Savo Island, so many experiences all in one place; swimming with dolphins, trekking up a volcano, snorkelling, plus a bit of bird watching and all so close to Honiara. Bronwyn Besley-Norris takes the boat and a guided tour.
A silver fin in the distance, a splash of water over the side of the boat; I watch the water intently for another sign. Within seconds two more fins appear about five metres away, then a whole pod of Dolphins emerge in the wash of our boat. I never get tired of watching dolphins frolic and play around the bow of the boat. Soon another pod joins us as we start to circle round. We are pointing and hovering over the side of the boat to get a closer look, and that great photograph. Dolphins in the wild interacting in such an intimate way, is a great experience for all ages and having so many within arm’s reach is definitely a highlight of any Pacific holiday.
Savo, so much on offer
Just a short trip from Honiara is Savo Island. An amazing island full of things to do, or not to do, depending entirely on your mood. A number of hikes to waterfalls, the forest or to the volcano summit, cultural village tours or exploring the megapode nests to swimming with the dolphins, snorkelling, fishing or just relaxing in a hammock, this island has a number of experiences to offer.
Sunset Lodge is owned and operated by the local village of Solomon Islanders. The resort has basic rooms, some with shared facilities but all have mosquito nets over the double beds and the higher rooms have an excellent view. Be aware that the generator doesn’t run at night so make sure your windows are open to enjoy the sea breeze. The rooms, food and bar are relatively inexpensive, making it an affordable option. Regardless of whether you are day tripping or staying overnight, advise the lodge in advance of your plans and they can ensure they have a good buffet lunch ready including chicken wings, fish, vegetables and fruit for SB$100pp. The resort will also arrange your banana boat transfers.
As you step off the boat at Sunset Lodge Resort, you are greeted with a fresh coconut to drink and a number of hammocks calling your name; it is difficult to want to do anything but lay in the shade and enjoy the breeze and stunning outlook. Directly in front of the resort is a pebbled sandy beach with Solomon’s trademark great snorkelling over tropical fish and corals. More alluring though – few other places provide you with the chance to swim with the dolphins.
Swimming with Dolphins
For a small fee you can journey a short distance into the bay around from the resort and go in search of the friendly wild dolphins that inhabit the island. Savo is known as being a reliable place to see them, however it is best done in the morning. These are not captured or domesticated animals, they frolic with enthusiastic tourists because they choose to. Once the pod has been spotted you can dive into the crystal waters to join them, being towed by a rope off the side of the banana boat. Gripping the rope while endeavouring to touch the dolphins is a little tricky but is worth the effort as this is truly a unique experience.
Savo is the largest island visible from Honiara, and is located about a one to one-and-a-half hour boat ride from Honiara or 30 minutes if you take a ‘banana boat’ from Vila Beach (45 minutes drive from Honiara). It is the closest island getaway from the capital, offering a great day trip opportunity.
The island has plentiful flora and fauna, most notably the unique megapode birds. These dark grey birds inhabit the island and utilise the volcanic temperatures to assist with incubating their eggs in the warm sand. They are unique animals, small and grey with, as their name implies, very large feet. To see these birds in their habitat, it’s best to make an early trip to the point in a canoe and it is interesting to watch as they scratch the ground to dig a hole to hide their eggs. Importantly for those of us with gastronomic interests, megapode eggs are larger than a normal chicken egg and are a valued commodity for the local community, not only used in the village but also sold at the Honiara main market. The eggs do make a delicious omelette!
The Volcano Trek
Savo is an active volcanic island that often has the most amazing cloud formations above it due to the geothermal activity. Sunset Lodge offers two guided volcanic tours; my advice is to take the longer trek into the forest to the volcano crater and experience the steam vents and bubbling streams. After a short trip in the banana boat you arrive at a beach at the mouth of a dry pebble riverbed. This three-hour round-trip walk is not for the faint hearted. Take plenty of water, as the humidity from the hot steam makes this a challenging jaunt. The untouched rainforest that surrounds you makes the trek enjoyable and scenic.
There isn’t really a track so it takes steady balance and decent shoes to maintain a good footing and not step into the hot streams as you journey along the riverbed. The higher you get, the hotter the streams become. Before reaching the summit you get to embrace the child within and climb the biggest bush ladder I have ever seen. Climbing each rung up the four metre high rustic bush ladder was a real highlight for me; it makes the endeavour a little more adventurous and fun!
As you near the crater the sulphurous odour of the volcano becomes more apparent and the more you climb the trickier your footing becomes so take care around the hot streams and rocks. Your guide however, doesn’t have the need for shoes on these hot rocks and makes it all look very easy – while helping you along too of course. Once at the summit you see little pools filtering up through the ground creating a cloud of steam.
Stay and make the most of it.
Day trip, short trip or overnight, Savo offers a wonderful experience for singles, couples and families. If waterfall hikes, a megapode tour or the volcanic crater are not enough to entice you, make sure that you wake up early to jump in a banana boat and swim with the dolphins! Only in the Solomon’s can you have an experience this up close and personal, this unique.
Accommodation & Transfer bookings
• Savo Sunset Lodge +677 21213 or +677 7489401
• Solomon Island Tourism Bureau +677 22442.