Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Solomons - second time around

Last year, after visiting the Solomon Islands, I blogged grimly and at length over my deeply unfavourable impressions. Honiara, I cried, was one of the most depressing places I had ever visited. My cries raised an answer from a local resident ‘We’re not as bad as all that’. And another, ‘Don’t judge the Solomons by Honiara’.
So I issued a challenge. ‘I’m back in Honiara in 2009. Come and meet me, take me out to all the good bits in and around town, no expense spared, and I’ll foot the bill’. But nobody took up the challenge.
I nodded wisely, and, when we hit Honiara, I curled myself up on deck with half a dozen good books, and let my companions go ashore without me. They found the town’s several hotels, the Botanical Gardens and the market, and took one tour mostly to the various World War II sites (not my scene at all, at all), and I had a very pleasant three days, instead of two (Honiara dockers seem incapable of keeping a schedule, maybe it’s the heat) on a sunbed with Minette Walters, Edith Wharton, Ellis Peters et al. So, I’m sorry, Honiara, I didn’t give you a second chance.

From Honiara we sailed to Noro. Now, last year we stopped so briefly at tiny Noro (one Soltai tuna factory and associated village) that only the hardiest man among us shinned down the Jacob’s Ladder quickly to check out the place. His delightful photos and tales made me determined to tackle the ladder this year. But our purser, Natasha, had come up with something better. Eight passengers and our Tina scrambled down the ship’s side into a small motor boat, and sped off through the blue seas and green palmy islets to what is called the Zipolo Habu Resort on Lola Island.

‘Resort’ has always been a word to turn me off. But I’m learning. It doesn’t have to mean a kind of plastic over-developed Paradise lost. After Oyster Island, now Zipolo Habu has proved that to me. Glorious. Splendid. Wonderful. You bathe in warm, shallow waters, some parts sandy bottomed while in others inquisitive seaweeds rise up to tickle your body alarmingly and the odd blue prickly thingummybob inhabits the ocean floor. Our snorkelling Trevor came face to face with a reef shark which the locals assured us was ‘friendly’. Charlotte confirmed the sighting, but when I tried, I got mostly just the inquisitive seaweed. Perhaps just as well.

A delightful sunny jetty, a pretty cool restaurant and bar, and hardly another soul to share it with us…
We lounged around, lunching on delicious fresh crayfish and a flood of ice-cold Chardonnay…

Ayjay, the gentlemanly barman, was the life and soul of the day, coping magnificently with our jesting John, who was riding the peak of one of his most outrageous waves. Having failed to interest the young man in (amongst a selection of deviations) me, he then introduced him to Tina. That was something different. Ayjay’s eyes lit up. So, actually, did Tina’s! But it was time to go…

Thank you Ayjay, thank you Joe (Joe Entrikin is the owner of this luscious place), thank you the young folk who rustled up the delicious crayfish, thank you Zipolo Habu… we had a day truly to remember. And, Ayjay, I snapped this photo of Tina on your beach. I’ll email it to you as a souvenir!

Zipolo Habu Resort has a website, so visit it at
Better still, visit the place
It has five stars from one ‘international prize-winning author and critic’. Me.

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