Just a 3 hour flight from Australia, the Solomon Islands are in the South Pacific and consist of almost 1.000 volcanic islands and coral atolls in a double chain of that extend to Papua New Guinea in the north west. It provides a unique opportunity to experience a genuine wild and unspoiled South Sea paradise. The islands are best known for their headhunter history, and although the people are now much friendlier to visitors, cultural performances and art are very much alive today. Dugout canoes are still the main mode of transport and the economy is still based on sea and agro lifestyles.
Development has been slow and so natural beauty abounds, especially in the seas that boast incredible biodiversity due to the nation’s location within the Coral Triangle. Snorkelling and scuba diving are the main drawcards for adventure tourists, as well as surfing. There are some great trekking opportunities, through tribal villages to visit picturesque waterfalls, or historic battle relics from World War II. And all this can be enjoyed in the warming South Pacific sunshine.
Tourism usually accounts for 10.5% of GDP and so is key to the financial fortunes of the country, and its government is committed to building a tourism industry to elevate the Solomons to be a prime Pacific islands tourist destination. These efforts were setback though by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country had good fortune to avoid infections for several months and the government was able to suspended all inbound flights into the country, close all schools, and declare a precautionary state of emergency in March 2020, prior to the arrival of the first reported case on 3 October 2020. Schools remain closed to this date, meaning children have missed 2 whole years of critical interactional education.
Further cases trickled in until April 2021, then the case total flat-lined until January 2022, at which point the Omicron variant managed to elude detection and cases shot up to 15,000. This caused extreme strain on the rather small and fragile public healthcare system. Vaccines did not arrive in the Solomon Islands until January 2022, so this meant that the population is vulnerable in general, even to the relatively weak Omicron, The “fully vaccinated” stand at only 20% of the population. However, total deaths have been minor and stand at 140, meaning the country has escaped much of the trauma in the rest of the world (no data is available on excess deaths). The Solomon Islands currently ranks 156 in the list of countries with the highest COVID death rate, meaning it has coped very well with the crisis in relative terms.
However, since 70% of tourist businesses have closed down, and it is uncertain whether they can afford to re-start, the government is committed to re-opening the national borders soon. For more information on the latest rules and developments, visit the UK GOV website.
The Solomon Islands dive sites are known to be among the very best in the world, in terms of their bio-diversity and health; the reefs are teeming with colour and life. Our Solomon liveaboard schedule is tentatively slated to restart 1 July 2022… fingers crossed!