The Solomon Islands have been termed the last frontier of South Pacific tourism, an unspoiled chain of islands, from coral atolls to restive volcanoes, populated mainly by the descendents of Melanesian headhunters, with a scattering of Polynesians, Micronesians and Chinese storekeepers.
So near, yet so far. Three hours from Brisbane, Australia, but the Solomons might have well as been the far side of the moon when civil strife erupted a few years ago on Guadalcanal, the main island. Then the April 2007 tsunami struck Ghizo Island, the hub of an embryonic tourism industry which had revolved largely around diving and fishing expeditions.
Then the bad news dried up. And the air fares began to drop. But would the natives be friendly? Unlike neighbouring Vanuatu, the Solomons lacks packaged holiday resorts, so what was there to do above the water line? In May 2009, I decided there was only one way to find out.
Honiara’s airport soon set the tone: drab, dimly-lit, Third World – but, more importantly, friendly. Spreading mango trees shaded the road outside the terminal, which soon became the main drag of Honiara, a dusty town fading out to thatched huts and banana palms. A fan-cooled room awaited me at Chester Resthouse, a homely self-catering establishment overlooking a busy port (three-star hotels exist, with a four-star property nearing completion). Edgy, Honiara isn’t, and peacekeepers were more easily to be found chilling out at the beach than patrolling the streets.
Honiara has a certain rough and tumble charm, and the rugged terrain and remote ‘Weather Coast’ villages of Guadalcanal offers much to explore for those with time, transport and energy. More images of Honiara