WAR HISTORY AND WHERE THE FATBOYS PLAYIn this, the second part of our Solomon Islands travel extravaganza, I take a look at the Islands’ incredible war history as well why Fatboys is the place to stay in Gizo.
As you all would’ve discovered when you read my much-loved column last month, the Solomon Islands is located in the Southern Pacific Ocean, northeast of Australia between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. With its 922 islands and almost 70 languages (spoken with around 100 separate dialects), it is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing places on the planet.
The islands have a profound WWII history and many fierce battles to place all among them. Reminders of past conflicts involving the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Solomon Islanders are evident throughout the islands.
The future President of the USA, John F Kennedy, was shipwrecked in the Solomon Islands after his motor torpedo boat – the PT 109, which he was commanding – was ambushed and sunk at night by the Japanese navy on the August 2, 1942. He and ten of his crew members survived by swimming to a small, uninhabited island, which is now known as Kennedy Island.
The island is close to Mbabanga Island, a popular tourist destination eight minutes boat ride from Gizo, the capital of the Solomons’ Western Province. Gizo itself is only a short one-hour and twenty-minute flight from Honiara, but it’s a million miles from a care in the world.
We took part in the Solomons’ renowned battlefield tour, which gives a fascinating insight into how horrifying those war years were. On one of our boating adventures we passed an area of coastline off Guadalcanal known as Blood Beach. It was along this stretch of coastline that 7000 American and Japanese soldiers lost their lives during six months of torrid fighting in 1942 (known as the Battle of Guadalcanal) before the Japanese finally withdrew in early 1943.
The islands around Gizo are renowned for having some of the best dive and snorkel sites in the Pacific Rim. Many of the reefs have wrecks of WWII planes that were shot down during the conflict, which are now act as perfect artificial reefs where a huge amount of sea life congregates.
One dive site off Njari Island has been recorded as having the fourth largest fish count ever recorded anywhere in the world. There was so much marine life that the fish were basically fighting to jump into our boat. I consumed so much lobster and crayfish that I thought I might have to change my passport photo – I was certain I was turning into one.
As I alluded to previously, near the uninhabited Kennedy Island you’ll find Mbabanga Island, where we stayed at an awesome resort known as Fatboys. Given the amount of food that we consumed, the name seemed more than appropriate.
The name ‘Fatboys’ actually comes from a Dickensian character (Joe) from the novel ‘The Pickwick Papers’.
The resort comprises only four waterfront bungalows and one self-contained unit, all with spectacular views. With a full capacity of just 19 guests, it is a very special and unique property.
If solitude, serenity, waterborne activities including diving/snorkelling (reef or wrecks), surfing, kayaking, fishing (local or deep sea), and a overwater restaurant surrounded by aquamarine waters excite you, Fatboys should definitely be on your bucket list.
During our short but action-packed stay we crammed as much adventure in as we possibly could, including visiting a local self-sustaining village and a market visit on Gizo Island.
At the markets we were welcomed by a barrage of betel nut stained smiles from happy locals selling their wares. Later in the day we feasted on crayfish and taro at a barbecue on Kennedy Island, before snorkelling in the crystal clear water. Then, in the late afternoon, we ventured by boat to capture an breathtaking open sea sunset.
This group of islands truly is paradise. There is no other word to describe it. Aesthetically it is second to none and the Solomon Islanders have an innocence, warmth and charm that you simply don’t encounter in the Western world. If there is a more gorgeous, happy and sparkling race of children anywhere I’m yet to meet them.
This was my first time experiencing the Solomons and it exceeded all of my expectations.
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