Cairns, Australia, across to Guadalcanal is a simple cruise at 240 miles a day, so for anything faster than a 10-knot boat it is three days. We have been in July and November; November is wet but the south-east is dissipated, so it is calm.
Culture of the Solomon Islands
The people of the Solomons are made up of Oceania’s three main cultural groups, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia. The islanders have a rich cultural heritage commonly called kastoms, which vary depending on the province. They don’t have the colourful tribal tourist attractions of somewhere like Vanuatu, but they are interesting folk. They still chew beetle nuts; people with pinked gums and very few teeth having a chat with you on the back of their boats.
A Gilbertese settlement called White River Village less than three miles west of the centre is famous for its betel nut market. The main road is lined with stalls selling the sought-after commodity. The carvings they do are exquisite – some have taken 10 months. They are finer than other carvings in the region.
Diving at the Solomon Islands
There is also some extraordinary diving. Manta shrimp, ghost pipefish, and pygmy seahorses are just a few examples of what you can hope to see when you charter a luxury yacht in the Solomon Islands. The most famous area is Iron Bottom Sound, between the Floridas and Guadalcanal, with hundreds of WWII ships and aircraft on the ocean floor. We’ve taken to diving them at night.
Navigating the Solomon Islands
Tradco Shipping (tradcoshippingltd.com) is the only shipping agent and they looked after us fantastically. In Honiara, bunkering and provisioning is straightforward. On the Florida islands is Sasape International Shipyard (sasape.com), if you need to have something welded or fixed. All anchorages are pretty protected. I did a lot of paper navigation because there were variations from the British Admiralty charts. Possibly the US charts would be better as the US controlled the area after WWII.
Hot tip for a Solomon Islands luxury yacht charter
We went a couple of miles up this lovely backwater in Pavuvu – beautifully calm. My boss’s wife was on her paddleboard and one of the locals came out and said that’s not such a good idea: crocodiles. If there are no people in the water, there is a reason.