Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Maravagi Resort
The Florida Islands (or Nggela Islands) in the Solomon Islands are located at the closest about 30 to 35 kilometres from Honiara. In between is Iron Bottom Sound, a very deep (over 800 metres) waterway which received its name from the number of ships sunk there in World War II. The main islands are Nggela Sule, Nggela Pile, Sandfly Island, Buena Vesta Island and some other smaller islands. One of the smaller islands is Mana Island, a small island located to the west of Mbokonumbeta Island (Sandfly Island). Maravagi Resort is located on the north-eastern corner of the island adjacent to Tasou Pass on a small bay. To get to Maravagi you need to travel by boat as there are no airstrips on any of the islands in the group.
The only way to get into the Solomon Islands by commercial aircraft is via Honiara. In October 2001 when I last travelled to the Solomons, there were problems with the airline, Solomon Air. It had its operating licence cancelled and was stopped from flying into Australia because of repeated safety breaches. It did not have any aircraft but used dry leased planes (that is without crew) owned by Qantas and Air Vanuatu. It has now apparently had its licence restored but it may only be in name only. As far as I know, you now to fly on Air Vanuatu planes but with Solomon Airlines ticketing. I do not know if it is Air Vanuatu crew or Solomon Islands crew on the plane, but I suspect that the flight crew in Air Vanuatu. There is supposed to be a move to add a third flight a week (this may be in conjunction with Air Vanuatu's plan to get a second Boeing 737 in early 2004). However, the whole situation with international flights has changed a dozen times over the past couple of years so it may be different next week.
Mana Island is about 3 kilometres long and one kilometre wide. There are no roads at all on the island and no vehicles. About the only people to go to Maravagi Resort are Australian scuba divers and expats from Honiara (in 2001 mostly Australian and New Zealanders working on the International Peace Monitoring Team, aid projects and for the respective High Commissions).
If you are a large dive group you will be transferred to Maravagi by the dive operator's boat. It is over 50 kilometres so it will take about 80 minutes in the fast boat, although it can take up to two hours in rough seas. Smaller groups are transferred by the resort's smaller boats.
The resort is fairly basic, with a mixture of rooms. There are at least some rooms with three single beds and many with a double and a single. The rooms have toilet, shower (cold), a fans and mosquito nets. They also have a small lounge and some hanging hooks and a shelf. The power only operates at night (say 5 pm till 6 am) and when the dive operation compressor is operating. There is one double power point.
There is excellent snorkelling and scuba diving right off the resort. There are some undercover tables and chairs along the water's edge as well as a double hammock and an outdoor freshwater shower.
The resort has a bar and restaurant overlooking the bay. More about the restaurant later. The bar has beer (Solbrew) for SI$11 (A$4.20), a bit expensive when it is considered that they are not always cold enough to drink. Remember that the power only operates at night so sometimes the drinks are warm. It does not always occur to the staff or management to freeze some water each night and then place some beers and soft drinks in an Esky to keep them cool for the next day. Sometimes they do it, sometimes they do not. Soft drinks (Coke, mango soft drink etc are SI$5 - A$2). Bring some duty free, vodka and mango is great!
There is a very poor selection of snacks, bring some food bars from home and pick up some peanuts, Twisties and cheese balls in Honiara. Note that the resort charges a 5% surcharge on bills paid by credit card.
The restaurant serves cold and hot breakfast. Prices were SI$10 (A$4) for cold.
For lunch you can have a full meal. Curried chicken and rice, fish etc at SI$32.50 (A$13), sandwiches at SI$10 (A$4) etc. For days when you are out on the boat, order the sandwiches.
Dinner has soup (SI$8 - A$3.10), entree (SI$10 - A$4), main (SI$32.50 - A$13) and dessert (SI$8 - A$3.10). There is only one choice of soup, entree and dessert. Soup ranges from pumpkin to beef and vegetable. Entrees are oysters, pork "marlings" (medallions I think but really Spam like substance). Mains normally include a fish dish, a beef or chicken dish and something else. Meals I had included roast chicken, curried chicken and rice, lamb chops and onion sauce (hot tomato sauce with onion!) and spaghetti bolognaise. I did not have dessert so cannot remember what there was on the menu. There is free bread with all meals.
On the last night (Friday) there was a smorgasbord of fish, chicken, soup, dessert. Very good.
Tea/coffee is an pricey SI$3.50 (A$1.40) for each cup. When it is considered that the water is normally only lukewarm from a thermos, it is not good value. You can take a meal package but unless you eat every serving, it is not good value. Better to pick and pay. All the meals I had were quite acceptable in taste and quantity. It cost me about A$280 for seven days and nights, no breakfast and three or four beers a night.
There are no local stores as there is no town. Buy anything you need in Honiara or bring it from home.
The dive operation in 2001 was Solomon Sports but it was sold in late 2001/early 2002 and the new operators moved the whole operation to Tulaghi. See my comments on that page. There is now apparently a new dive operator in Maravagi but I have no information about this operation.
While there are some local reef dives, the main reason people were visiting Maravagi Resort for diving was to do the wrecks at Tulaghi. However, as it is a minimum of 45 minutes from Maravagi Resort to the wreck of the USS Kanawha and Twin Tunnels and over an hour to the USS Aaron Ward, Ghavutu Wharf, the Kawanishi Mavis Flying Boat and HMNZS Moa, you are better off staying at Tulaghi if you want to primarily do the wrecks.
Local reef dives include Tasou Pass (a shore dive), the Restaurant Reef (in front of the resort), Njanjelakalau Island, Kovuhika Island and Sandfly Passage.
This resort is okay and quite cheap overall and the reef diving is okay.