Best of Solomons - October 15 to 25, 2016

A warm welcome to our new guests from the US ... Go Packers! Lets head to the Russell’s and have some fun!

A calm overnight steam in full supermoon got Taka to the Russell islands. White Beach our first site, reminded divers of the need for buoyancy as bombs, ammunition and war remnants like trucks and forklifts littered the floor. Archerfish and Pajama Cardinalfish hid amongst the mangroves making awesome half and half shots. Ta Island - what a relaxing dive! A mild current pleasantly pushed divers along the wall covered in elephant ear and gorgonian fans. Kira and Lyn found two banana Nudibranchs hiding around the coral. Divers got a real treat as we live dropped at Karamulon Point. 100 Barracuda and a good 200 Trevally swarmed around the currentless dive and even a lone Eagle Ray showed itself around the pristine walls. Karamulon Reef was up next and was rich with hundreds of Damsel, Angel, and Batfish zooming in and out of staghorn coral. Jean especially got a close encounter with two of the friendly batfish. Mark and Kira saw a fantastic octopus on the dusk dive at Mane, and even had a canoe paddle directly overhead while diving.

Another smooth crossing and Captain Dan navigated Taka through the night to the spectacular Mary Island. Blue chromis, angelfish and butterfly fish piled in hundreds around the blue green staghorn coral at the first dive. Teal and Jackie spotted a friendly eagle ray, gently swooping along. Next up: Trevally Point – where the trevally were all hiding. Not to worry, a beautiful green turtle stole the show anyway, Kira loved him. Colin and Jean loved cruising along the beautiful corals of mysterious Mary Island. For our third act we were off to Barracuda Point, and this one lived up to its name, with around 87 big eye and chevron barracuda. Mark fell in love with a baby grey whaler – so cute, and Colin got some great shots of the schooling big eye trevally. We were also lucky enough to see dogtooth tuna, white tip reef sharks and Spanish mackerel hunting. Kathy was snapping away amongst a school of around 60 midnight snapper. What a dive! Finally, Mary’s Bommies was the order of the day. Kathy especially loved the nudis and blue dragons, and was delighted to show them to husband John. So, with that it’s adios Mary and on to Marovo.

Gentle steam to the northwest with the occasional rain shower and we safely arrived at Marovo Lagoon! Kavachi Corner was up first and wow – what a dive that was! Bumphead parrotfish schools, big eye trevally schools, and hundreds of surgeonfish danced around divers as they drifted along the sea fan littered walls. It was quite exhausting toward the end as all divers were hooked into the strong current, so strong that it managed to snap Mark’s reef hook. Second dive of the day, Picnic, was a bit tamer with an endless supply of colorful stag horn corals in the shallows – including a rock mover wrasse – found by Jackie. Next up was Coral Garden at Mbulo. Teal was super excited to find a small hawksbill turtle while Kira checked out some of the small caves and crevices. Kathy was so overwhelmed by the colours and varieties of coral that she even forgot to take pictures!! Tohanna a recently discovered dive site was up for Dive 4 for this curious bunch. 73 nudis later and they came up all smiles. The only problem; the water in the lagoon was too warm! Dive 5 and there were three divers left; Mark, Kathy and Kira. Mike took them on a tour of Mbulo Coral Gardens as the sun was setting, where Mark was in awe of a free-swimming crinoid. Kathy and Kira marveled at the beautiful coral. And then it was back on board in a celebration dinner for Lyn’s birthday (thanks Gary for the heads up!)

First up today was Male Male Lagoon. Kira loved taking photos on the overhanging log and our gang was lucky enough to see 21 bumphead parrotfish cruising along for half the dive. Mark was a huge fan. Second dive of the day was at Ukala Via where our guests were overwhelmed by the amount of fish life at the point. Even Dory was there to please Teal along with Nemo who she had met earlier. Fifteen white tips were enough to keep Jean snapping away for ages. Next up was a visit to Peava Village, where our team donated vast amounts of school materials and other goodies as part of the Pack for a Purpose program. They soon filled those empty spaces in the suitcases with armfuls of carvings from the Peava masters. Wow that handiwork! In the afternoon, we headed up to Mbili passage to Green Trees, where Colin got some up close and personal shots of a cute little Messmate Pipefish and Kathy saw a shy octopus in a rock crevice. The final outing was a night dive at Green Tree, where Mark found an amazing giant nudi and the team were in love with the giant basket stars on display.

Starting the day off at Toatalave our divers were greeted by a beautiful eagle ray gliding up the sheer cliffs of the tiny island. Kathy even saw another two on her safety stop. Second dive of the day was back to Mbulo Island for the spectacular Cathedral dive. Before we even jumped in we were treated to dolphins on the bow for the steam over and then a sailfish hunting nearby our mooring, which got Gary really excited. Mike led our divers twisting and turning through the amazing Cathedral caverns and rock formations. Kira, the cave diver, was especially taken with such a wonderful landscape. Puzzles was absolutely spectacular! Hard corals of every colour, and thousands of Damsels and Anthias zooming around and in-between the 30-degree water. Divers went back to Cathedrals for their final dive of the day…where Mark and Jackie discovered a new huge cavern, even bigger than the cathedral. And that’s a wrap Morovo …Russell Islands here we come!!

Early this morning Colin, Kira and Lyn set out to explore Blue Wall in the picturesque morning light. Then they went over to check out a giant clam snorkel reef which the locals in canoes had explained to Jackson earlier. Second dive of the day was the famous Mirror Pond without any crocodiles today. Teal hung out with Barry the barracuda while husband Mark and team leader Colin got some shots inside the pond. Kathy and John enjoyed the shallows along the wall, what a rainbow of colour. Third dive was at Leru Cut where a white tip reef shark led the group into the huge cavern. Teal was happy to see many nemos along the wall and Lyn saw a jawfish in action cleaning out his home. An exploratory dive in the afternoon – and all sorts of critters were spotted along the coral encrusted reef. A soft coral crab had Lyn And Kathy especially excited while a psychedelic sea cucumber had Jeans attention. With warm water, no current or surface swell – what a beautiful relaxing dive. Back at Mane Bay – this time for a night dive!

Our early risers were off to NE Wall this morning. Kathy was snapping away again at those nudis. After breakfast we headed off to Bat Cave. Colin murmured a big mmmmm through his regulator at the sight of the light coming down through the cavern, and Teal our turtle spotter found us another lovely specimen gliding on past. Next up was a stop at the local village: Karamulon where our team were treated to some great entertainment in the form of custom song and dance by the locals and then a tour from Chief Raymond. Gary made friends with local dancer Sandra, so much so that Lyn thought he had been adopted! Our next dive of the day was at amazing Samseon, wow! Mark counted 16 sharks, Kira 14, not to mention all the close-ups of the beautiful wall snapped by keen camera hounds Jean and Colin. Don’t forget the schooling barracuda and trevally, coral bream, mackerel and scad! Oh, and to top it off Teal was in action again finding us another turtle. All that action tired our explorers out so they settled in for a relaxing video, all except Kira that is, who went out for a night dive at Ta with Mike. They spotted all kinds of crabs and critters. A well-deserved bowl of ice cream and fruit salad tonight!!

Six of our brave explorers got up early to try their hand at Rainbow Reef and they were not disappointed. Colin & Jean loved the blue anemone, Kira found herself some sharks, Kathy & John spotted a crocodile fish and Mark found himself a pet crab on the safety stop line, as huge schools of unicorn and milk fish cruised past. Second dive of the day was at Funnel. Colin almost got kissed by an eagle ray it was so close and once again Teal found another turtle. We came up onto the beach, near the blue anemone and porcelain crabs, to a refreshing fruit platter and coconut. After lunch, we headed to Lever Point where there were several sharks circling our divers. Then we finished up at an old favourite: Kau Kau where our teram was surrounded by trevally and milkfish. Floridas here we come!!

A pleasant steam overnight and; “Hello and welcome to the Florida Islands!” Kicking off the day with Baby Cakes, divers were greeted by hundreds of Anthias, Damsels, and Angelfish around the bommie covered in beautiful fans and coral. Our next adventure was at Olevugha Village – where we were greeted by a show of traditional dancing, and traditional bamboo drum players and a nice tour of the school and church. Tanavula Point had everyone excited afterwards as divers were swarmed with fish life. Schools of Batfish, 5 Maori Wrasse and seemingly endless swarms of Rainbow Runners and even a canoe paddling over the whole thing! Steaming to our next site – and unexpectedly out of the blue – a Minkie Whale! Wow! The whale stayed with Taka for a couple of minutes taking breaths and getting its photo taken, then disappearing underneath the turquoise waters. Patrick’s Bay was up next with high hopes of Devil Rays – none showed up, yet a huge Tuna swooped between the divers along with a school of Milkfish and a cool octopus entertained Jean and Colin. Time for a little history lesson as next site: Ghavutu. Our divers loved the sight of rust and found all kinds of critters in amongst the wharf pylons; from boxer shrimp to porcelain crabs and from nudis to cowries.

The final day of diving for our Wisconsin explorers. We started off at Japanese Sea Plane, the Mavis, with great visibility and perfectly calm waters. Jean and Colin came up with the biggest grins after Mike took them on an underwater exploration filled with history and critters. Final dive of the trip and we were off to the Garbage Patch for one final dose of rust and salt water. Kira loved poking around amongst the wreckage to she what she could find. Kathy and John had a good look at the Minneapolis bow and then it was time for everyone to hang up their wetsuits for the trip. Not to miss out on an adventure our gang headed into Tulagi where they were given a tour of the sights and a history lesson by chef-turned-tourguide and Florida Islands expert; George. Following that they sat down to a hard earned lunch of Kingfish was down with a coke or a beer at Eve and Bob’s place; Raiders Hotel. Onwards we steamed bound for Honiara, another successful trip completed. Thankyou Underwater Connection Wisconsin!!