One of the new South Pacific destinations being discovered more and more by cruise lines these days, the Solomon Islands is reigniting the passion Australian passengers have for cruising close to home. Two major new ports in the island nation have stamped their mark on the local map in recent times – one more recently than the other – but both tantalising guests with a day-long dose of sample of the tropical oasis.
From luxury lines such as Ponant – which offers extensive programs aboard their fleet of expedition vessels – to mainstream lines including P&O and Princess, the Solomons are now more accessible than ever.
An ever-growing selection of year-round cruises enable travellers to sample the culture and history-rich destination both in the sweltering heat of summer, where average temperatures can soar in excess of 31 degrees celsius or in the far more palatable cooler months where average temperatures dip to around 23.
Cruise lines are wary of the notorious wet season in late November and early December and will typically avoid scheduling too many visits during this period. Being a tropical paradise however, those cruising here should prepare for wet weather irrespective of the time of year.
Despite the occasional rain storm, the Solomons’ enchanting geographical and historical sites can transform guests to a bygone era, opening up the book on a turbulent history dating back to Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendana.
More recently under British rule and subsequent battles between Allied troops and Japanese forces in World War Two, guests searching for historical enlightenment won’t be short of opportunities to discover the island chain’s chequered past. Sites such as the Guadalcanal Provincial War Museum at Tetere Beach, with its famed track of abandoned amphibious troop carriers can easily capture your interest.
Alternatively, a visit to “Bloody Ridge” – a site at which thousands of troops on both sides of the war lost their lives – serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifice made to protect our freedoms, while also educating on the unique environment troops faced in The Solomons. Both sites are easily accessible from Honiara’s new cruise wharf, with ship-run shore tours complimented by those of local operators on extensive tours of Guadalcanal Province.
If historical sites aren’t your thing, The Solomon Islands won’t leave you disappointed. Stunning natural sites abound around the country, namely in the port of Gizo – a very new port you’ll find in the nation’s Western Provence, known for attracting world class surfers and scuba divers discovering some of the world’s most pristine waters.
Take advantage of locals only too happy to take you to discover the natural beauty of the Western Province. Local handicrafts and other local delights are readily available in the town’s high street, which on cruise ship days transforms into a massive street fair.
If your Solomons cruise itinerary only includes a visit to the capital Honiara, there is still plenty of natural beauty to enjoy.
The famed National Botanical Gardens are a delight for green thumbs, with some of the rarest examples of Pacific flora in the world. If like yours truly you’re more of a water baby than a green thumb, Honiara caters for that with many water sites for you to see including spectacular waterfalls at Tenaru, set in the dense tropical rainforest at the edge of Honiara.
To reach these, passengers travel along a muddy path (pack some old shoes you won’t mind getting ruined and thrown away) before crossing the river and entering a vine covered path to reach the spectacularly unspoiled falls. Stunning photo opportunities arise here as the unique geography provides marvellous light to help even the most amateur of photographers.
If looking for something a little less adventurous but a lot more accessible, then trekking to Mbonege Beach can yield a fun day in the sun on an almost deserted tropical beach. The beach was a battleground in World War Two and features a wrecked naval ship for divers to explore. Crystal clear water and clean sand make a great spot for a dip as well, should you be so inclined. Just be careful, locals have been known to try and swindle tourists in this area, so ensure you go with a tour guide to ensure you are treated correctly.
Our recommendation is to go to the Solomon Islands as soon as you can and make all you can from one of the most authentic experiences you can have in the South Pacific.
Have you cruised to The Solomon Islands? What did you think? Let us know below.