Our Solomon Islands Adventure (Part 1)

Our Solomon Islands Adventure (Part 1)

Monday 21st August 2017, 2 pm we arrived at Honiara Airport on a Solomon Airlines flight from Brisbane, Australia.

Solomon Islands
Map courtesy of Google Maps

The Solomon Islands consists of over 900 islands and more than 300 are inhabited. Honiara is the nation’s capital, situated on the island of Guadalcanal in the Capital Territory.

Honiara Guadalcanal Malaita
Our two main destinations circled, Honiara Capital Territory and Savo Island – Map courtesy of Google Maps

The Solomon Islands people, most of whom profess to be Christian (from various denominations), are mainly of Melanesian descent (94%). The remainder are Polynesian or Micronesian.

While Melanesian people have lived on these islands for approximately 40,000 years, the first known European to visit was Spaniard navigator Alvaro de Mendana, who arrived there in 1568.

The Solomon Islands was declared a British protectorate in the 1890s to stop Solomon Islanders from being kidnapped (Blackbirding) for labour in the sugar plantations of Queensland, Australia. Britain relinquished control of “The Solomons” in 1976, which led to independence in 1978.


Our main reason to visit the Solomon Islands was to spend time with one of Maggie’s daughters, Kristy.

Maggie, Kristy and me (Photo by Michelle)

Maggie and I are wearing garlands made by Michelle, the daughter of one of Kristy’s best friends in the Solomon Islands.

Michelle with coconut bought from this roadside, impromptu market, on route to our hotel
Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel

We stayed here while in Honiara.

Mendana Hotel Reception area


Maggie’s daughter Kristy works for United Nations Womens in Solomon Islands. One of her big projects in the past two years has been to improve conditions for the sellers (mainly women) within Honiara’s Central Market. The lack of clean water and sanitation was a big issue to overcome, given these sellers need to spend several long, hot days at the market to sell their goods, each time they attend. So it was with great pride that Maggie and I took photos of the toilet block that Kristy negotiated for (with the Honiara council) and project managed.

New Honiara Central Market toilet block (United Nations funded)

Conditions for sellers are still not perfect, but continual improvements are being sort. The following slide show will hopefully give you some idea of the conditions in the market, but it won’t show the high humidity, heat and dusty air.

It addition to the Central Market we saw roadside markets everywhere we went on Guadalcanal.

The “sausages on a stick” were enjoyable


As the national capital, Honiara houses the nation’s Parliament. Kristy asked one of her friends to show us through the Parliament building.

National Parliament House, main entrance

The Parliament’s entry road (coming down from the right in above photo) into the compound has not been completed, the landscaping is unfinished and two other proposed buildings not yet constructed (all due to shortage of funds).

Our guide Wilson kindly taking the seat he occupies when Parliament is in session

Wilson is Secretary to the Solomon Islands Parliament, advising on matters of procedure and law.

“The Floor” of the parliament, The Speakers red-backed chair in the centre


Another friend of Kristy’s, Ender, took us on a tour of the WWII Eastern Battle Fields and monuments.

One of the many plaques at the American WWII memorial

Fortunately for the Solomon Islands and the whole Oceania region, American Marines captured the almost completed Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal in 1942. The Americans  then finished the construction for use by allied aircraft. It became known as Henderson Field. Now the Honiara International Airport occupies this site.

This plaque is just inside the entry to the Honiara Airport Terminal

Near the terminal is a memorial garden.


A Solomon Islands Defence Force was set up by the British Administration in 1940, consisting of 800 local men, many of whom had been former Police Officers. They became Scouts for the American, New Zealand and Fijian troops. Two of these scouts found Captain Kennedy (later to be US President) and other crew members of PT109, after the collision with a Japanese destroyer.

A Japanese anti-aircraft gun

Behind the gun and the islander hut is the Honiara Airport terminal building.

Peace Bell in gardens outside Honiara Airport Terminal
“Amtrak” – American WWII armoured troop carriers at Tetere Beach (left by US Marines, approx. 21 kms east of Honiara)
Our tour guides Ender & Atkin at the WWII “Bloody Ridge” Monument

Three decisive battles were fought and won in this area by US Marines, stopping Japanese attempts to retake the nearby Henderson Field.

View from Bloody Ridge near the monument (remains of US Marine “foxhole” at bottom right)

The US Marines dug in on this side, while the Japanese solders attacked from the hills to the south (shown in above photo). Such is the reverence for this area that US Secretary of State, John Kerry visited Bloody Ridge in 2016 and stood almost where I was standing when I took the above photo.

Amongst the trees, on the far ridge is a monument to Japanese soldiers who died here.

As a born and bred Australian, I wondered why Australian troops had not fought in “The Solomons”. Of course most were fighting in Europe and by this time also in PNG and stopped the Japanese advance there.

American War Memorial, Skyline Road, Honiara

The story of the WWII Guadalcanal campaign is told on the front and rear of the 28 or so monuments at this site.

If you wish to book a tour on Guadalcanal we can recommend Ender and Atkin of Imperial Travel Service. Contact details – email: ajrence@gmail.com or phone: +677 747 5715; or website: http://www.imperial-travel-service.com


After WWII, achieving self governance and independence seemed to set the Solomon Islands on its way to building a cohesive nation. However in the late 1990s “ethnic tensions” derailed the government and most of the economic and cultural development that had taken place. These “tensions” at times led to violence and made life hell for many, especially those in Honiara and nearby areas. Fortunately government officials reached out to their counterparts in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji for military and law enforcement assistance. In 2003 RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) was formed and quelled the uprising. June 2017 marked the close of this initiative.

“Helpem Fren” Monument to RAMSI , 24 July 2003 –  30 June 2017


While Kristy was busy working, Maggie and I explored Honiara on foot.

The National Museum is almost directly across the road from the Mendana Hotel.

Entrance to Museum compound (right) and main exhibition building (left)
Hollowed Logs and Canoes
Carved Totems outside an “Admin” building

There are several small “demountable” buildings used to display the collection. The main building exhibits photos and artifacts from Solomon Islands, while another depicts SI’s history of habitation, starting from around 40,000 years ago. There is a separate building dedicated to the story of the “ethnic tensions” and RAMSI. Photographing exhibits is prohibited inside all buildings.

Meeting Rooms, within the Museum compound

A one minute walk west from Mendana Hotel is the Art Gallery. This is a sales gallery for local artists, not a place where the nation’s art treasures are exhibited.

Art Gallery Entrance marked by thatched roof, fixed to four carved wooden poles

Note the high fencing in the above photos. Nearly all buildings in Honiara have high protective steel fences, hence my use of the word compound in some places to describe the fenced areas.

Next to the art gallery is the entrance to the Breakwater Cafe, our favourite breakfast spot.

The condition of this part of Mendana Avenue is very good compared to the rest of it.

The Official Art Gallery building (white/grey structure)
Other art and craft stalls within the Art Gallery compound

The following are random photos taken during our walks around Honiara

A light industrial area one block from the main road – Parliament House in the background
Downtown Honiara
Bottle Shops near Rove, a western suburb of Honiara

There were bottle shops everywhere we went on Guadalcanal, most advertising the local beer, Solbrew Lager.

A special edition, given to Solomon Airlines passengers
Shopping Centre at Rove, approx 30 minute walk west of Mendana Hotel

As we moved further from the centre of Honiara the amount of rubbish on the side of the road increased and the condition of the road deteriorated. Initiatives have been put in place to clean up public areas and in some places the benefits of this can be seen.

The speed limit is 60 kilometers per hour throughout Honiara, but the potholes make this speed dangerous.


Photos from the beach front, outside our hotel room, shortly after dawn.

Looking north
Looking northwest

Near Kristy’s apartment

Picaninni near Kristy’s appartment

Solomon Islanders call their children Picaninni, so this is not a racial slur, as some websites suggest.


Kristy took us on a day trip, west along the north coast of Guadalcanal.

Japanese shipwreck at Mbonege Beach

We snorkeled around this shipwreck for a while, then moved to Visale Beach for a prepackaged lunch.

Visale Beach at most northern tip of Guadalcanal
View of Savo Island from Visale Beach and local dogs who befriended us

Savo Island is where we were going the following morning, for a two night stay. But that’s the subject of “Our Solomon Islands Adventure (Part 2)”. I hope you’ll join us.


After SI Adventure Part 2, I’ll be returning to our “Voyage to Antiquity” with a blog on Cartagena, Spain. I hope you’ll forgive me for the diversion.

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