On August 7, 1942, the Battle of Guadalcanal began and it was a turning point in World War II. I wanted to explore this area and learn more about the people, the culture and the history for this important 75th anniversary.
Where are the Solomon Islands?
The Solomon Islands are an archipelago of 900 islands between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. Most Americans would fly from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji on Fiji Airways and then to the Solomon Islands. Another choice would be to fly to Brisbane, Australia and then to the Solomon Islands.
VIDEO: Fly from LAX to Fiji On the Way to the Solomon Islands
What is the Lumatapopoho Cultural Village?
At Lumatapopoho Cultural Village, Primo and his wife, Paula, shared their traditions with me at their Cultural Village. First we had a welcome betel nut ceremony and then Primo showed me the kitchen and their homemade bowls from hard wood. When he showed how they make cloth, I had to try that. He showed me how they make an entire house from local materials in the jungle. He was able to sew the roof together using sharp pieces from the palm tree. It looked like staples when he was done. Using bamboo and vine, they make a colorful weaving pattern for the walls. Inside the building they had spears so I asked if I could hold one and then we took photos together. Primo, the village chief, told me that I am a warrior now.
VIDEO: Want to Visit Lumatapopoho Cultural Village in Honiara?
What is the Vilu War Museum?
The Vilu War Museum is an outdoor arrangement of planes, cannons and bombs from the battles of World War 2. There are Japanese Betty bombers and a plane called Zero. I also saw Wildcats which were in dogfights and SBD Douglas Bombers.
VIDEO: Wonder about the Vilu War Museum outside Honiara in the Solomon Islands?
What Monuments can you see in Honiara?
The US Memorial on hill 73 overlooks Mataniko River and panorama of Iron Bottom Sound and the famous battle ridges of Galloping Horse and Sea Horse.
Drive up to Kolo Ridge on Mount Austen to see the Japanese Memorial. There are incredible views of Henderson field and the Eastern Battlefields.
VIDEO: The Japanese Memorial on Mount Austin from World War II, Solomon Islands
VIDEO: Exploring Honiara and the Coastwatchers and Solomon Scouts Memorial Solomon Scouts
VIDEO: Tetere Beach World War II Tank Museum in Solomon Islands
Did you meet any local artists?
I met a local carver named Ken from MarovoVisit at the colorful central market in downtown Honiara. He uses kerosene wood, ebony and rosewood for his carvings. They are sometimes inlaid with nautilus shell. He explained that it can take two months to carve and sand one piece. Depending on where the kerosene wood grows it can be many different colors; this is his favorite wood to carve as it is strong. Rosewood is more red if it is near a river and the sediments and soil around it determine the final colors of the wood. My favorite piece was called the Spirit of Solomon and was one of the most traditional carvings created in the Solomon Islands.
I also liked the Nguzunguzung which is one of two gods placed in the front of a canoe. If the god is holding a bird, it is the god of peace and the canoe is arriving for a ceremony like a birthday or a marriage however if the god is holding a skull, then it is a war canoe arriving. It was important to know when the conch shell blew if the canoe should be met by the ladies for a celebration or the warriors for a fight. It used to be that everyone knew how to carve and especially to make a canoe. Now only some people focus on the skill of carving wood.
VIDEO: Ken the Carver and the Spirit of the Solomons Craft Market in Honiara
Did you learn about Shell Money?
Did you go diving in Honaira?
VIDEO: Under the Sea in the Solomon Islands with Tulagi Dive
I dove for two days in Honiara with Tulagi Dive. The first day we went to the Japanese submarine I-1 and the B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber. Troy Shelley from Tulagi Divers told me to the story about the wreck of the I-1 Submarine “which was used by the Japanese forces from the 14th January to the 7th February 1943 for Operation Ke to evacuate troops from Guadalcanal. At that time the I-1 Submarine was on station in the area of Cape Esperance, where she was detected by the New Zealand ships RNZN Kiwi and Moa and sunk.” Remarkably, divers were able to recover two rice paper code books which were in an air pocket in the submarine. The US Military had broken half the code and with these books, which should have melted from contact with sea water, the military were able to now understand all messages from the Japanese forces. Where previously they knew the movement of the troops but not the size and location, now they understood where Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto would be flying to inspect a new airstrip and sent a mission to intercept and shoot down his plane.
On the second day, I went diving at Hirokawa Maru (Bonegi 1 or B1) and Kinugawa Maru (Bonegi 2 or B2) and I went to 130feet. Tulagi Dive is the only technical dive shop in the Solomon Islands. If you are ready to go deep, this is your shop! I loved diving wrecks and learning history in the Solomon Islands.
VIDEO: Deep underwater at Bonegi 1 and 2 with Tulagi Dive
Video: Flying from Munda to Honiara
Where did you stay in Honiara?
I stayed at three hotels in Honiara.
VIDEO: Welcome to Honiara and Heritage Park Hotel
Heritage Park opened in August 2009 and is the original location of the home of the Governor General of The Solomon Islands.
VIDEO: Where to stay in Honaira? Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel
Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel is located on the water and has two restaurants “Capitana” International Restaurant and “Hakubai” Japanese Restaurant with the only Japanese Cuisine in the islands. I loved the outdoor patio.
VIDEO: Join me at the Coral Sea Resort in Honiara
Coral Sea Resort and Casino is a brand new property with five luxury villas each with its own private terrace and hot tub. Another 30 guest rooms will be added in 2017. I loved having my own kitchen so I could have breakfast in my room. High-speed internet is included (there was a charge for wifi at my other Honiara hotels). There is a pool, casino and Haydn’s steakhouse which has live music at night.
Thank you or “Taggio okah rasuah” to the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau for arranging my trip and helping me learn about the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Want to know more about the Solomon Islands?
Read my articles:
Saturday Evening Post: A World War II Hero Remembers Guadalcanal
Discovering Marvelous Munda in the Solomon Islands
See my segment for The Jet Set TV on the Solomon Islands.
Thank you! Lisa Niver