The ultimate trip for families – The Solomon Islands

Only 3 hours from Brisbane, this island paradise has everything for your next family holiday!

We are a family who love to travel, in fact, it’s one of the main reasons we are frugal! Family travel bonds you, gives you memories to share forever and is something I prioritise. I know it isn’t in everyone’s budget, however, if you can plan for it, this is THE trip I’d recommend you do. I was a guest thanks to Tourism Solomons and Solomon Islands Discovery Cruises. You can see my trip in this video (I’m one of the people snorkelling at the end).

December 2018 I went to the Solomon Islands on my own and was so enthralled I want to share it with everyone. For tips to help you afford a trip check out ways to save money with travel and this post with ways to make money from travel. We plan to go back later this year so if you want to find out more (and maybe come on the same trip as us!) chat to Solomon Island Discovery Cruises.

MV Taka at Mane Bay – By Katrina Walsh Photography

Why is it perfect for families?

Being so close and in the same timezone as Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time (GMT+11) there is no time adjustment. It’s a quick overseas trip with the kids and going through customs there was a breeze!

With options for water activities including surfing, waterskiing, snorkelling and diving it will be hard to decide what to do first. Wildlife such as dolphins, sharks and manta rays come right up to the boat and whales are not too far away.

Dolphins near the boat by Katrina Walsh Photography

Learn to surf, waterski, wakeboard, snorkel, scuba dive and do cultural activities. Get a taste for island life, visit WWII sites, see shipwrecks and spend time with amazingly happy people! Do yoga every morning on the top of the boat with incredible views, changing daily as the sunrises.

What more could you want?

My Trip

Spending 7 days cruising around the Florida and Russell Islands is an experience I will never forget. I ticked things off my bucket list I did not expect, got close to wildlife, did loads of watersports, tried scuba and met so many amazing people.

Day One – Honiara

I flew into Honiara, was picked up at the airport by the Solomon Islands Discovery Cruises crew and taken to the Coral Sea Resort & Casino to wait for our boat to be ready. The staff there were so lovely and attentive without being overbearing. We had free wifi and there was an atm to get cash out.

From there, we were picked up and taken out to the MV Taka to go on an amazing cruise .

Some of our crew – Sunga, Pedros, Joe and our brilliant Captain by Katrina Walsh Photography

The MV Taka is a great sized diving vessell and the crew were simply amazing. I cannot praise them enough. Every single one of them was so friendly, they work incredibly well as a team and were hilarious. It’s more like a big family than colleagues.

We were shown our rooms, briefed on the trip and safety then had dinner and dessert.

One cabin by Katrina Walsh Photography

Once the sunset, we laid in the hammocks, looking at the stars and steamed off to Florida Islands.

Day Two – Florida’s

Maravagi Bay is where we anchored to enjoy surfing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, snorkelling and other water activities. I failed at the waterskiing miserably but am glad I gave it a go!

After trying a couple of times, my impatience kicked in and I ripped off the skis because I was so done. Lucky for me, Sunga our instructor was right there for me and so good about it all. Others such as Fiona Harper were fantastic at it!

Jeremy teaching surfing by Katrina Walsh Photography

Safety With Watersports Here

Many people have questioned me about the safety aspects of these sports. The crew of the Taka were so experienced in everything. All of them have grown up doing these sorts of sports and were conscious of ensuring we were safe and comfortable. Plus for surfing, Jeremy who did the lessons on our trip is one of the founders of the Solomon Islands Surfing Association as well as being part of Oravae Cottage which also offers surfing in Gizo. With a crew like that, you know you are in good hands.

After lunch we steamed round Nggela sule island and entered into a narrow channel between Nggela sule island and Nggela pile islands then anchored near Ghavutu wharf for drinks on the beach at sunset. The scenery is simply incredible!

My most embarrassing momet

A few of us went on a water biscuit/donut whatever you choose to call it at Maravagi Bay. At one point, after coming off, we were in the water and had to be pulled back into the tender (small boat) because the side ladder had been left on the main boat.

I am the heaviest I have been since having kids. I’m looking at our crew member (Justin) and he’s telling me to grab his arm. There is no way he could weigh more than 65kg or 70kg max and I am sitting close to 90kg right now.

Me: “Nope, not happening.” (Although, realistically, I didn’t have choice).

Justin (in a stern voice): “Grab my arm!”

In my head, this was never going to end well. I was going to end up pulling him into the water because I’m too heavy and I was sure this would be my most mortifying moment of the trip. Reluctantly, I grab on and he just pulls me up like nothing. Well, I felt like a beached whale but he didn’t drop me and I didn’t pull him into the water, so that’s a win!

Day Three – Maravagi Bay and Tulagi

Standup Paddle Boards – Katrina Walsh Photography

What a day! Water activities again (I loved how much we got to do on this trip) and lunch on the beach with our amazing crew doing everything. Hill 281 and other WWII historical sites at Tulagi then drinks at Raiders. It was beautiful.

This was a day that was pure paradise for me combined with a strong interest of mine – history. The Solomon Islands has so much history, not only their ruch, cultural diversity from the different islands but also so much World War II history.

Day Four – Roderick Bay

Roderick Bay Cruise Ship Wreck by Katrina Walsh Photography

Roderick Bay is not only beautiful but the people here were so lovely. With a big cruise ship wrecked in front of their bay, the setting on the island is so different from anything I have seen. Yet, despite the ship, they’ve made the most of it. Kids climb all over it, there is a zip line and ropes to jump from the ship to the water.

On the shore of the bay are trees, hammocks and more rope swings for jumping out into the crystal clear water. When we arrived here we were given flower leis, coconuts and were greeted by amazingly friendly villagers.

Kids at Roderick Bay by Katrina Walsh Photography

As I looked around, I teared up a little. It was here, watching the kids playing in the water that I knew I had to bring my kids back. Being part Tongan, part Maori, my daughters would love it there. They are always talking about experiencing island life.

Kids at Roderick Bay by Katrina Walsh Photography

We went for a walk around the village, learnt about farming and that the land here is passed down through the women! This is something I haven’t heard of in other pacific regions so it was interesting to hear. After lunch we went back to Maravagi Bay for more water activities. This time I went snorkelling with Rob and he managed to capture the footage of the clown fish in this video here for Vicki plsu we spotted a shark and he was fantastic at showing us everything.

Marriage tip from an elder for me

The people I met in the Solomons all had a great sense of humour. While learning more about the wreck, one of the elders at Roderick Bay said to me, “You come back, you bring kids and husband…”

I cut in and laughed “No husband, just kids.”

His response, “Oh! You come back, you bring kids, you find new husband here and get big house in Solomons.” Haha, he was so lovely and I can’t wait to take my kids back. Unsure about the husband part, I’m pretty happy with my single life!

Day Five – Russell Islands

“Are you going to try scuba?” Chevone asked.

Hell, yes! I didn’t know it would be an option on the trip because I have no diving experience and really, I am pretty uncoordinated at the best of times. I had already managed to get black bruises all over my legs, sunburn on the back of my thighs and butt where my bikini didn’t cover, get stung by a jellyfish and looked like a walking disaster. So sure, why not throw me in the deep?

It was AMAZING! I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of being 12m underwater, looking up and around, seeing the fish, the coral and wreckage such as bombs from WWII.

Chevone took us aside on the ship to teach us the basics on land before we got anywhere near the water. She was incredible, so patient, hilarious, thorough and made sure we all understood properly. If I had to train us, I would have given up!

On the dive deck we were kitted up, then into the tenders to be taken to where we’d dive. First, we had to get in the water and demonstrate all the safety aspects to show we had listened and knew what we were doing. Then, before I knew it we were 12 m deep in the most amazing, cool, clear water diving coral reefs! This is something everyone must try.

I’ll be honest, I was nervous and I was getting close to bailing. But Chevone and Justin were so amazing at keeping me calm and making sure we were all comfortable with what we were doing. Now, I can’t wait to do it again.

Day Six – Island Tours and Mane Bay

Cultural dances, village tours, music and more was experienced at villages on day six. It was beautiful to see how much they value their culture and how they wanted to share it with us. Fair warning, I sat in completely the wrong spot for one dance. I picked where I thought had good shade, little did I know that meant I’d end up with a butt in my face! It was pretty funny and after the performance we explored their village.

I had the good fortune of walking around with a few of the young men who live, learn a bit about their lives and they asked lots of questions about mine, especially my daughters. I got told I have to bring them so they can meet them which was so sweet.

One of the things which really stood out to me everywhere we went was how affectionate everyone was with each other. Males holding each others hands, arms around each other, walking or sitting or resting against each other. In Australia, affection like this when I was growing up wasn’t accepted and now as an adult, many assumptions are made around it. Here, it was just so natural for anyone of the same sex to walk around holding hands or being close without any sexual or relationship meaning behind it. I thought it was beautiful and showed how close their communities are.

That afternoon while anchored in Mane Bay we did more water activities and got to spend time with local villagers.

Day Seven – Leru Cut and Mirror Pond

Imagine snorkelling or diving into a cut in the side of an island where rays of sunlight filter through, the water is so clear you can see the bottom and you swim right through to a cave. Leru Cut is an incredible experience whether you snorkel or dive it!

After we came out, Pedros and Jeremy took a few of us around the edge to snorkel the coral reef. I stuck to Pedros like glue and he was so incredible with it. He answered all my questions and from the start, after I told him I can’t see out of my left eye properly, he made sure to stay on my right so I could see everything he was showing me. He made a clam close, pointed out so many beautiful fish, coral and explained to me what this white string thing I kept seeing was.

I didn’t get to scuba at Mirror Pond but all reports were that it was incredible.

Sunset Bonfire And BBQ

A private island, just us, a BBQ, bonfire and cultural performance from the crew. This was my favourite night of the whole trip. When we arrived, the crew set everything up while we swam as the sun was setting. If you have ever wanted to laugh so hard your tummy hurts, you need to hang out with Katrina Walsh of Katrina Walsh Photography! She was hilarious. 5 or 6 of us women were in the water, chatting laughing and having a blast but she was by far the most entertaining.

We also learnt to weave traditional baskets to eat our food on as other crew members set up the bonfire. That night, as it was lit then they dance was pure magic.

The Food

Food is important on any trip, right? We had a huge variety of meals throughout the trip which was wonderful. On the first morning I was so excited we had pancakes, including gluten-free ones for me. For me, it was ‘happiness on a plate’ I was so excited. Fresh local fruits, fish and other meat, pasta, salads, BBQ, pizza, I feel like we had a different option every day so never got bored.

One thing I loved was how they purchased the produce fresh from the islands we visited. Watching the villagers canoe out to us, the crew negotiate and buy it or swap produce was fascinating and beautiful to see.

Charles and Freddy were our chefs and were so thorough with ensuring I was well fed, had options and never felt like a bother. Being coeliac and having a strong aversion to tomatoes, cucumber and a few other things, eating on trips can be difficult. The coeliac alone has caused numerous problems and left me feeling like a pain to everyone.

These guys went out of their way to make me happy, cook me things and give me a great variety. I appreciated it so much and they were both such happy guys, always smiling, laughing and joking.

Coming Home

On our last day we were taken back to Honiara to wait at the Coral Sea Resort & Casino to be taken to the airport from there. We said goodbye to the crew, took a group photo and were transported back to the casino.

We had a few hours wait before our flight so I did some shopping for my daughters, went to a cafe, the beach and then met the others at the airport.

I have never struggled so much to get back into my life as I did after this trip. I missed my daughters and love them dearly, this was the first time I have been somewhere and simply didn’t want to come home. Instead, I wanted to stay and fly my kids to me to just live there.

It’s been over a month since I’ve been home and my kids still can’t stop talking about the trip. Even though they weren’t on it, the way I spoke about it, the video, photos and our desire to travel as a family made it clear this was the best trip I have been on.

In fact, my daughters have specifically requested this cruise on the Taka, with these crew members be their first overseas trip.

Where is your dream holiday?

All images were supplied by Katrina Walsh Photographywho is based on the NSW South Coast and is an absolute gem. She was so lovely! The trip was provided to me in exchange for articles. It was the best trip of my life and I cannot wait to go back!

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