Solomon Islands travel guide
This backyard shack museum is the only above-water attraction Munda can offer (there are heaps of supreme diving under water) and is surprisingly interesting. A local guy called Barney has collected WWII stuff from the jungle and is now showing it at his house. Here, you can see a wide range of aging military knick-knacks that were left behind by the American and Japanese forces. Anything from ordinary military objects like ammunition and hand grenades to personal effects like reading glasses and dog tags is on display. The museum is "officially" named Peter Joseph WWII museum after the first dog tag Barney found (the full name on the tag is Peter Joseph Palatini). Though this tag's owner has never been found, several other dog tags have been returned – mostly to surviving families, but one guy was still alive. The museum can be hard to find, but just ask for Barney.
Betel nut is an innocent looking nut, but when chewed with crushed coral and mustard stick, it works as a mild stimulant – which strangely also generates blood-red saliva that stains everything including the teeth. Most locals chew betel nut unless their branch of Christianity has managed to ban it. Many shops and offices have signs banning the chewing of betel nuts on the premises and in Honiara they even try to minimise the disgusting red spit splashes by encouraging the use of spitting boxes (used cardboard boxes). Yummy. If you give it a try, do not expect any effect besides a headache the first couple of times - and you have to be pretty persistent to keep trying.
In the not-so-old days of tribal warfare, the tribes of Malaita fancied a bit of head hunting. To be able to distinguish friends from enemies, they practised facial scarification as a means of tribe identification. Each tribe had their own design made up of circles and lines which were cut into the cheeks of infants. When they grew up, the marks would smoothe out and leave discoloured facial patterns. Though the Christian missionaries have managed to ban the head hunting, some people of Malaita still perform facial scarification with the ancient patterns. And it still looks really cool.
The capital of Solomon Island is a weird place. Run down and devoid of anything slightly pleasing to the eye. The drab town can seem sleazy at first sight, but any small talk with the dodgy looking characters in the streets will only bring out big red smiles (betel nut) and handshakes. The colourful central market is the main (well, only) point of interest. A rowdy affair (as rowdy as it gets in the Solomons) and a great place to meet people from the outer islands. Don't judge the Solomon Islands based on your first impression of Honiara, for the only thing that is the same is the great Melanesian friendliness.
Malaita island is inhabited by "salt water" people along the coast and "bush" people in the mountainous inland. In the past, the salt water people escaped the headhunting bush people by making artificial islands out of blocks of dead coral near the outer reef. Here, they built houses, planted palm trees and made a protected living. Since the introduction of Christianity, the tribal warfare has stopped and the salt water people have now moved back on the mangrove covered shore. Every time they needed more land, a slab of traditional man-made coral estate was added – a practice that continues to this day.
A beautiful area of shallow water protected by an outer reef and sprinkled with hundreds of jungle and palm-tree covered islands. The dense foliage stretches right to the edge where the corals take over below the crystal clear surface. The emerald green water does also contains its share of WWII leftovers like everywhere else in the Solomon Islands. Though most islands are uninhabited, small friendly villages are dotting some of the shores and boast some rather extraordinary sights right smack in their backyard – like birth caves at Mbiche village and maybe-ancient rock art at Bareho village (nobody knowns its origin). Keep in mind that the lagoon covers a large area and transport is costly due to the expensive gasoline.
The Solomon Islands were a major battlefield during World War II. The Allies had several airbases with crude landing strips made up by smashed coral (some of these strips are still in use today) from where they raided Japanese locations and ships around the atolls. The losses were heavy on both sides and as a result the Solomon Islands are sprinkled with wrecks of both warships and fight planes, some on very shallow water inside lagoons. You can dive Japanese transport ships, American dive bombers, B-17s and some wrecks can even be snorkelled. There are also plane wrecks on land, though those are often less intact. You can even paddle out to tiny Kennedy island off the coast of Gizo where John F Kennedy and his crew swam ashore when their patrol vessel PT-109 sunk.