SOLOMON ISLANDS GENERAL INFORMATION
The Solomon Islands are a far-flung archipelago of 992 islands strung out over more than 900 miles of ocean just northeast of Australia. Pieced together as a single country by Great Britain, it achieved its independence in 1978. But its half million inhabitants on 347 inhabited islands are still as much tribal in thought as they are "Solomon Islanders". The pidgin term "wantok" , or "one talk" refers to a person who speaks the same language ( of which there are more than 90- see "Language" section), and therefore can automatically be counted on for assistance in virtually anyway it is needed. This has created great difficulties for islanders running businesses, as a business necessitates separating business assets from personal ones, not a great consideration in a subsistence economy.
And much of the country still lives largely on farming and fishing, but as the outside world creeps in more and more, desires for our products naturally become necessities ( see "Gifts" section of "Packing List"). Now cash is needed for items we don't even think about- soap, oil for lanterns, clothing, bibles ( the islands are highly Christianized) , pots and pans, dishes, schooling ( see "Friends of Peava"), transport, etc. Interestingly, in a land where time has been largely irrelevant, a good, underwater watch is a prized possession and a great trade/gift item.
The majority of Solomon Islanders are of Melanesian ancestry; but there are colonies of Polynesians, especially Gilbertese. The blonde hair that is fairly common is a genetic trait.
The people are often initially shy; the western custom of looking at a person when greeting them can be considered disrespect in the Solomons, although most islanders are used to us by now. But once you initiate a conversation, you will find the Solomon Islanders among the warmest and friendliest people in the world.
A couple of great books to read, both available through AMAZON, are SOLOMON TIME, by Will Randall- his own story of a British school teacher thrust unawares into a village ( not too far from Peava) on Rendova and his subsequent adjustments and adventures. I laughed until I cried at some of his anecdotes- he is a fluid and funny writer. I have actually met a few of the characters in the book. The other is a tiny pocketbook titled Pidgin: The Languages of Oceana which will give you an excellent grounding in the Solomon Islands pidgin which is the language the islanders use to communicate among themselves.
Sitting just below the equator between 5 and 10 degrees latitude, the Solomons are truly in the tropics. Temperatures normally ride in the mid to upper 80's but can be in the 90's, especially in their summertime , but it is the humidity that many people find difficult to deal with. When the breezes blow, it is absolutely delightful. When they drop, one can sweat just standing still. I have found several ways of dealing with the heat.
My favorite is to just walk off the jetty for a swim or a long snorkel- after all, what did I come here for? Or, equally desirable, throw on a tank and head out for a dive. It is MOST important to stay well hydrated- when we sweat , we often do not feel thirsty. That bottle of water should go everywhere with you.
Replacing electrolytes is equally important- and Corey got me hooked on fresh coconut water/milk. If I start feeling that "feeling" that I am missing something, I down electrolyte rich coconut water and almost instantly feel much better.
When squalls blow through, it can get quite chilly; so bring long pants and a long sleeved top (see PACKING LIST).
I have spent so much time there that my body has started to adjust- when I returned from my last trip (Solomon summer), I was COLD here in Hawaii.
Check out the Center for Diseases Control web site for current info on shots recommended before traveling to the Solomons, or have your health care practitioner check for you. Malaria is a fact of life in the Solomons and a preventative is highly recommended. There are basically 3 options:
Larium -- this seems to have the most unpleasant side effects for the greatest number of people, some of which mimic symptoms of decompression sickness- so not recommended for divers.
Doxycyclene -- well tolerated by most people. Use with caution as it tends to make some people very sun-sensitive.
Malarone -- the newest in the anti-malarial arsenal -- it seems to have the fewest side effects. I've been using it now for years with zero side effects. It's downside is that it is expensive.