Serenity in the Solomon Islands

Not your typical honeymoon destination, the Solomon Islands offers plenty of options for couples looking for a unique romantic retreat

Solomon Islands (image care of the Solomon Islands Visitors’ Bureau).

Solomon Islands (image care of the Solomon Islands Visitors’ Bureau).

 

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wanted time out from their hectic 2012 winter tour of the Pacific, they chose to relax and reconnect at Tavanipupu Private Island Resort in the Solomon Islands. No TV, no shops, no traffic – no distractions. Just crystal-clear waters, pink-tinged sunsets and balmy temperatures of 30 degrees.

What the royal couple got after days of high-profile public engagements was the picture-perfect, pared-back, romantic escape. Tavanipupu, a seven-bungalow, one-villa resort located in the Marau Sound of Guadalcanal, is the Solomon Islands’ only luxury resort.

Yet, in many ways, it pretty much typifies what any couple can expect from the Solomons, regardless of budget or timeframe. It’s here – in a country located approximately 3500 km north-west of New Zealand – you can completely break away from modern existence and immerse yourself in the tranquility of island life.

Archipelago of a thousand islands

The Solomons is a stunning archipelago of nearly 1000 islands covering more than 800,000 square kilometres of ocean. It is home to about 500,000 people of mostly Melanesian descent – 75 percent of whom still make a living from subsistence farming and fishing. English is widely spoken, alongside dozens of local dialects, with Pidgin the language that binds them.

The country is possibly best known for its world-class diving and as one of the battle grounds of the Second World War. These days, however, the Solomons is also attracting adventurous honeymooners wanting a Pacific paradise that’s both idyllic and off the beaten track.

These days, however, the Solomons is also attracting adventurous honeymooners wanting a Pacific paradise that’s both idyllic and off the beaten track.

Solomon Islands (image care of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau).

Solomon Islands (image care of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau).

Island hopping – your ultimate itinerary

Couples keen to explore the best of the Solomons should start with a few days at Tavanipupu Private Island Resort. Just a 25-minute flight from Honiara, the Solomon’s capital city, it’s the kind of place you can be as active or relaxed as you like.

Roll out of your king-size, four-poster bed into an outdoor hammock for a mid-morning nap. When you’re feeling more active, the island’s coral reef lagoon will provide plenty of opportunity for swimming and snorkelling – and there’s paddle boarding and kayaking, too.

Walk the island, visit a nearby village or enjoy a romantic dinner on your own private jetty (if you take the supreme bungalow where William and Kate stayed) or at honeymooner’s lookout (a private dining area on the island’s high point). You can then jump on a Solomon Airlines’ commuter plane for a few days in the Western Province, the Solomons’ most popular (though still largely untapped) tourist region.

A collection of sandy atolls and lush volcanic islands set in a warm torquoise ocean, the Western Province literally bustles with marine life. The unspoilt coral reefs of the region are a snorkeller’s haven, and easily accessed by hiring a speedboat and boatman from Gizo, the province’s main commercial hub.

Under the water, you’ll see everything from parrot fish, clown fish and electric-blue starfish, through to manta rays and grey-tipped reef sharks. And, for the most part, it will be just you in the water – with no one else for miles.

Nearly all tourism operators in the Western Province offer accommodation set very near to or over the water, making it all too easy to plop into the ocean for an afternoon swim or a day’s kayak across one of the many picturesque lagoons.

A favoured low-tide experience for visitors to the region includes snorkelling over a submerged World War II relic called ‘Betsy’. By speedboat, it takes about 45 minutes from Gizo to locate the American fighter plane resting several metres below the water’s surface. Extraordinarily, the US Navy Grumman Hellcat is still visible after being shot down in a US-Japanese scuffle more than half a century ago. On a turning tide, the plane literally rises to the surface.

Hiking, village and heritage tours, surfing and diving are also extremely popular in the Western Province. Top dive spots include Gizo, Munda and Marovo Lagoon, with Uepi Resort (in the Marovo Lagoon) considered the ultimate base for couples wanting to balance time together with time exploring the ocean’s extraordinary wildlife.

Colourful crays of the Solomon Islands (image by Jacqui Gibson).

Colourful crays of the Solomon Islands (image by Jacqui Gibson).

What’s on the menu

Food in the Solomons is typically basic but fresh and delicious. Fresh fish, seasonal fruit (coconut, mango, banana and papaya) and vegetables are staples. Crayfish is especially popular.

Where to stay

At Tavanipupu Private Island Resort you can stay in the supreme bungalow where William and Kate stayed or choose from another of the seven bungalows (the resort takes a maximum of 18 guests). Located in Guadalcanal Province, prices start from NZ$190.

Uepi Resort is a stunning eco, dive getaway in the Western Province for couples who love the water. At Uepi all the food is home-grown and locally sourced. Uepi’s many dive activities make this a place couples love to return to (Australian owners Jill and Grant Kelly say one couple has been back every year for nearly 20 years). There are special deals available to honeymooners – just contact them for more on prices.

Oravae Cottage is an open-plan wooden bungalow located 20 minutes’ boat ride from Gizo in the Western Province. Run by Patson and Naomi Baea, the cottage is ideal for newlyweds wanting total seclusion in a rustic island getaway. Oravae Cottage is low budget but perfectly positioned for great snorkelling, delicious home-cooked food, and views of the lagoon and the occasional local fisherman in a dugout canoe passing by. Prices start from NZ$140.

Getting there

To get to the Solomons, visitors must first fly to Brisbane (about a three-hour flight) and then transit to the city of Honiara (which takes another three hours). From Honiara International Airport it’s possible to take a comfortable air-conditioned coach to the domestic terminal and jump straight on the local carrier, Solomon Airlines, for the final leg of your journey.

This story was first published in Bride & Groom magazine.

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