The Solomon Islands: a rugged, jungle-clad island chain in the South Pacific. Remembered for fierce land and sea battles during WW2, but largely overlooked in the decades since. This tropical archipelago is home to a splendid diversity of island peoples, many still leading a traditional village life. The islands are also home to a rich diversity of wildlife, while the seas support kaleidoscopic coral reefs and an astonishing array of cetaceans.
Join us on an exploratory wildlife cruise through the Solomon Islands. Starting from the capital, Honiara, we sail amongst the islands, in search of whales and dolphins. All the expected tropical species are present including spinner dolphin, pantropical spotted dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphin, rough-toothed dolphin, shortfin pilot whale, pygmy killer whale, dwarf sperm whale and sperm whale. There are also reports of unidentified beaked whales. But a particular target will be Omura’s Whale, a tropical baleen whale which was unknown to science before 2004, when it was first described from the Solomons.
For birders, these waters are also home to some of the least known of all seabirds, including Heinroth’s Shearwater, Collared Petrel and many more. And the islands themselves host a wealth of regional specialties and island endemics. These include Solomon Islands Sea Eagle, Pied Goshawk, Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-dove, Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon, Yellow-bibbed Lory, Yellow-eyed Cuckoo-shrike and Steel-blue Flycatcher, amongst a wealth of others.
As with our other liveaboard trips, in the Solomons we will anchor each night in a sheltered location, allowing plenty of time to visit the islands and local villages. There will also be time for snorkeling (and perhaps diving too for those qualified) on the stupendous coral reefs. Most villages have traditional rights over adjacent reefs and forests, and in more remote locations we will have to pay our respects to the village elders before venturing ashore.
These trips are based on the sturdy, spacious and comfortable liveaboard MV Bilikiki. She has an experienced captain and full-time chef. The twin/double cabins are all ensuite and air-conditioned.
31 Oct to 10 Nov 2017
Day 1. Board our expedition vessel in Honiara and cruise out into the adjacent Iron Bottom Sound, where, with just a little luck, we can expect our first cetacean encounters. We should anchor in good time for an introductory snorkel before sunset, and this evening there will be an orientation talk.
Days 2-9. We explore the waters and islands of the Western and Central Provinces, although our itinerary will be very flexible to take full advantage of local conditions and wildlife sightings. Most days will start with a choice of a visit ashore (to a local village and/or for birding) or a snorkel on a nearby coral reef. Back on board for breakfast, and then we will be off, spending much of each day out at sea in search of cetaceans, seabirds and other oceanic life. We will anchor mid- to late-afternoon, in time for another island visit or snorkel. Most evenings there will be an illustrated talk.
Day 10. A final full day of sea watching as we make our way back towards our anchorage at Honiara for our last night on board.
Day 11. After breakfast we disembark and transfer to accommodation ashore or to the International Airport for flights home. (There are several flight options, but the easiest are via Brisbane).
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