Colorful reefs of the Solomon Islands

About Melanesia

Melanesia Snorkeling Tour: Fiji and the Solomon Islands

Melanesia mapMelanesia is a sub-region in the tropical South Pacific Ocean comprised of the Maluku Islands, West Papua, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Fiji. The invention of the word Melanesia is credited to French explorer, Jules Dumont d’Urville after he recognized these island groups had cultural, ethnic, and geographic distinctions from the Polynesian cultures he had visited. Modern genetic and linguistic studies confirmed his observations (also proving that they are distinct from Micronesians as well) and current theories suggest that the origins of Melanesians can be found in the migrations of Austronesian people across Oceania from Southeast Asia (ca. 3500 Before Present).

The Solomon Islands and Fiji, two destinations we visit on one of our Coral Triangle Adventures snorkeling toursAlthough the people of Melanesia possess distinct characteristics that set them apart from Polynesians and Micronesians, the sub-region crosses political and geologic boundaries. For example, Fiji is a republic unto itself whereas the Maluku Islands are part of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea is located on the South Bismarck Plate whereas the Solomon Islands are located on the Pacific Plate.

Our snorkeling tour takes us to two amazing destinations in Melanesia: Fiji and the Solomon Islands. While both of these destinations offer us the chance to experience widely different cultures, it is the diversity of marine habitats and reef life that make this combination perfectly complimentary.

We begin our tour with five days of snorkeling in and around Beqa Lagoon (pronounced “Benga”), easily one of Fiji’s best areas to see healthy and diverse coral reefs. Fiji is known to possess some of the most abundant soft coral gardens on the planet and each day we will have the opportunity to snorkel in the warm south seas to see these colorful corals as well as the thousands of tropical fish that make the reefs their home. Our host will be the award winning Beqa Lagoon Resort and our beachfront accommodations will provide us with unlimited access to the white sand beaches of this south pacific island paradise.

After a quick flight from Fiji directly to Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands, we board our liveaboard boat, the M/V Bilikiki, and spend seven days exploring the rich, world-class reefs around Mary Island and the Russell and Florida island groups. Whereas Fiji was about the soft corals, the Solomons have some of the best hard coral gardens in the world! In addition, the seaward reefs around Mary Island and the Floridas offer us a chance to see schools of large fishes such as barracudas, jacks, and bumphead parrotfish. Exploring the Solomon Islands is like a journey back in time, where dense, pristine forests from the land and reefs from the sea grow to within a few meters of each other along the shoreline, and where quaint villages support a community of people that practice the age-old traditions of fishing, agriculture, and wood carving. We agree that the Solomon Islands might be one of the best destinations in our portfolio of snorkeling adventures!

floating markets in the Solomon Islands are a great way for locals to sell their fruits and vegetables and, in turn, a great way fro boats to stock up on fresh food items

Floating markets

endemic fish in the solomon islands

Hybridization in the Solomons

The great astrolabe barrier reef, Kadavu Island, Fiji is one of the world's largest barrier reefs

The Great Astrolabe Reef

 

Fiji, the soft coral capital of the world due to the abundance of Dendronephthya soft corals

Soft coral capital of the world

Solomon islanders have the gene that codes for blonde hair

Blonde hair in Melanesia

three spot or domino damselfish in Fiji

The yellow tint of Fiji

 

To learn more about our Melanesian snorkeling tour, read our trip reports and blogs:
Solomon Islands Trip Report
Solomon Islands, July 2015

Click on a tour date below to read about trip details including accommodationspricing, and how you can join us!

Itinerary


Route map of the Fiji - Solomon Islands tour program Coral Triangle Adventures

Tour begins in Nadi, Fiji and ends in Honiara, Solomon Islands. One internal flight Fiji-Honiara

The expedition begins and ends in Nadi, Fiji with one internal roundtrip flight to Honiara, Solomon Islands. On our Fiji portion of the trip we visit the reefs of Beqa Lagoon, spending five nights at Beqa Lagoon Resort. In the Solomon Islands, our accommodations will be on the M/V Bilikiki liveaboard boat. We will visit the Russell and Florida island groups as well as Mary Island. Please note that the following is a general itinerary and that weather, tides, and other unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances may affect the schedule at any time.

Day 1: Nadi, Fiji / Beqa Lagoon
Meals provided: L,D
Arrive in Nadi, Fiji and transfer to Beqa Lagoon resort. After our orientation, we may have the chance to snorkel the reefs in front of the resort or just use the afternoon to relax in our tropical island paradise. Overnight Beqa Lagoon Resort

Day 2 – 5: Beqa Lagoon
Meals provided: B,L,D
Our four full days of snorkeling will include visits to several of the hundreds of snorkel sites within the lagoon. Shallow, colorful coral gardens, seaward reefs with drop-offs that plunge hundreds of feet and are adorned with magnificent soft corals in the shallows and along the walls, current-swept channels where the big fish like sharks, groupers, barracudas, and jacks hang-out along with thousands of tropical fishes that feed on plankton, are just some of the snorkel sites we will visit. Each day we use the tides, weather, and our preferences, to guide us in our choice of snorkel sites. But with the amazing diversity of reef habitats, fishes, and corals, it will be a fantastic, memorable snorkel no matter where we go in Beqa Lagoon! Overnight Beqa Lagoon Resort

firewalking in Fiji

Firewalking…

Day 6: Nadi, Fiji / Honiara, Solomon Islands / M/V Bilikiki
Meals provided: B,L,D
In the morning, we depart the resort to connect with our flight to Honiara, Solomon Islands. Upon arriving, we will be met by the boat crew and make our way to our home for the next 8 days, the M/V Bilikiki. After our boat orientation, we will motor to our first destination, the Russell Islands. Overnight M/V Bilikiki

Day 7: Russell Islands
Meals provided: B,L,D
The Russell Islands are a cluster of volcanic and limestone islands that possess some of the healthiest and diverse reef systems in the Solomon Islands. What we love about each snorkel sites is that we have several habitats to explore: Sea grass, open sand, and both sheltered and exposed coral reef. Overnight M/V Bilikiki

Day 8: Mary Islands
Meals provided: B,L,D
Mary Island is a tiny island located in open ocean between the Russell Islands and New Georgia Islands (Morovo Lagoon). The stunningly scenic island has a fringing reef system that plunges quickly into the depths forming vertical walls that are completely covered with marine life. In the shallows, look for nudibranchs or special treats like a species of coral hermit crab known only from the Solomon Islands or the red-spotted blenniella. Along the seaward edge, we will see large schools of bumphead parrotffish, barracudas, and snappers. Several different species of sharks are also common.

Day 9 – 10: Russell Islands
Meals provided: B,L,D
We return to the Russells to visit two special snorkeling site: Leru Cut and White Beach. Leru Cut is a fissure within a tiny limestone island that forms a canyon-like feature about 2 meters (6 ft) wide by 15 meters (45 ft) deep, and meanders into the island for about 40 meters (130 ft). Foliage from the jungle above filters sunlight that creates a surreal snorkeling environment. Some of the highlights are the abundance of lace corals and cave-dwelling fish such as sweepers and cardinalfishes. White Beach was used by the US military as a supply depot during the war. The water in front of the beach contains a variety of military objects that were abandoned after the war. Though not easy identifiable as anything more than scrap, all of the items are encrusted with life. This is a great spot for invertebrates and unusual fish like pipefishes and scorpionfishes.

the close-up of coral polyps make for colorful abstracts

Coral close-ups…

Day 11 – 12: Florida Islands
Meals provided: B,L,D
The Florida Islands are located east of Guadalcanal and separated by a body of water known as Ironbottom Sound. The fierce and famous naval battle between the Japanese and US forces resulted in dozens of sunken ships that littered the sea floor. So many, in fact, that the number of metal in the area often confounded the operation of compasses. Our destination in the Florida Islands is Maravaghi Bay where no less than six distinct marine habitats converge into one area. Mangroves, sand flats, coral reef flats, seaward reefs, swift channels, and a ship wreck. These habitats draw a huge variety of life, from the smallest damselfishes to large manta rays. Schools of scad, jacks, and emperors patrol the waters near the lush coral reef and the sand flats often contain several treats like sea horses, pipefishes, and scorpionfishes.

Day 13: Honiara / Nadi, Fiji
Meals provided: B,L,D
Disembark and connect with our flights back to Fiji. Check in at group hotel and enjoy a farewell dinner.

Day 14: International flight connections
Meals provided: B

What to Expect


Both Fiji and the Solomon Islands enjoy year round tropical weather: Warm with a chance of afternoon or early morning showers. Water temperatures in Fiji average around 28º C (82º F), though cooler temperatures may be experienced. Please be prepared with exposure suits appropriate for cooler temperatures. Sea surface temperatures in the Solomons are usually a consistent 29º C (84º F). Some of the reefs we will snorkel upon in Fiji and the Solomon Islands are subjected to currents associated with tide cycles that prevail in the area. All of our snorkel sessions are 100% boat supported so drift snorkels such as these are effortless as the boats drift with us the entire time.

In Fiji, our planned village visit/Kava ceremony will on pavement or well worn trails. No special foot protection is required. In the Solomon Islands, our visits to villages will be via beach access, with no trails or jungle walks required.

Please click on our page About our Tours to read about what a typical day of snorkeling looks like on most of our tour programs.

Join Us!

Click on the tour date to read about trip details including accommodations, pricing, and how you can join us!

July 12 – 25, 2018
We are still finalizing prices for this departure. We hope to publish prices in Jun 2016
Accommodations: Beqa Lagoon Resort (Fiji); MV Bilikiki (Solomons)

Please email us with any questions you may have about this trip.