Solomon Islands

Environment:

Solomon Islands is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Papua New Guinea. The terrain is mostly rugged mountains, with some low coral atolls. The highest point is Mount Popomanaseu at 2,335 m (7,661 ft) on the island of Guadalcanal. Solomon Islands occupies the eastern end of the Coral Triangle, an area noted for extreme underwater biodiversity.

Environmental issues include deforestation, soil erosion, and dead or dying coral reefs. The Illegal Logging website documents illegal logging in the Solomons. Although supposedly the “Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology” is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the government of the Solomon Islands maintains no online presence for environmental, forestry, wildlife, national parks or coastal zone management. According to newspaper reports, there is an active Solomon Islands Green Party, lead by Jennifer Hunu’ehu.

The award winning Makira Community Conservation Foundation, lead by Victor Kohaia, monitors logging on the island of Makira. The Kolombangara Biodiversity Conservation Association promotes sustainable tourism on the island of Kolombangara. The Tetepare Descendants’ Association has established a Marine Protected Area and ecolodge on Tetepare Island. The Nature Conservancy is actively involved in the protection of the Arnarvon Islands. The international Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) maintains a presence in the islands as CTI Solomons.

East Rennell island is an official natural World Heritage site. Other protected areas include Langa Langa Lagoon on Malaita and Ontong Java Atoll, one of the largest atolls in the world. In 2008, two sites were submitted to the Tentative Lists of World Heritage, the Marovo – Tetepare Complex and Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Solomon Islands. The Marovo – Tetepare Complex includes Marovo Lagoon, Vangunu and Gatokae (Nggatokae) islands, Tetepare Island, the southern tip and southwest coast of Rendova Island, and the uninhabited barrier islands of Hele. The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Solomon Islands includes the Bauro Highlands of Makira-Ulawa Province, the volcanic skirt of Kolombangara, the Mount Maetambe area of Choiseul Province, and the Mount Popomanaseu area.

Dolphins have become a huge issue for the Solomon Islands. In 2011, a prominent marine biologist from New Zealand called for a tourism boycott of the Solomon Islands in protest of continued live dolphin exports, despite a supposed export ban. In 2013, a massive dolphin slaughter took place at Fanalei village on Malaita. Apparently, so-called dolphin drive hunting is considered a traditional practice in this part of the Solomon Islands. This dolphin slaughter resulted from a dispute with Ric O’Barry‘s Earth Island Institute Dolphin Project over failed financial compensation. Earth Islands Institute established its office in Honiara in 2006, under the direction of a local environmental activist, Lawrence Makili. The Save Solomon Dolphins website is dedicated to ending the dolphin trade.

Salt water crocodiles are native to many parts of Solomon Islands, and there are regular sightings on beaches. Local advice should be sought before entering unfamiliar waters, including lakes. Local dive companies include Bilikiki Cruises and Dive Gizo.

Culture:

The indigenous people of the Solomon Islands are ethnically Melanesian, speaking Papuan languages. Pijin, Solomons pidgin, is the language spoken today, and is closely related to “Tok Pisin” of Papua New Guinea. (The Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea forms part of the Solomons group in every way, other than politically.)

They were named “the islands of Solomon” when Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, due to the presence of alluvial gold. Largely due to the practices of skull worship and headhunting, Christian missionary activity did not become established until the mid-19th century. The British “inherited” control over the Solomons from Germany at the end of the 19th century, in exchange for recognizing German Samoa. Japanese forces occupied the islands in WWII, which lead to the Solomon Islands campaign including the infamous Battle of Guadalcanal. Solomon Islanders, Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana, found John F. Kennedy and his PT-109 crew, sunk after colliding with a Japanese destroyer near Gizo.

By all accounts, the experiences of WWII had a profound effects on Solomon Islanders. The people of the Solomon Islands were somehow dragged to independence by the British in the 1970s, not least due to the financial burden of the protectorate. However, in 1999 civil war broke out on the island of Guadalcanal, which was not fully quelled until the intervention of a 2003 “Regional Assistance Mission“, composed largely of Australian forces, was requested by local authorities. Since the intervention, Solomon Islands has been listed among countries without armed forces.

Solomon Islands has suffered from a number of natural disasters, including Cyclone Tia in 1992, Cyclone Zoe in 2002, the 2007 earthquake, and 2013 earthquake. Not unusual for tropical destinations, mosquito born illnesses such as dengue fever and malaria can be an issue, and appropriate precautions should be taken.

In 2012, it was announced that the government would be funding development of camping and hiking facilities in south and central Guadalcanal, including the untouched forests of Popomanseu and Makarakomburu in Vatukulau Ward and Suta in Vulolo Ward. The Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau provides a useful resource. The Honiara based NGO, Kastom Gaden Association, works with subsistence farmers and coordinates volunteer programs throughout the Solomons.

Village homestays are popular in Solomon Islands, such as Hambere Village Stay on the western side of Kolombangara island. The are a good number of nature lodges available, including Agnes Lodge in Munda, Aotaha Cave Lodge, Oravae Cottage and Ropiko Eco Lodge. Resorts include Fatboys Resort outside Gizo, the exclusive Tavanipupu Private Island Resort, Uepi Island Resort, and Zipolo Habu Resort on Lola Island in Vona Vona Lagoon. Solomon Islands Ports Authority provides information on local inter-island shipping lines. Solomon Airlines provides both inter-island and international flight services.

References:

  • Developing a self-sustaining protected area system: a feasibility study of national tourism fee and green infrastructure in the Solomon Islands by H Francis, 2012
  • An Island Saved, At Least for Some Time? The Advent of Tourism to Rennell, Solomon Islands by NF Munch-Petersen, 2011
  • Ridges to reefs conservation plan for Choiseul Province, Solomon Islands by G Lipsett-Moore, R Hamilton, 2010
  • Tourism and hospitality industry training needs: the needs of developing nations-the case of the Solomon Islands by C Panakera & G Wilson, 2010
  • Tourism in the Solomon Islands by D Kaczan & D Tuhanuku, 2008
  • Hem Nao Wei: A Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy for the Solomon Islands by A Gussekloo, 2004
  • The 1990 Solomon Islands Tourism Development Plan: A Critical Discourse Analysis by P Burns, 2004
  • Towards a history of tourism in Solomon Islands by N Douglas, 2004
  • Ecotourism in practice: trekking the highlands of Makira Island, Solomon Islands by D Russell, J Stabile & D Harrison, 2003
  • Striving towards ecotourism in the Solomon Islands by L Ell, 2003
  • Islands of Rainforest: Agroforestry, Logging and Eco-tourism in Solomon Islands by E Hviding & T Bayliss-Smith, 2000
  • Pacific Islands and the Participatory Development : Case of Eco-tourism in the Solomon Islands by H Sekine, 2000
  • Tourism curriculum development: investigative approach to an assignment in the ‘field’: the Solomon Islands by LA Vandenberg, 1999
  • Ecotourism: a sustainable option for the Solomon Islands by S Grossmith, 1998
  • Village-based tourism in the Solomon Islands: Impediments and impacts by A Lipscomb, 1998
  • Unable to see the forest for the trees: ecotourism development in the Solomon Islands by B Rudkin, CM Hall, R Butler & T Hinch, 1996
  • Solomon Islands: The Economy and the Potential for Growth in Village Level Tourism and Timber Milling by T Berry, 1995
  • Ethnological Tourism in the Solomon Islands: An Experience in Applied Anthropology by J Michaud, P Maranda, L Lafreniere & G Cote, 1994
  • Ecotourism as appropriate tourism? A case study from the Solomon Islands by CM Hall & B Rudkin, 1993
  • The Guadalcanal track ecotourism project in the Solomon Islands by THB Sofield, 1992
  • Indigenous Participation in Tourism in Solomon Islands by PR Kuve, 1989
  • The Economic Impact of International Tourism on the National Economy of the Solomon Islands by JE Fletcher, 1987