Apr 06

Let the Diving Begin: 1st full day in The Solomon Islands

Family & F.I.T.  |  Debbie Hatch




The Russell Islands are comprised of two small islands, and several islets, in the Central Province of Solomon Islands. They are located just over 29 miles northwest of Guadalcanal.  This was our first stop.





Travel Log:  Day  5  Russell Islands


IMG_7405The anchor dropped at 0109.  Man it was loud!  I had a tough time getting back to sleep and we finally just gave up at 0340 and got out of bed.  Upstairs I made coffee, journaled, and looked at dive books.  Brent studied the SI map which read, “there are 4,000 species of fish and 400 variety of coral here.  It is the amazon of the ocean not yet discovered by mainstream tourism.”

The first dive brief was scheduled for 0745.  Everyone on deck was dressed in 3-5 mm wetsuits, some with hoods and gloves.  They carried tons of stuff with them.  One of the divers even had the equivalent of a purse hooked to the front of her BC.  What to heck?  Brent and I showed up in our bathing suits.  We had nothing extra except the camera.  “Are you guys diving?”  Yes.  “Are you getting dressed?”  We are dressed.  “You’re going like that?”  Yes.  Why?


What are you talking about? I’ll be fine without a wetsuit. Let me on the boat.


The water was 86 degrees at depth!!  Over the course of the week I had a couple of stings and scraps but I dove in a bikini (and nothing more) every single day.  It was perfect.  Comically we both recovered gear from the divers who carried so much.  I rescued one guys Go Pro when he jumped in and dropped it.  Brent found one of the divers’ knives at depth.  Simple.  Easy.  Utilitarian.  That’s us 🙂






Dive #1:  Kovilok Bay.  88 feet for 58 minutes.  It was nice to be in the water but the dive itself was nothing to brag about.  This was a check dive where the dive masters could make sure everyone was comfortable under the water, and informally assess everyone’s level.



Dive #2:  Leru Cut.  92 feet for 52 minutes.  This was beautiful.  After the cut, there was a nice wall.  It’s positively amazing just how sharply the coral falls in the deep blue!  Rick says it’s thousands of feet deep here.  Lots of sea fans with a light current.  Some Christmas tree and soft corals but the highlite was large schools of barracuda and jack.

If you’d like the full effect, here’s a link to the above video.


Dive #3:  Custom Cave.  66 feet for 69 minutes.  Brent had a headache and sat this one out so I dove by myself after following Rick through the cave.  The sun streaking down from above, casting shadows in the water, was beautiful.  Great coral growth with TONS of fish!  I loved the schools of silver sides – who are there one minute and then turn and seem to disappear, the next.  As I began to swim up for my safety stop, I saw 3 very large bump head wrasse.

Dive #4:  Mirror Pond.  69 feet for 32 minutes.  We swam under the island and came up inside a cave pond.  Brent and I were the last to surface and were, consequently, the furthest back.  I spotted a salt water crocodile on top of the rocks.  (We didn’t personally get video or pictures but this link will show you a nice video of what they look like).  He was 6-8 feet long and only the two of us saw it.  We were told that if we saw one in the water to stay submerged.  They can’t see as well underwater as they can topside.  I was also cautioned not to come up outside of certain areas (where our tenders would drive the crocodiles off) during night dives.

Later, Sam told me the crocs don’t grow very large because, “they have occasionally bitten a local spearfisherman, and/or children.  The locals kill them.”  Makes sense!

After the pond, we swam through some positively phenomenal coral gardens and along another steep wall.  Schools of jacks and the other fish.  Barracuda, parrot fish, pancake triggers, and carpet anemones.  Everything was perfect until we got to a corner of the wall.  The current REALLY picked up – without warning.  It was so strong that I had grabbed onto a piece of coral and was still being ripped away.  Brent decided we should surface.  While we were the first back to the boat, shortly other divers started to come up.  Not only had they been caught in the current (the strongest that Sam, the Bilikiki owner, has seen here) but several were also caught in a downdraft.  That means you’re being sucked down – one lady went from 10 to 29 feet in the time it took her to take one breathe.  Not fun.



After the last two dives, locals paddled out in hand-hewn canoes to sell us fresh fruit (pineapples, mango, watermelon) and vegetables (endive, green beans, greens and egg plant).  Once at our boat, the men dropped the women off in our dive boats so that they could complete the trading.


IMG_7456  In the meantime, the men and many of the children paddled back a little ways.  THAT was amazing to see and it led to some great conversations as well.  June (a 68 year old woman who was here with her husband – she snorkeled but doesn’t dive) and I talked about how little we really need to live and enjoy life.  We talked about the locals and the fact that with their boats, families, very little money, and some food, they are happy.  I won’t say it was life changing but it was most certainly life enhancing.  The irony is how much money we (how much people DO) paid to get back to basics.


Everyone opted out of the night dive.

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