Skull Island (Graeme Kent)
Blog Words : Insider Secrets | 06 October

An Insider's Guide to the Solomon Islands

From secret shark-calling ceremonies to gruesome reminders of its head-hunting past, novelist Graeme Kent reveals the Solomons' secret places

1. The Megapode Fields of Savo

Most expeditions start from Honiara, the small capital on the coast of the island of Guadalcanal. Savo is a tiny volcanic island 14km across the placid waters. Any islander with a canoe will take you there for a small fee.   

The Megapode fields occupy an area of about 400 yards along the beach. The sands are so warm that at night hundreds of female Megapode birds arrive, scratch down about 90 cm and lay their eggs before covering them up. The next morning the eggs are incubated by the warmth of the ground, the young birds dig their way up to the surface and fly away at once, in huge swarms – a fascinating sight.

2. Savo Volcano

While you’re there, climb the volcano.  It’s steep but only 400m high. Watch the water coursing down the sides, but don’t touch it. In some of the pools it’s boiling hot. If you employ a guide he will probably cook you a megapode egg omelette on the hot soil, if you ask him to!

3. The Matanikau Falls

This double-sided waterfall is one of the most spectacular in the whole of the Pacific islands. From Chinatown in Honiara walk or hitch a lift to Lelei village. Cross the river at Tuvaruhu and strike out along the ridge. The going is steep but guides are available along the way. You should reach the falls in a couple of hours.   

You will pass the scenes of many skirmishes and a number of pitched battles between the US forces and the Japanese in World War II. Thundering falls hurtle down into a large cave full of stalagmites and swooping bats. The cave was used by Japanese soldiers as a shelter. There are a number of lakes suitable for swimming.

4. Laulasi Village

Take a plane or ship to Auki on Malaita, to see one of the celebrated artificial islands of the Langa Langa Lagoon. From Auki hire a motorized canoe to Laulasi or get a lift  along the road for about 15km to Talakali, and hire a canoe from there.  

Laulasi is one of the celebrated artificial islands, constructed stone by stone by the islanders to get away from warfare on the mainland. Laulasi maintains its old traditions, with custom houses and the manufacture of shell money.  It even puts on the old shark-calling ceremonies, based on the ones conducted by Willie Beogu, the last of the traditional pagan shark-callers, who died in 1980. However, these ceremonies take a long time to arrange and a fee is charged to watch them.

5. Skull Island

From Gizo or Munda in the Western Provinces of the Solomon Islands, take a canoe to tiny Skull Island off Kundu Point. This tiny patch of land contains caskets containing the skulls of famous chiefs, especially from the old headhunting days of the 19th century.  A custodian from a neighbouring island will show you around.

One BloodGraeme Kent spent eight years travelling in the more remote areas of the Solomon Islands, gathering news and feature material for the local radio service. He is the author of the well-received Sergeant Kella and Sister Conchita crime novel-series, set in the Solomons.