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Thread: Honiara - Solomon Islands

  1. #31
    RBW Member carlosfredericobastos is an unknown quantity at this point carlosfredericobastos's Avatar
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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    hi guys,

    my son and i will be diving with neil at tulagi dive from the 18th to the 24th of august.

    can you reply to my message with not to be missed dives, tips and/or advices related to the diving and to restaurants/internet connection/topside attractions, safety tips?

    i would appreciate it very much.

    cheers, fred

  2. #32
    RBW Member KevinD is an unknown quantity at this point KevinD's Avatar
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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Having dived all the divable wrecks there, if you would be kind enough to tell me the max depth you plan to dive I'd be happy to tell you some of the best dives.

    As for on shore entertainment, not much. The so callled (outdoor) 'museum' out Tassafaronga way was worth a vist, that is if everything has not rotted away since I was last there.

    And depending on how adventurous you are, and dont mind a steep cliimb through the jungle, there is a great mostly dry cave over on Forida Island (where the USN used to get some of there fresh water from, back in the day). But, if the weather is inclement, that is might rain or is rainng, do NOT go there. A few of us got trapped in there once and had to do breath hold dives through some low sections to get out! But we did go a long way back in the cave after all, we even 'ran a line' and (of course) had flashlights with us.

    And Neil knows where whats left (very little) of the 'beached' Jap destroyer Kikuzuki is, but I'd only bother going there if you are a true history buff and had time to kill. Actually though, come to think of it, not a bad place to go during your surface interval if your going to dive the USS Arron Ward (approx 60 / 65m to deck (bow / stern respectfully), and about 70m on sand at the propellors.

    Anyway, as I said, lets know your max depth as much depends on that as to what you can dive.

  3. #33
    RBW Member carlosfredericobastos is an unknown quantity at this point carlosfredericobastos's Avatar
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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Hi Kevin

    Thanks for your reply. 70 meters would be our max depth

    Besides the uss aaron ward, which wecks would you suggest?

    Any reef dives ?

    regards fred

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    RBW Member carlosfredericobastos is an unknown quantity at this point carlosfredericobastos's Avatar
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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    It seems there are not that many topside attractions in honiara

  5. #35
    RBW Member KevinD is an unknown quantity at this point KevinD's Avatar
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    Wink Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Quote Originally Posted by carlosfredericobastos  View Original Post
    Thanks for your reply. 70 meters would be our max dep
    Besides the uss aaron ward, which wecks would you suggest?
    Well I am not sure where Neil operates from now, G'ganal side or Tulagi, but.........

    On G'canal side there is the upright Jap transport Azumasan Maru , about 35/ 40m on deck at bow, right about 90m at blown off stern. Then there is the USS John Penn, a transport on its side, about 57m (60m?) On seabed. The there is the so called 'Bonegi 1', a jap transport shore dive on its side with the bow almost on the beach and the stern in about 60m.

    Over Tulagi side there is of course the not to be missed Ward (even if it is just a shadow of its former self), upright, depths as stated previously. The USS Kanawha, a fleet oiler upright in about 60m seabed. The there is HMNZS Moa, in Tulagi harbour at max about 40m. Unfortunaly usualy poor vis but I once struck it with great vis. But thats very very rare. The off Gavutu / Tanambogo there are several IJN H6k 'Mavis' flying boats in 30 to 40m. And then of course the IJN Tama Maru, fairly upright in about 70m, but has very little profile so it is pretty much a 70m dive, and is also some distance west of Tulagi

    Sorry I cant be exact with depths as dont have my log book with me, but the above would only be a couple of m +/- different to what I state.

    There are many other wrecks than this of course, but you asked me my pick in the depth you state, so..............anyway, those should keep you busy, given you don't have a lot of time there.


    Quote Originally Posted by carlosfredericobastos  View Original Post
    Any reef dives ?
    REEFS!?!?! Reefs?! "We dont do no stinken' reefs"! What are those? But yeah, there is a nice fish action pinncle, whose name escapes me at present, out from the Kanawha, off Tulagi. Can get big fish action there at times. But I aint the one to ask about reefs.
    Last edited by KevinD; 11th August 2017 at 15:54.

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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Quote Originally Posted by carlosfredericobastos  View Original Post
    It seems there are not that many topside attractions in honiara
    That would be an UNDERSTATEMENT!

    Of course, there is always the Honiara Yacht Club bar.

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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    hi kevin

    thanks for taking the time to help me planning the trip. Well... I read about the wrecks and i believe you pretty much drew the best trip plan i could think of.

    i will post a report after i come back home.

    regards fred

    by the way tulagi dive is based in honiara.

  8. #38
    RBW Member KevinD is an unknown quantity at this point KevinD's Avatar
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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Fred, the only real entertainment you'll get there, is.........underwater.

    And here's a taste, or 'spoiler', that is if your lucky enough to get to dive em all. (I'll save a few of the Ward, for another post.)

    Below images named / captioned from top to bottom. (All my pics are taken in either 1998 or 2002)

    USS Kanawha, sunk same day as Moa and Aaron Ward (7 April 43) photographed two months before she was sunk.

    One of the three big guns on the stern of Kanawha. That's Neil himself swimming away.

    Kanawha, left, depicted just moments before being mortally wounded by Jap bombs. The US Wildcat you see foreground had just shot down 7 Jap aircraft (in the one sortie) and went for an eighth, when he himself was then shot down. The name of the painting (by Stan Stokes is called ''Unlucky Eight''.)

    My wife Mirja looking at a depth charge in the racks on the stern on HMNZS Moa.

    A very rare clear day on bow of Moa, note main fore-gun rear right, and the 'purloined / burrowed / liberated' 20mm machine gun (from the US) pointing vertical on the very (submerged) bow. This photo 100% proves that Moa had this additional weapon added just before being sunk. (And no, it is guaranteed not a bowstaff, it IS a 20mm machine gun!)

    The stern of Tama Maru, her upper works completely collapsed, about 70m to the sand and usually in very clear water (again, Neil in the background, the late Peter Frith on a CCR foreground).

    The Tama was originally a trawler similar to this, but converted for wartime use by the IJN
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    Last edited by KevinD; 12th August 2017 at 14:17.

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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Unfortunately Fred, if you dive the Ward, you will see the remains of a ship that no longer resembles what you see in the following photos in almost any way. Sad but true! Argh, the ravages of time.

    Below, from top.

    Top, the mighty A, DD483, or old Aaron Ward as she is known to most.

    2nd. Photo taken (obviously) before the bent up stern completely collapsed and now rests level as it were on seabed.

    3rd. The aft twin 40mm Bofors guns, pre and post the collapse starting. Am told now that both port and stbd guns are now on the deck / seabed.

    4th. The bridge before it completely, repeat completely, collapsed, although certain Ďitemsí have started to collapse as can be seen already.

    Now this final triptic (i.e. #4) comparison leads me to a very very amusing (to me) story. And although somewhat off-topic, given the opportunity to tell the story, as it's the first time I have ever 'published' the pics in question side by side, I just couldn't resist. But hey, feel free to go straight to the pics and overlook the following by all means!

    But, should you consider reading on, then...................Once upon a time back in what now seems like the Dark Ages when even nitrox, (let alone helium based mixtures, e.g. trimix) was still a dirty word in some places, especially among the powers that be in the regular scuba training agencies (and hyperbaric doctors) in Oztralia, there was once - in the mid 1990ís - a very prolific dive blogger in Sydney (maybe he still is), probably one of the first, and he devoted much time to describing the ships he dived around the world. And good on him for doing that! But he was, at the time, also very anti mixed gas (although he may have changed his outlook since I believe, after he finally saw its benefits); so not sure if he was just one of the card-carrying dedicated air breathing mammals so to speak, or just didn't want pay that extra cost for a clear head. Now this individual claimed not to get narked at depth and besides, who needed mixed gas in just 60/65m of water anyway. Now while I agree gas is not mandatory at that depth, it certainly is very beneficial. But just to be clear, if I didnít have gas for a dive to that depth, I would certainly dive air (and did so for many years in the Solomons when helium was not available). And after the best part of 30 years diving I can honestly say that although I of course have been narked, I guess I am one of the lucky ones who have / had a high tolerance, or more so an adaptability, to narcosis. (This does not mean I am here promoting deep air diving by any means. But I would not / have not given up a dive to 60/65m just cause I didnít have gas, thatís for sure!)

    Anyway this chap, whose name here will remain hidden to protect the guilty, dived the Ward (on air) for the first time and couldn't just figure out just what the 'item' was that protruded horizontally from the bridge (pic on right), even posted in/on his blog, asking as it were, and I think it is still up there! Couldnít be a gun, or if so what sort of a gun was it that pointed straight out like that, as no place to fire it at, as it was aimed right at, would have hit, the #2 5" mount directly in front of it. A bloody damn mystery it seemed. Well, if he hadnít been so narked, as there is no other explanation for it (but he wasn't narked right, as it was only 60m on air after all ) he would have, or should have, easily deduced it was simply a / the collapsed 20mm machine gun as seen in-place in the two pics at left prior to its collapse (and as another 20mm can be seen pointing upright at left on the top of the forward deck-house, i.e. on left side of the right hand pic).

    Anyway, sorry to bore you with this off-topic tangent, but I thought it very funny when I heard about it back then (and then actually saw it written on his blog), and I still find it amusing now! Talk about being befuddled at depth and not even knowing it. And if that incident didnít / does not prove a point as to the advantages of gas at depth I donít know what would / does. Anyway, best fishes to him now! I hope he can have a laugh about it now too, but am not so sure about that. I hope so though.
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    Last edited by KevinD; 13th August 2017 at 14:50.

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    RBW Member carlosfredericobastos is an unknown quantity at this point carlosfredericobastos's Avatar
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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    hi guys, i believe something went wrong with my computer as I tried to post the trip report to honiara. so, here it goes again. I apologize in advance if , for some reason, the trip report is posted twice.

    my son and I just came back from 8 diving days off Honiara (12 dives ), with Tulagi Dive. First of all, we would like to thank neil, troy , cedric and all the guys at the shop for one blast of a long week of diving. And for taking my son and I to dive the Aron Ward. For almost two hours we had it for the two of us alone.

    Stayed at heritage park hotel.rooms have good beds and working - absolutely silent on top of it - air conditioning. heard from people staying at the solomon kitano mendana that their rooms are similar to the ones at heritage. If you are staying in Honiara , there is absolutelly nothing to do, there is no reason to leave the hotel, UNLESS you want to enjoy the friday night live concert at the bar where the dive shop is located.

    we tried food at several places. the main issue is that I try to avoid fried food as much as possible , and the food in the restaurants in the area seems to be based on fried stuff. in all places BUT TWO, I could feel the taste of overused, low quality cooking oil.

    the restaurant at the coral sea resort , 200 meters west of heritage park hotel is excellent. it serves australian beef (different types of cuts) grilled to perfection - i personally liked the beef rib and the rib-eye steak, both delicious) . baked fish, salad and chips is just as good as the beef. my son eats all kinds of sea food and said that the seafood pizza is also very good.the other place to eat is the restaurant at raiders hotel (that is where tulagi dive stops for lunch - usually for a couple of hours between the two dives offered whenever the boat goes to the dive sites off tulagi).

    we visited all the major wrecks in the area.

    our absolute favorite was the aaron ward. it was the first and only time we dove it. as we hit the dive site, the current was ripping. it looked just like a river running fast after torrential rains.troy and cedric decided that we should wait some 30 minutes for the current to subside. said and done, the guys know the area. we had 30 meters of visibility and no currents on the ward. it the most beautiful and impressive wreck I have ever seen. the guys fought until the last moment, then they had to jump in the water. you can see it , you can even imagine the Americans manning the ward's guns trying to shoot down the japanese war planes. as kevin mentioned, the bent up part of the deck has collapsed. now the deck is basically even. you can clearly see the fractured seam.

    the uss john penn is also a very beatiful wreck, fully overgrown with different kinds of corals and a lot to see on the deck . we were kind of ''forced'' to take a good look inside the holds to avoid strenuous swiming against the current, which was still manageble during our bottom time. the wreck is very impressive.

    the current picked up very, very fast as my son, steve (a ccr guy from australia) and I were hanging on to the WRONG deco line at around 12 meters of depth. I was lying below them and had to use one of my hands to hold my mask as I looked up, so I avoided doing it (my son gave me the "move up to the next stop" sign with his hand) . Since I do not necessarily have to use my hands to equalize the pressure, I did not feel the "warning sign" in my ears as I watched my predator show the depth going from 12 to 30 meters very quickly. i double checked with my nerd and thought for a second that both depth sensors were failing at the very same time. . no, I was not narked (tulagi had helium in stock). Only then did I realize that we were hanging on to the end of the shot line, which was attached to a small mooring buoy, but not to the deco bar that hangs from the boat during deeper dives . then my son made the call and we did the rest of the deco (most of it, actually) on the drift. we were followed for half a minute by a school of huge barrakudas. we ended our deco around 2 miles away from the penn, according to some recreational divers. later, the guys said that the penn is constantly affected by very strong currents.

    the uss kanawha and the moa are also very,very nice, with lots to see , also inside the cargo holds.

    for those who had never seen an airplane before, like my son an I, the 4-engine Mavis that still has half of it's body preserved is a very special dive. I amazed to see the console of the flight instruments lying outside the airplane's cockpit.it is located on top of the right wing. the instruments protective glass cover is shattered, but still in place. high caliber ammo around the plane.

    In all wrecks we dove, there were still several preserved, mounted guns. all of them, with no exception , were pointing to the sky. on the decks of the wrecks and on the sea floor around them you still sea a lot of weapons and ammunition. and, if you take the time, you can also see the holes in their structure , all caused by sea mines , torpedoes and anti aircraft artillery in the case of the airplanes.

    twin tunnels is also a great reef dive, for a change. when we dove it, the current was ripping, so much so that we could not reach the outside wall at the bottom opening of the tunnels. we tried to swim out but the current pushed us back into the tunnel opening.we took our time at the bottom opening of the tunnel and there was plenty of sea life swimming along the wall. the top of the reef was also very beautiful. a bit of coral bleaching here and there, but still a very healthy reef. we saw a hunting reef shark hunting and a passing tuna. the only ones we saw on the trip.

    we heard from aussies (recreational divers) who have been to the solomons several times before that sea life and coral dive sight highlights are not in the tulagi/honiara area. they are in the central and western provinces. liveaboard is the way to go. they raved about the mv bilikiki. comments about the mv taka not so.

    one good news: it seems that troy will take over tulagi dive. so the business will keep running. as will the deco chamber, operated by neil and troy.

    last but not least, a word of warning about flights. actually two words.

    first word is about the honiara to port moresby flight with air niugini. we were very lucky to get two seats abort the flight. it was a flight originating in Nadi that lands in honiara and then flies on the port moresby, it's final destination. the only reason why we got the seats is because we had a connection flight with air niugini on the same day to tokyo. somehow, the airline convinced some passangers to give up their seats on the honiara- port moresby so that we (and other passangers with same-day connetions with other long haul air niugini tokyo). on the other hand, the planes are comfortable, the food is good and they grant divers extra luggage allowances.

    Second word of warning is about Cathay Pacific's luggage policy. i flew with them from tokyo to europe. where i currently live. before I book flights, I always check the airline's luggage policy.Cathay Pacific's luggage policy says that those within their weight allowances can purchase an extra piece of luggage. they even send you an email before check in reminding you about the policy and advising you to buy extra luggage in order to avoid overweight charges.The same policy states that a piece of luggage cannot exceed 32 kilos. an extra piece costs usd 60. those above the allowance need to pay uds 35 per kilo. In my case the allowance was 30 kilos in no more than in two two pieces of luggage). Now, if you have one piece of luggage under 30 kilos, you cannot by a second piece of luggage. You have to use the second piece of luggage as part of your allowance. It does not end there: If you split the weight allowance between two pieces of luggage (15kg + 15kg, for instance), you are still within the weight allowance, but still you cannot buy an extra piece (third piece). in either case, you have to pay for overweight. the thing is: you cannot have more than 30 kilos allowance at cathay. they charge you for even one kilo, as was the case with a passenger before us. the cathay pacifc manager on site heard my argument and saw my point, he even suggested that I was right about it. but he simply said that the policy is what the company determines. I suspect tha cathay uses murky language to leverage their revenue through overweight charges. as some of you might have read, they have serious difficulties to lower their high business costs and are in deep trouble. some analysts predict that they cannot compete against the surge of low cost airlines in asia, so that they could go broke within the next one year or two . i had to pay a total of 350 usd. luckily, we use the revo back pack to carry the unit as hand luggage. one is a micro titanium, the other a mini. we carry the breathing hose inside the laptop case to reduce the apparent size of the back pack. we had no issues so far. the security guys ask all the time if we have any liquids inside the back pack.

    luckily, we always carry the revo backpack with us. on the specific cathay flight, we wanted to check the two units as extra luggage, but ended up carrying them as hand luggage, otherwise ithe overweight charge would have been even higher.

    well that's it. sorry for the lengthy report.
    regards, fred

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