I am going to break protocol and let you in an email exchange between two professional travel writers with years of experience and travel between them commenting on a photo of reef fishing: ‘Gold! Where was this?’ travel writer 1 asks. ‘Just near Munda on the Vona Vona Lagoon, Western Province – about an hour boat’s ride away from fabulous Fatboys which lies on the same body of water. This was fishing ‘Roviana’ style’ – travel writer 2 answers. I just love it. ‘Near Munda on the Vona Vona Lagoon’, it just rolls off the tongue and brings to mind turquoise waters, remote locations, unknown places. But where is this lagoon? In what country? What is Fatboys? It is hard to impress experienced travel writers but the Solomon Islands has a secret following amongst us. Some argue we shouldn’t divulge these idyllic locations, others say it will be good for the fabulous Solomon Islands people.
OK, disclosure time:
WHERE ON EARTH ARE THE SOLOMON ISLANDS?
The Solomon Islands is the lesser-known island nation of the Pacific, a mere two hours’ flight from Brisbane with Solomon Airlines.
If you always thought – like me – that Papua New Guinea looks like a hornbill in flight, the Solomons are on its tail wake…
Never saw it that way? Look again…
WHAT IS FATBOYS?
Fatboys Resort is the ultimate beachcombers’ paradise on the Mbabanga Island in the Western Solomon’s Province. Fatboys has fabulous beach bungalows on stilts, connected by a 100m walkway to the restaurant, bar and social hub over the reef.
The social hub is a wall-less pavilion where lobster is never off the menu and sorties by paddleboards and cute little bathtubs (well they are proper boats but they look like toys) with outboard motors can be had to explore the surrounding lagoon.
Of course the best method is swimming and snorkeling for you don’t have to go far to encounter reef life at its best.
In fact, just under the restaurant, attracted by the creatures that attach themselves to the pylons, thousands of reef fish come to forage.
There is even a Nemo colony here!
FISHING LIKE YOU’VE NEVER FISHED BEFORE:
On hearing that the Roviana people were about to do a traditional gathering of the fish nearby, we are rushed by boat to witness one of the most extraordinary ways of fishing.
On arrival to the Vona Vona Lagoon, near Munda (the famed place the two travel writers above were enthusing about), a group of about 20 men are unraveling a huge bale of a special vine looking like palm fronds, tightly tied together to form a very long rope.
The men, waist deep in the lagoon, make a circle of about 50m in diameter holding the vine underwater.
We are told the fish will come to the centre. I join in holding the vine underwater hoping for the best. After some 15 minutes, beautiful reef fish begin collecting within our circle, apparently attracted by the fluttering fronds.
The men start making the circle smaller and smaller and at one point a ‘magic powder’ is thrown into the middle. They say it will make the fish sleepy therefore easy to catch by hand….
As if by true magic, in a few minutes the fish start to slow down and then there is a burst of flying fish everywhere.
The water in the circle of vines seems to be boiling. A triggerfish jumps very high and one of us is hit on the back with either its teeth or its dorsal fin.
One of the local Roviana men quickly slits open a small fish, rubs the guts on our friend’s scratch and all pain ceases instantly.
Men are now gathering fish by the armful and placing them in a dugout canoe. The catch will go on to feed an entire village for a special occasion. Locals prefer the sweet reef fish to the deep-sea kind.
This is the beauty of a resort such as Fatboys. If there is something special going on, the management will make sure you know about it and will get you there.
WANNABE A CASTAWAY?
Another travel industry person I know is having a Castaway birthday party with her friends on a sandbar organised by Fatboys.
They will have all supplies delivered to the sandbar and guests will spend the night there. Fatboys will collect them the following morning.
Our group has a wine-down at sundown on that very spit. The castaway feeling is inevitable.
You feel small, like a grain of sand lost between the immensity of a lavender blue sky and the turquoise waters.
Flying around the Solomon Islands
One more thing:
In the Solomon Islands you commute by boat or plane between the 800 and some islands.
Flights between the islands are covered by Dash-8s or Otters: the small, reliable workhorses of the bush. This is ‘real’ flying: true joy rides.
Strings of islands big and small, inhabited and un-inhabited are stretched below like a mermaid’s necklace. Most have their own lagoons. You can tell by the difference in the colour of the surrounding waters.
In most cases you can walk from the airstrip to your hotel. Waiting lounges could be a pier where you can wait for your flight while you dip your toes in the water.
When you hear the plane landing, you just out your thongs on and walk a few steps to the airstrip.
This is true, wholesome, awesome adventure with an edge.
Shall we leave it as a trade secret or share the Solomon delights with the rest of the world?
Maria Visconti travelled as a guest of Solomon Airlines and the Solomon Islands Tourism Board.
DISCOVER SOLOMON ISLANDS
There are direct flights from Brisbane to Honiara. The domestic flight from Honiara to Gizo takes about one hour.
Stay at Fatboys Resort for a relaxing island holiday.
For more ideas on things to do on the Solomon Islands see:
Looking for a pristine island paradise? Find out more about Solomon Islands history and nature,