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  1. #41
    RBW Member Gl1tchie is an unknown quantity at this point Gl1tchie's Avatar
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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Thanks for the feedback Fred.

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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    I really enjoyed the Report, Fred, and the input from Kevin D - makes me want to go back to the Solomons soon.

    Kevin.

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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    First, thanks for the kind words KJ. But on going back, rest assured, although still nice enough underwater, it aint the place (below or above) that you (or I) remember. Unfortunately. But sure beats working to hard (no doubt).

    Fred, glad you enjoyed your trip! I would like to contact Neil privately, if you have his personal email address, would you be kind enough to PM it to me please (as I lost it when changing servers last year). Thanks.

    And yes, for anyone else thinking of going there, if it is fish life and beautiful soft and hard corals your eager for, then the west / northwest and MV Bilikiki is the way to go!

    KD
    Last edited by KevinD; 9th September 2017 at 07:35.

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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Quote Originally Posted by carlosfredericobastos  View Original Post
    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
    Hi Fred, thanks for the detailed report. I too just returned from CCR diving in the Solomon Islands, did three days with Dive Tulagi and a 10 day trip on Taka. Good to know about Cathay, I haven't flown with them yet, but now I will make sure not to. The Indian restaurant across the street from Dive Tulagi is also pretty good, as judged by New York standards, wish I knew about the Coral Sea restaurant when I was there.

    Diving with Dive Tulagi was very good, particularly enjoyed the Moa and the 2 Marus on Guadalcanal, which were easy shore dives and full of marine life. I wish the Dive op was still in Tulagi and not Honiara as Tulagi is a very quiet restful place and I would've rather stayed there. Raiders Hotel on Tulagi looks very nice and the food we had there on lunch break was very good. I wonder if Troy would offer to pick up divers from there if one wanted to stay there and dive the Tulagi wrecks with him. That is what I would do if I return.

    Onto the live aboard trip with Taka. I found Taka to be run exceptionally well with a huge dive deck and nice, clean accommodations. One of the owners of the boat, Shaz, was on board and couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating to myself and the other two rebreather divers on the trip. She procured Sofnolime and medical grade 99% O2, which is certainly better than what I get in Bonaire. Dive Tulagi was the logistics source and she worked with them to make sure everything was ready. Several weeks before Taka was chartered and had 12 CCRs on the Lust for Rust trip, and from what I can gather the trip went smoothly for both the boat and the participants. Apparently they are going to return next year and will hopefully dive the USS Atlanta. This trip however required the three rebreather divers to stay within recreational limits, which we agreed to. I would've preferred a bit more freedom, and normoxic trimix would've been great to have for some longer, limited deco diving, but I understand that CCR's are new to the owners of Taka and after a few days of diving, Shaz allowed myself and the other 2 CCR divers to dive by ourselves and I got some really great diving in. I saw sharks on every dive, some very good size Blacktip and grey reef sharks, some very large Bumphead parrotfish, schools of dogtooth tuna, huge schools of trevally and barracuda, with lots of healthy corals and beautiful tropical island scenery. I picked Taka over Bilikiki because Bilikiki does not do any diving from the main boat and doesn't seem to have much of a dive deck/room for CCRs. I am also not a fan of metal dive tenders unless they are huge and have giant ladders. Many of the Taka dives were done from the boat, including live drops off the side. The few times the inflatable tenders were necessary, we either took our gear off in the water and handed it up, or were towed a short distance, which was kind of fun and kept me from getting too much sun as I turned face down into the water, breathing off the loop during the ride.

    Overall, Taka is a very nice, well run boat and CCR friendly. And, they are beginning a Papua New Guinea itinerary starting next Spring, with a trip starting in Munda, Solomons and ending in Rabaul PNG. For those of you into WW2 wrecks, there are many significant undived wrecks in the deep part of Rabaul harbor, all I believe are around 100m or shallower. I'm surprised nobody on has mentioned them for a possible trip. All in all, I'm very glad there is a CCR friendly live aboard operating in the South Pacific, and if you are budget conscious, the single accommodations are very affordable compared to the few others in the Pacific which allow CCR diving... -Andy

  5. #45
    RBW Member zturtle is an unknown quantity at this point zturtle's Avatar
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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Andy
    Nice write up about the diving on TAKA. Both Peggy and I enjoyed the trip and especially diving with another rebreather diver.
    Agree with all your comments about the diving, boat and crew. All in all a very good trip. I agree with you on the tow back to the big boat it was like a very slow powered snorkeling.
    We are also going to look into the Solomon/PNG trip when it comes out.
    Hope to dive with you again sometime.
    Don

  6. #46
    RBW Member carlosfredericobastos is an unknown quantity at this point carlosfredericobastos's Avatar
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    Smile Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Hi guys,

    glad to know that you had a pleasant experience aboard the mv taka . previous reports were partially very negative. I was myself thinking about a liveaboard trip to dive the areas/sites away from honiara/tulagi and had written off the taka. now that i read your report, it seems to be an option again.

    now, for me, the fundamental question is: what are exactly the "recreational limits" , according to mv taka's rules ?

    I mean, on a rebreather you can go down to 40 meters, slowly ascend before you technically go into deco and stay all day long offgasing at 15 to 18 meters of depth, depending on the ppO2 in your loop. that would definitely not be a recreational profile for an open circuit diver on an S80 filled with air.

    So, for those of you on ccr :
    1.what were the maximum run times allowed ?
    2. what were the maximum depths ?

    Last but not least,. how was the food ?

    regards, fred

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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Quote Originally Posted by zturtle  View Original Post
    Andy
    Nice write up about the diving on TAKA. Both Peggy and I enjoyed the trip and especially diving with another rebreather diver.
    Agree with all your comments about the diving, boat and crew. All in all a very good trip. I agree with you on the tow back to the big boat it was like a very slow powered snorkeling.
    We are also going to look into the Solomon/PNG trip when it comes out.
    Hope to dive with you again sometime.
    Don
    Hi Don, hope to see and dive with you and Peg again, it was a pleasure. You are a lucky man to have a such dive enthusiast as a wife. Hope to see you both in PNG! -Andy

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    Re: Honiara - Solomon Islands

    Quote Originally Posted by carlosfredericobastos  View Original Post
    Hi guys,

    glad to know that you had a pleasant experience aboard the mv taka . previous reports were partially very negative. I was myself thinking about a liveaboard trip to dive the areas/sites away from honiara/tulagi and had written off the taka. now that i read your report, it seems to be an option again.

    now, for me, the fundamental question is: what are exactly the "recreational limits" , according to mv taka's rules ?

    I mean, on a rebreather you can go down to 40 meters, slowly ascend before you technically go into deco and stay all day long offgasing at 15 to 18 meters of depth, depending on the ppO2 in your loop. that would definitely not be a recreational profile for an open circuit diver on an S80 filled with air.

    So, for those of you on ccr :
    1.what were the maximum run times allowed ?
    2. what were the maximum depths ?

    Last but not least,. how was the food ?

    regards, fred
    Hi Fred, when I say recreational profiles, I took it to mean no planned decompression. Nobody checked our computers, but dive times were often limited to 60 minutes. Though even that was flexible if you were the first diver in and last out, which we CCR divers often were. Like all boats I have shared with open circuit recreational divers, the boat operator is looking for evidence of your competence and reliability. Meaning do you have a dive plan which you can execute safely and reliably. These are things that often have to be worked out on the fly as conditions dictate, and I found the owner of Taka to be entirely reasonable once we had shown we were trustworthy.

    Remember, they hosted an entire boat full of CCR trimix divers a few weeks before. In that instance they had merely chartered the boat, with the charter group taking responsibility for dive practices and safety. There is a learning curve for dive operators who are willing to host to CCR divers. My feeling is that as long as we show ourselves to be competent and considerate, the owners of Taka will give as much freedom as needed. It is also of the utmost importance that any CCR divers considering an operation that is new to CCRs have a detailed conversation, preferably on the phone with the owner or manager to discuss logistics and safety. As they say in the military: prior proper planning prevents piss poor performance. This is what I did. Most if not all CCR divers are trained to a higher degree than your average OC divers and we are more independent and less likely to panic and get bent during a liveaboard trip. If we stay within the limits of our training, I think most liveaboard operators would think of us as very good customers after logistics and safety concerns have been discussed .

    The food was good, there was plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables bought locally and fresh caught fish as well as fresh baked goods. Vegetarian options were available and there wasn't much fried food at all... -Andy

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