Joining us on another epic 10-day adventure: Rachel, Sean, Ken and Tim! Eat sleep dive repeat, and lets head off to the Russell islands!
We are off to a great start at our US military dump site White Beach. A spotted eagle ray cruised past everyone on their first dive welcoming all to the Solomon Islands. Off to the ‘Funnel’ where James spotted 5 more eagle rays circling the group, lots of soft corals and a beautiful rare-blue anemone with a nemo and porcelain crabs hiding inside. What a start to the trip! A little current made for a spectacular dive at ‘Karamulon’ as fish life went berserk in the thousands of numbers and grey whalers darting amongst them. Ken spotted two Banana Nudies and did an awesome swim-through with Mike to finish what was already a stunning dive. Reef sharks, Maori Wrasse, and Firedart-fish were all amongst what divers spotted on their 4th dive of the along a beautifully crafted soft coral wall. The dusk dive for the day got reduced to only two brave divers, Ken and Tim jumping in for a 5th dive at ‘ Mane Bay’.
A good nights sleep in the calm sheltered by of Mane Island, divers woke and got wet earlier than expected as a torrential downpour bucketed down on Taka. It was soon gone, as the early morning dive at ‘Mane Wall’ began. Ken and Tim spent an hour drifting in the slow moving current to the outside of Mane Bay, looking at some lovely macro with the odd Spanish Mackerel cruising past in the blue. Second site of the day was the famous ‘Mirror Pond’, a return visit for experienced diver Ken, who said it was even better than he had remembered. No crocs today though, much to the disappointment of keen videographer Tim. The famous ‘Leru Cut’ was next, divers like Rachel and Sean excited and ready to go explore the 100m long cavern. Fourth dive of the day was at picturesque Ta Island where James led divers on a lovely wall dive. Sean was impressed with the sheer size of the elephant ear corals. The day finished up at White Beach where divers jumped in to explore the old wharf by night.
An Australian warship decided it was going to park on one of our scheduled sites, and was unwilling to move. We did think of mounting a spud gun onto the bow and having a couple of shots at them to see if they would move, it looked like they had an even bigger spud gun on their bow. The first dive was at Ta Island where lots of firedart fish hung out to play. The shallows of our next site were spectacular! Covered in soft corals of every color imaginable, nemo, the friendly clownfish found its home here in the hundreds. ‘Karamulon’ village welcomed us and performed a couple of dances a lullabies. Chief Raymond was kind enough to show us around his village, and several kids, looking to score more lollies from Tim, joined us! It was soon time to say goodbye and do dive no 3 at Bat Cave, where the spectacular cave entrance had a pygmy seahorse hidden on a fan, away from sight. Rachel and Sean watched the sun slowly set and canoes at the back of Taka, while Ken and Tim did their final night dive of the day at Mane Bay.
On Day 4, ‘Custom Cave’ was absolutely incredible! The dark entry at 12 m and the halocline to the top of the cave – just stunning. Surfacing inside we were greeted by lush green vegetation. Another swim through later on, and even finding a whole new unexplored cave later on made for an unforgettable dive. Our exploratory dive held at Losiolen Island showed great potential as divers came up happy and already had names in mind for the new dive site. North Mane island was next up to explore. As divers Sean and Ken soon realized – another cracking dive! Hundreds of barracuda circled them as they floated in 40m + visibility, followed by pristine reef in the shallows. South Leru Island was next up to be discovered… and it did not fail to disappoint; Ken and Tim drifting out into the blue surrounded by barracuda, and Sean an Rachel gliding up into the shallows with chevron barracuda and a school of friendly batfish. The final dive of the day was a leisurely swim along North East Wall (the other side from where we explored yesterday, as the current was helpfully running the other way). Ken and Tim got some great macro shots in once again.
Morovo here we are! The first dive was a gentle swim among the many inlets and swim-thrus of Coral Garden and Mbulo. Even more barracuda and a green turtle were there to welcome our divers to Morovo. Next up was the spectacular Cathedral. Ken loved hanging out in the shallows and Sean & Rachel found some lovely swim-thrus. Third dive of the day was at the always-impressive Kicha; Kavachi Corner to be exact. Schools of Trevally, Barracuda and Batfish raced around the beautiful soft coral walls while Kavachi, the Unnderwater volcano boomed its loudest. Back to Mbulo bay for lunch and another cracking dive at the lagoon: Toana. Excellent variety of fish plus a turtle and shark, a huge flatworm and over 40 nudibranchs. Needless to say Ken and Tim were happy with their dive. Ken was the only cab off the rank for the night dive with James, and he had a great time enjoying the shallows of the beautiful coral garden.
The morning began with a beautiful dive at Toana. Sean especially enjoyed the diversity of life in the shallows and wished he could stay longer. Second up for the day was Male Male lagoon; a bonanza of life. There were four turtles circling our team and a friendly eagle ray came to check Rachel out. Ken enjoyed taking photos of the garden eels hanging out in the sandy patches. After Male Male we headed over to Peava Lagoon where we anchored up and went ashore to meet Rolex, Roland, Mike and the other carvers as well as instructor John’s kids, along with Gladys their teacher. Ambassador Tim handed over some small gifts and made a lovely presentation to Gladys and her students. Rachel and Sean were very popular with their bag of lollies. After lunch we headed onto our next site with was Mbili passage. Tim enjoyed that little bit current, just enough to push him along while exploring the lagoon. Final site was Toatelave, where our macro fans were treated to some soft coral crabs. Onwards we steam to Nggela, aka The Floridas.
We made it! A rather calm and quiet night and 12 hours of steaming later Taka arrived In the Florida Islands! Kicking off the day with ‘Baby Cakes’ was a great way to start our Floridas leg; everyone loved it. So much life on this amazing bommie. Sean made friends with a crocodile fish, getting some great footage. Rachel was very lucky to see a huge octopus with Ken. Second dive in the Floridas was Ed’s Wall. Tim had some great vision of Spanish mackeral cruising past in the blue, and everyone was engulfed in a fish-nado of fusiliers and rainbow runners along the pink fan encrusted walls. Off next to a drift dive ‘Devils Highway’. What a dive! Some crazy current action, made for fish soup on the ‘highway’ and then colour was abundant in the Maravagi Lagoon. Ken was snapping away at fish and other divers and Sean spotted a 2m bump head parrotfish. Next dive was at Mbeasiri Point where Tim got up close with yet another octopus. Final dive was back to Baby Cakes at dusk where Ken was once again last man standing, or rather swimming. He was full of excitement as he jumped in to explore with James.
Day 8 started out with a beautiful sunrise over the calm waters of the Florida islands. ‘Switzer’ was first up on the menu, offering awesome pristine coral gardens and colorful soft corals on sloping walls. Hot buffet B’fast later and ‘Tanavula’ was up next to be explored. Tim was happy to see a black tip cruise past and there were plenty of Red Tooth triggers for all to see. Third dive of the day was a great one at Tanabosi Rock, with grey whalers cruising past Sean and Rachel and a two metre bumphead on display. Fans of macro, like Ken, were pleased to see a variety of nudis and swallowtails. Next up was a muck dive at Ghavutu where Ken was in his element, finding all kind of shrimps and crabs. Rachel and Sean particular liked an anemone housing 6 nemos and 2 porcelain crabs, and Tim was pleased to discover some lovely shallow reef just off the wharf, along with some vintage WW2 era coke bottles! Ghavutu wharf delivered again on the night dive, with our team; Ken and Tim finding all kinds of interesting life, not least the two octopus hanging out in the shallows. What a day.
An exciting start to our last day of diving – ‘The Mavis’! The Japanese seaplane sunk down to 30m where, glassfish, ringed pipefish and red-banded shrimp now use it as their home. Off to a rather explosive next dive ‘Garbage Patch’; was up next. Three fishing boats, two cargo ships and even a sea plane wing encrusted with coral over time made for an exciting last dive and definitely something to talk about after! Next up was a grand tour of WW2 history around the old capital of the Solomon Islands: Tulagi. Japanese bunkers, freshwater stations and guests being joined by passing-by school kids. Lunch at the famous ‘Raiders Hotel’ where Rachel Sean Ken and Tim all enjoyed a plate of fresh kingfish and chips. It was time to steam back to Guadalcanal, where Sean made a awesome movie of his trip and the crew of the TAKA. Thank you Sean on behalf of all of the crew! What a great way to end a trip!