The Solomon Islands must be the best concealed secret of the South Pacific! It has everything one could wish for in a tropical island – breathtaking views, warm and welcoming locals, shark callers and even war damaged wreckage! It also happens to be one those last remaining places on earth that are still under some kind of European political and religious control. It is the kind of place where you can come any time you like, and wish you could never leave. That is once you are able to find it on the map and reach there!
The Solomon Islands are a treat for the adventurous traveler, who can find his own paths to explore and who can have a South Pacific utopia of his own, at least for some time.
This Solomon Islands country travel guide will help you with a comprehensive introduction to the country, and give you all the information you may need to plan your trip. There is a wide variety of things to see and do here, and hopefully you will get quite a bit of an insight into the possibilities! One of the best ways to see the highlights and experience the local culture is to take a Solomon Islands tour.
The charm of the Solomon Islands comes from the fact that it so unlike a typical tourist hosting country. Unless you are part of a tour, you will see that outside the capital city of Honiara, travel and planning is left to you, and there is hardly any structured arrangement for tourists. You will see very few visitors about, and those who come can be found mainly in the hotels of Honiara or busy scuba diving in the islands of Uepi, Gizo or Munda.
Useful information on this page includes:
Malaria is a very real danger in the islands, and visitors are advised to take anti-malarial drugs during their visit, and even before and after. It would be a good idea to take vaccinations against Hepatitis B and tuberculosis too. If you are coming from an area infected with yellow fever, the authorities expect you to carry a vaccination certificate against the disease with you.
Saltwater Crocodiles – A Potential Hazard
Though much lesser in number than in New Guinea or Northern Australia, the crocodiles of are still considered pretty abundant in Solomon Islands, as compared to other islands in the South Pacific. These crocodiles are found in their highest density especially in those islands of Solomon that are closer to New Guinea. Hence it is a good idea to be extremely careful while you are around or in any water body. Do remain aware of the healthy crocodile population, it would certainly help in protecting yourself against any unpleasant incident.
Food and Drink: Be very careful about what you eat or drink on the islands. Don’t trust the water; do remember to boil it before drinking of making ice, or even before using it for brushing teeth.
The milk available in market is not pasteurised and needs to be boiled before use. If that seems like too much of a task, you could buy tinned or powdered mild instead. If you suspect a dairy product could have been made from unboiled milk, don’t consume it. Make sure you eat fish or meat that has been well cooked. Do peel your fruits and cook your vegetables. This is not the place to try raw salads.
Health Care: There are many hospitals on Solomon Islands, but to avail of any facilities it is essential you have health insurance. The largest of the hospitals is the Central Hospital and it is located in Honiara. Several Church missions offer medical help on the islands lying on the outer edges. Having said this, one must admit that the medical services are not adequate enough, and frequent medicine shortages do happen. There are no facilities for decompression.
Telephone: The country code for the Solomon Islands is 677. For numbers within the country there are no specific area codes. The connectivity is pretty bad and there are frequent problems in the line.
Mobile Telephone: You can easily rent mobile phones for your communication. Cash payments made with US, Australian and New Zealand currency are happily accepted.
Internet: The cities of Honiara, Gizo, and Auki offer public email services. There are now also increasing numbers of centres in rural locations across the country with email services.
Post: It takes roughly 7-14 days for airmail to reach USA, Europe or even Australia. In Honiara the post office works from Monday to Friday between 9 am and 4:30 pm. On Saturdays it remains open from 9 to 11 in the morning.
In other parts of the country, the post office hours are between 8 am and 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday, and between 8 am and 12 pm on Saturday.
Media: Solomon Islands have a high rate of illiteracy. This has led to the radio becoming a very powerful medium of communication, even more than the press.
Media and Efforts to free it
In recent times, working conditions have improved for local journalists. The Australian government has sponsored programs to promote peace and stability, and even donated technical gear to help the SIBC (Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation). Technical help has also come from places like Taiwan.
Press: Solomon’s Voice and Solomon Star are the main English dailies.
TV: Solomon Islands has finally started TV broadcasting on its own station OneNews Limited, and also receives satellite transmissions from Australia’s ABC Asia Pacific, BBC World, etc.
Radio: The public broadcaster SIBC or Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation runs Wantok FM and Radio Happy Isles that are transmitted nation wide. It also operates provincial stations like Radio Temotu and Radio Happy Lagoon. Paoa FM is a popular private commercial station.
Most visitors to the Solomon Islands would not find it expensive in spite of the high inflation.
The currency used is the Solomon Island dollar. It is available in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Silver coins are circulated with values of 10c, 20c, 50c, and $1 and $2 coins are gold coloured.
The main banks of the Solomon Islands are ANZ, Bank of South Pacific ( BSP) , Pan Oceanic Bank (POB) and Bred Bank. They are open from Monday to Friday between 9 am and 4 pm on the main islands and have the best exchange rates on offer. ANZ is reinstalling an ATM at the arrivals hall exit of the International Airport due for service about May 2018.
If you plan to travel from Honiara to the smaller outer islands, ATM’s are available in Munda and Gizo, otherwise best carry cash as you may not be able to find a suitable bank or hotel that exchanges overseas currency or travellers Chqs in the smaller towns.
Click here to view the latest exchange rate from OANDA.com.
Do visit http://www.embassy-worldwide.com/ for a complete list of Solomon Island embassies all over the world. You will also find the list of foreign embassies within the islands on the site.
Total area: 28,450 sq km
Population: 515,870 (official Statistics Office Census 2009)
Time zone: UTC +11
Locations: South-western Pacific.
Calling Code: +677
Over 120 local Melanesian languages are spoken on the islands. Most citizens speak the Melanesian pidgin as their common language. Though the official language in the Solomon Islands is English, not more than 2 % of the population speaks it.
About 96% of the island population follows Christianity. A rough break-up is as follows:
Indigenous beliefs: 4%
Other Protestants: 5%
Seventh Day Adventist: 7%
United (Methodist/Presbyterian): 12%
Roman Catholic: 18%
Atheism is not understood in these parts, so do take care to show respect for the local religious beliefs.
The Solomon Islands are located 1,860 km to the northeast of Australia and boast of a 5,313 km length of coastline. With a total area of 27,556 square km, these islands comprise the second largest insular country of South Pacific, second only to Papua New Guinea. This hilly, densely forested country is made of 6 large islands (arranged in a double chain, they are Choiseul, Guadalcanal, Isabel, Malaita, Makira and New Georgia), 20 medium sized ones, and many small reefs and islets. Totally it boasts of 922 islands, with only 347 of them inhabited by humans. The capital is Honiara, which is located on Guadalcanal Island. This island also boasts of the country’s highest mountain, Mount Makarakombu, peaking at 2,447m (8,028ft).
The islands extend west to east from Shortlands to Anuta and Tikopia, covering a distance of 1,800 km. From north to south they span 900 km, extending from Ontong Java to Rennell Island. The sizes of the individual islands range from 145 to 193 km in length of the larger ones to mere coral projections on the water surface of the smallest ones.
Some Claims to Fame
Ontong Java is the South Pacific’s largest atoll.
Rennell is one of the largest uplifted atolls in the world.
Most of the islands are covered by luxuriant tropical rainforests filled with unusual orchids, vibrant bougainvilleas and a variety of over-sized frangipanis. Palms and ferns grow all around, and colourful butterflies and more than 70 species of reptiles make their home here. The local population has been involved in planting a variety of shrubs and trees, along with agricultural vegetables and fruits.
The topology is quite rocky, and you can see gentle hills rising to a peak on one side, only to watch them steeply drop to the sea on the other! Numerous dormant volcanoes are seen strewn throughout the terrain.
To view a map of Solomon Islands, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com.
The British took over the Solomon Islands in the 1890s. The islands have witnessed several battles in WWII, the one at Guadalcanal being an especially important one.
After gaining independence from the British in 1978, Solomon Islands had to deal with its internal problems of inter-racial conflicts and government corruption. The country has frequently witnessed a virtual state of civil war, thanks to friction between the Malaitan ethnic groups and Guadalcanalese islanders. Though there have been repeated trials to re-establish stability, they have not been very successful, and the country was in a state of near chaos in recent times.
Check out our Solomon Islands weather page for current conditions and temperatures in Solomon Islands, along with details about the best time to visit the Solomon Islands and a detailed six-day Solomon Islands weather forecast.
Some islanders still follow the time honoured way of life, living in clusters of small villages all around the island. Though Christianity was absorbed from the missionaries who started coming in greater numbers in late 1800s, it was often mixed with their already held traditional belief systems.
According to Solomon Islanders’ traditional beliefs, it was Koevasi who had created the first humans. She had 5 sons, and from these 5 sons came the 5 clans in Solomon. Each clan worships various snake spirits, shark spirits and also spirits of the dead. These spirits are said to have ‘nanama’, which is a supernatural power they can use to rule over the people living. Each spirit grants boons of a different nature, for which the tribes pray to them. For instance, for issues related to fishing, they pray to the shark spirits. There are priests who lead the clan members in sacrifices and rituals, though there are clan members who are capable of casting spells too.
People who follow the traditional religious system conduct feasts for occasions like births, funerals, weddings and even completion of new houses. The afterlife is given special importance and dead ancestors are prayed to because they believe that these ancestors can use their supernatural powers or nanama to help their living descendents.
You can witness a comfortable co-existence of local and European customs on these islands. A touch of casual restfulness seems to pervade each and every activity here! Here are a few tips to help you thrive.
– Swearing is considered a crime in this country and could lead to compensation claims, and sometimes even jail!
– Always accept any gifts offered to you, even if you feel it is too big and pricey. It is ok to return the favour by offering a gift back to your friend.
– If you ask a question, and get raised eyebrows in return, understand the reply was a ‘yes’.
– Don’t tip anyone for anything, anywhere!
– There is never any occasion that warrants men to wear ties, so those can be safely stowed at home.
– Dressing informally is the norm, though women can and do wear long dresses for evening gatherings.
– Women need to remember that the casualness of the islands sadly does not extend to their dressing.
– Dress modestly and remember that there may be certain places where women are not encouraged to visit.
– Try to avoid wearing shorts and beachwear around the smaller villages and towns, even when the sweltering heat is tempting you to do so. It is the norm to keep thighs covered, and even when swimming, do opt for attire like t-shirt and shorts rather than swimming costumes or bikinis.
The forests of Solomon Islands are rich in the variety and numbers of plants, birds, animals living in them. Every year rare birds, amphibians, butterflies, aquarium fish and reptiles numbering in thousands are exported from here to countries in Asia, Europe and North America.
While the coastal edges of the islands are lined with coconut and thick mangroves, the interiors of the rugged islands are overgrown with thick rainforests. The forest progresses with 24 different changes in the nature of outgrowth on it. It starts with soaring, hardwood trees in the lowlands, and climbs up to high mountain peaks in the range of 2,300 metres with green moss sticking to the mountain surface. Grasslands have taken over those areas of the forests that have been ruined because of logging or slash-and-burn agriculture.
With all the variety of plants and trees, these rainforests offer a wealth of medicinal plants and beautiful, exotic flowers. So far, 4,500 different varieties of plants have been discovered; of these 143 are used in the preparation of traditional herbal medicine. Vast numbers of tropical flowers and more than 230 types of orchids are seen blooming luxuriously in the forest.
Most of the land mammals like rats, mice and bats are nocturnal creatures and you will hardly encounter them in your treks. If you are lucky you might spot the grey cuscus, which is the only marsupial in the islands. But the abundant and vibrant bird life offers itself more generously, and about 223 species of birds can be seen here. These even include 16 species of fantails, thrushes, honeyeaters, rails and white-eyes that exist nowhere except here.
Megapode or Incubator
One of the most remarkable birds found here is the megapode or incubator. This bird lays its eggs in the volcanic sands of warm areas and these hatch after about 40 days. The new-borns scoop themselves out of the sand and start flying short distances as soon as their wings dry.
Apart from birds, the forests of Solomon Islands are a haven for several species of multi-coloured parrots and about 130 types of butterflies, including many varieties of birdwings.
Around 70 different species of reptiles inhabit the Solomon jungles. These include toads, lizards, frogs, skinks, marine turtles, snakes and even crocodiles. Quite a few of the 20 species of snakes of the islands are poisonous, but they are not commonly encountered and, for this reason, don’t really count as a potential danger when roaming about. Scorpions and centipedes are present too, and can be quite lethal, but thankfully these are not very commonly seen either. If you visit the islands between November and February you will find the five species of sea turtles nesting in this period.
The Santa Cruz group of islands are more isolated and have much less variety of species than the chain of main islands.