Girl Gone Global: The Solomon Islands in the South Pacific

Alyssa Pinskerblog, Uncategorized

 

The Solomon Islands are just three hours from Australia but are less often visited by Americans outside of extremely keen snorkelers and World War II Veterans. Last August, a monumental ceremony was held for the 75th anniversary of World War II and the battle of Guadalcanal, the last war America won. It was attended by major politicians from the world, veterans and local scout heroes alike. I was lucky enough to attend as a guest, along with a fellow American journalist and Australian writer.

Situated in the South Pacific between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, the population of about 550,000 is predominantly Melanesian but includes other smaller groups. The Solomon Islanders are known for their bright blonde afros due to a recessive gene, as well as their unique customs and preserved culture of the “Happi Islands.” Indigenous local customs and traditions remain a very important part of life for Solomon Islanders.

There is a cannibal museum on skull island, which is just that and some locals still wear loincloths and opt for not using electricity. Primo, his wife, and their eight children live in the middle of the busiest and most developed island in the Solomon Island, Honiara surrounded by electronic stores and convenience marts. The family survives entirely off the land, without running water, electricity, or modern toilets.

Around fifteen years ago after his father passed away, Primo decided to leave the “Western way” of living while working as a deckhand on a ship in the Solomon Islands (still a common profession nearly 75 years after World War II) to return to his roots.

The children attend modern public school in their uniforms by day but return to their chores. These include beating local tree trunk to make their clothing, wearable loin cloths, gathering water from the well and searching for stones and firewood for the evening’s cooking. Primo uses flint and stone to light a fire, though lighters are readily available. His wife then uses these heated rocks and dried leaves for making meals. Daylight is the only lighting necessary and no one in the family has a cell phone or a car. When I visited them after hearing their story, I was greeted by Primo with a wide smile and flawless and sat upon a mat of woven leaves for our traditional greeting: enjoying betel nut prepared by dipping a leaf straw into lime powder.  

(August 2016, the island before the JFK memorial and the island watchman.)

I learned that during the war, President John F. Kennedy swam three miles to freedom to an uninhabited island rescuing three of his fellow soldiers. He finally got his memorial statue on Lubaria island, which is still uninhabited but manned by one watchman.

Another amazing excursion is live volcano cooking of megapode eggs and cassava with local guide John, carrying the apple-pear and the kids tagged along for fun. Seen on the lad to my right is the traditional woven basket bags that locals make and wear.

The islands and waters are a pristine paradise. They are particularly special for their remarkable biodiversity, containing thousands of different plant and animal species, especially the marine life. Many species are known only to the Solomons and thus scuba divers from around the world come to dive and even live.

The destination is fast attracting a brand new breed of travelers from around the world –  family groups, bird watchers, honeymooners, sports fishermen, yachtsmen, culture-lovers and simply those looking to make their own tracks. From the five star hotels of the capital, Honiara to boutique resort accommodation like the celebrity visited SanBis (pidgin for Sand Beach), a one hotel island where you can truly unplug and get away.

The historical artifacts here are worthy of the Smithsonian, yet for many Americans, the Solomon Islands are an unknown and forgotten part of the world. Next year, on August 7th, 2017 will be the 75th anniversary of World War II, the last war that was won by America. The battle that won the war existed in the South Pacific, the Battle of Guadalcanal which is now a living outdoor museum lovingly maintained by locals like Vilu Islands’ Anderson Dua  who’s uncle gathered all these items voluntarily in the 1960-70s from across Guadalcanal by Dua’s uncle, the late Fred Kona, who brought them to their current location. Dua assisted his uncle to collect many of the artifacts as a child. He speaks with obvious passion and knowledge about every artifact and delights in pointing out the best locations and angles for camera shots.
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 Many living museums like this exist in the oceans and islands of the Sollies, as the Australians who are only three hours away by flight refer to it. Melanesia is virtually unknown to most American tourists but a hotspot for diving and World War II historical tourists for years. Japanese wrecks still stand for the public to dive and snorkel to and the island that President John F. Kennedy was shipwrecked to when he heroically saved two fellow soldiers still stands, as a deserted island where he was rescued by locals, but with a brand new memorial built in August 2017:

Only 6000 genuine tourists visit the island chain per year and very few of them Americans. A living museum exists in the oceans and islands of “the Sollies,” as the Australians refer to it.  Japanese wrecks still stand for the public to dive and snorkel to and the island that President John F. Kennedy was shipwrecked to when he heroically saved two fellow soldiers still stands, like a deserted island where he was rescued by locals, but with a brand new memorial to be built. This is one of the most unique and beautiful places in the world I have ever visited and I encourage you to see the island for yourself.

 

There was one hotel on the island shown here, accessible by a 45 minute back breaking boat ride, it was worth it for the dozens of dolphins we saw circling the motorboat and the relaxing and simple accomodatinos on the island.

This trip was sponsored by The Solomon Islands CVB. E-mail info@sivb.com.sb and ask for Ellison for more information on how to visit the Solomon Islands and tell them I sent you! For more photos see: https://www.instagram.com/p/BItnSDDgEV_/

Alyssa PinskerGirl Gone Global: The Solomon Islands in the South Pacific