Savo island sits just off the coast of Honiara in Central Province – a tempting site for those Honiara bound and longing for adventure. The options for overnighting are the Sunset Lodge or a Village Stay – both good – though in this case we opted for the luxury of lazy afternoons reading in hammocks at the Lodge.
The lodge takes good care of its visitors, with a driver out the front of your place promptly at the designated departure time. The drive to Vila was amazing… Just 10mins out of Honiara and you’re in a lush rainforest peppered with beach huts. 35mins or so after that and you’re climbing into a banana boat watching Guadalcanal’s spectacular coastline take shape as you move away from the shore. The boat trip is beautiful in calm waters and jet boat style adventurous in choppy ones (be prepared to get wet!) but no one can navigate waves like a Solli. The first look at Savo up close is almost jurassic – craggy volcanic mounds covered in dense green foliage that drape over the rocks down to the beachlined palms below. Keep an eye out for dolphins frolicking near the boat as you approach the shore!
The girls in pink greet you with a flowered coconut – ahhh… life in the tropics – as you make the difficult decision of whether to swim with dolphins, climb the volcano, visit the megapodes or chill in the hammocks. The girls put out an amazing spread for lunch – a consistent staple on the island – with sliced watermelon, pineapple and cucumber, rice and chicken, omelette (for vegos!), steamed bok choy, potato chips and bread. You can’t help but feel spoilt with so many plates filling your table.
We opted for the big volcano walk to burn off the lunch the first afternoon… Ray, our 16 year old, sure footed guide was on school holidays and both leading tours and navigating the short boat ride around the coast in his spare time (coolest holiday job ever?). We started up the dry river bed that slowly narrowed to a rocky path following an increasingly warming creek. It would be a good idea to practice not touching the water (sometimes unavoidable) downstream where the water is relatively cool as a little slip into the steaming hot water upstream is painful! The walk is stunning, with high cliffs covered in ferns lining the creek bed, steaming waterfalls and even a moss covered tree branch ladder – a little scrambly and not for those unsteady on their feet. Nearing the top, the rocks are hot to touch and as you walk into the mouth the rainforest gives way to white rock spotted with yellow and red deposits. The entire rock face bubbles and steams – it was at this point I notice Ray is still barefoot! I ask him about it and he says, yes, normally he’d bring shoes for this part as the rock literally steams – I’m hoping the sulphurous steam will be like a free day at a health spa for my skin! 🙂 Its a quick trip following the same path back down but definitely an adventure you’d be unlikely to have in Oz (OH&S reasons) and well worth it.
Back at the lodge black butterflies fill the trees as we swing in the hammocks watching the magnificent sunset. The rooms are simple, but spotless with shared bathrooms on the landing. It seems odd to be staying in a building that accommodate so many when we are the only guests!
The next morning it’s off to swim with the dolphins. The number of dolphins so close to the shore is overwhelming, and the excitement of being pulled along beside the boat as you watch them play is phenomenal. Outside the boat you’re treated to jumps, spins and tandem performances. Still wet and hungry for more we snorkel out the front of the hotel after the dolphin trip – clear warm waters, dotted coral and plenty of fish to snorkel with.