Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy which gained its independence from the UK in 1978. The country consists of nearly one thousand islands of which 147 are inhabited. The largest community in the Solomons, the capital Honiara, is situated on the island of Guadalcanal in the Coral Sea. The population is made up of descendants of Oceana's three main cultural group, Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia, making it a true melting pot of Pacific cultures. It is in fact one of the major drawcards for travelers that many of the population live a subsistence lifestyle that has barely changed for centuries, providing a very authentic experience. If you want to dive the Pacific islands the Solomons are also a magnet for many divers who come to explore the coral reefs, underwater volcanoes and hundreds of World War II shipwrecks.

The Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy which gained its independence from the UK in 1978. The country consists of nearly one thousand islands of which 147 are inhabited. The largest community in the Solomons, the capital Honiara, is situated on the island of Guadalcanal in the Coral Sea. The population is made up of descendants of Oceana's three main cultural group, Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia, making it a true melting pot of Pacific cultures. It is in fact one of the major drawcards for travelers that many of the population live a subsistence lifestyle that has barely changed for centuries, providing a very authentic experience. If you want to dive the Pacific islands the Solomons are also a magnet for many divers who come to explore the coral reefs, underwater volcanoes and hundreds of World War II shipwrecks.

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Heritage | geography graphic

Geography

An island nation that lies east of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are volcanic in origin and strung out over 1,500 kilometres of sea. Mangroves and coconut groves shelter coastal strips while the interiors of the high islands are covered with dense tropical forest with fast flowing rivers and streams. The forest climbs through many stages, from towering lowland hardwoods to mosses atop Guadalcanal’s 2,300 metres peaks. The ocean-equatorial climate is extremely humid with a mean annual temperature of 27 degrees celcius. The seasons are hardly noticeable, though June to August is a slightly cooler period. Annual rainfall is about 3,050mm and several active and dormant volcanoes populate the landscape.

An island nation that lies east of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are volcanic in origin and strung out over 1,500 kilometres of sea. Mangroves and coconut groves shelter coastal strips while the interiors of the high islands are covered with dense tropical forest with fast flowing rivers and streams. The forest climbs through many stages, from towering lowland hardwoods to mosses atop Guadalcanal’s 2,300 metres peaks. The ocean-equatorial climate is extremely humid with a mean annual temperature of 27 degrees celcius. The seasons are hardly noticeable, though June to August is a slightly cooler period. Annual rainfall is about 3,050mm and several active and dormant volcanoes populate the landscape.

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Heritage | history graphic

History

Archaeological evidence shows that the Solomon Islands were settled between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago by people from Southeast Asia. Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana recorded the first European contact in 1568. He was greatly excited to discover alluvial gold on Guadalcanal which he thought to be the source of King Solomon's great wealth, and so named it the Isles of Solomon. Other explorers followed and eventually all the islands became a British protectorate by 1900.

In the early 20th Century, several British and Australian companies began large-scale coconut planting. Around the same time, missionaries arrived and converted many of the population to Christianity.

During World War II the islands became a battleground as the Japanese and Allied Forces fought over each island. Consequently the archipelago's infrastructure has benefited from the construction of roads and airfields, but it is littered with war wrecks.

Independence from Britain was granted on 7 July 1978 but tribal rivalries erupted into armed hostilities on Guadalcanal in 1998. This prompted Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific Island neighbours to step in and broker peace.

A devastating tsunami struck the Solomon Islands on 2 April 2007, resulting in the loss of some 52 lives and the destruction of over 900 dwellings, leaving thousands of people homeless.

Archaeological evidence shows that the Solomon Islands were settled between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago by people from Southeast Asia. Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana recorded the first European contact in 1568. He was greatly excited to discover alluvial gold on Guadalcanal which he thought to be the source of King Solomon's great wealth, and so named it the Isles of Solomon. Other explorers followed and eventually all the islands became a British protectorate by 1900.

In the early 20th Century, several British and Australian companies began large-scale coconut planting. Around the same time, missionaries arrived and converted many of the population to Christianity.

During World War II the islands became a battleground as the Japanese and Allied Forces fought over each island. Consequently the archipelago's infrastructure has benefited from the construction of roads and airfields, but it is littered with war wrecks.

Independence from Britain was granted on 7 July 1978 but tribal rivalries erupted into armed hostilities on Guadalcanal in 1998. This prompted Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific Island neighbours to step in and broker peace.

A devastating tsunami struck the Solomon Islands on 2 April 2007, resulting in the loss of some 52 lives and the destruction of over 900 dwellings, leaving thousands of people homeless.

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Heritage | fauna graphic

Flora & Fauna

It is estimated that there are over 4,500 plant species and 173 species of birds in the Solomons. Most famous of the birds is the megapode or incubator, which nests in thermal sand on islands in the Central and Western Provinces. When the eggs hatch, the baby megapodes are able to fly as soon as their wings dry. There are many species of colourful parrots and 130 species of butterflies, including several species of birdwings. The 70 species of reptiles include crocodiles, frogs, lizards, skinks, snakes, toads and marine turtles. Centipedes and scorpions are two potentially dangerous but rarely encountered jungle creatures.

Rennell Island is World Heritage Listed, as it alone has ten plants, 4 species and 9 subspecies of endemic birds. Also endemic is the 'Krait', a saltwater sea snake. More than 230 varieties of orchids and tropical flowers brighten the landscape. Endemic land mammals are bats, rats and mice. The only marsupial found here is the gray cuscus. Birdlife is rich and varied.

Australian Ornithologist Mike Tarburton has produced a birdlist for Melanesia which is a useful tool for birders.

It is estimated that there are over 4,500 plant species and 173 species of birds in the Solomons. Most famous of the birds is the megapode or incubator, which nests in thermal sand on islands in the Central and Western Provinces. When the eggs hatch, the baby megapodes are able to fly as soon as their wings dry. There are many species of colourful parrots and 130 species of butterflies, including several species of birdwings. The 70 species of reptiles include crocodiles, frogs, lizards, skinks, snakes, toads and marine turtles. Centipedes and scorpions are two potentially dangerous but rarely encountered jungle creatures.

Rennell Island is World Heritage Listed, as it alone has ten plants, 4 species and 9 subspecies of endemic birds. Also endemic is the 'Krait', a saltwater sea snake. More than 230 varieties of orchids and tropical flowers brighten the landscape. Endemic land mammals are bats, rats and mice. The only marsupial found here is the gray cuscus. Birdlife is rich and varied.

Australian Ornithologist Mike Tarburton has produced a birdlist for Melanesia which is a useful tool for birders.

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Further Reading

The Geology of Guadalcanal: a Selected Bibliography of the Geology, Natural History, and the History of Guadalcanal Hadden, Robert Lee. 2007

Solomon Time, Randall, Will. 2002

Times and Tales from Solomon Islands, Webber, Roger. 2011

Coast Watching in World War II: Operations against the Japanese on the Solomon Islands, 1941-43, Feuer, A.B. 2006 (Stackpole Military History Series.)

The Geology of Guadalcanal: a Selected Bibliography of the Geology, Natural History, and the History of Guadalcanal Hadden, Robert Lee. 2007

Solomon Time, Randall, Will. 2002

Times and Tales from Solomon Islands, Webber, Roger. 2011

Coast Watching in World War II: Operations against the Japanese on the Solomon Islands, 1941-43, Feuer, A.B. 2006 (Stackpole Military History Series.)

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