Kayak Solomons
Marovo Lagoon Sea Kayaking Expeditions

TRIP REPORTS

March 2012

Kayak Solomons knows how to cook up the perfect paddling adventure… only the finest ingredients are used, combined by experts. First, take the beautiful Marovo Lagoon in the Western Province of Solomon Islands, add local people who are as warm as the tropical water, patient and anxious to please, add coral reefs, countless rainforest islands, leaping rays, dolphins and turtles, spiced with an occasional cooling rain squall or cross winds and stirred gently by Grant Kelly.

Our four day kayak adventure started with an introductory lesson from Grant, an experienced kayaker, who taught us the basic skills we would need. We were also provided with comfortable, stable, ‘Sea Lion’ kayaks, dry bags, life jackets and drinking water.  A satellite phone and first aid kit were carried by our guide.

Aeram led our expedition from behind, like a sheep dog making sure that we didn’t get lost and guiding us along the best route but allowing us to go first and explore for ourselves the new and wonderful scenery revealing itself in front of our bows. Like all the locals, Aeram has grown up on these waters, paddling a dugout since he was a pikanini. The people here are completely at home under, in or on the sea. They know how all the islands, currents, wind conditions, places to land or snorkel and sandy beaches.

Packing up and leaving Uepi

The first day we paddled for about three hours to an island where lunch was provided by Uepi thanks to our trusted back up, Willie . After a languid swim we set off again into a stiff breeze to land at Lolou’s Island about two hours later. Lolou island (pigeon island) is home to nesting Imperial pigeons. Our host Lolou (it’s his island) and his wife Vizinia have lif haus accommodation for kayakers and yachties (but can also provide tents). The looked after us very well – cooking us meals and replenishing our drinking water. The lif haus had comfortable  beds, mosquito nets with no extraneous holes and a million dollar view from the little beach.

Lolou Lodge

On the second day we used Lolou’s Island as a base and paddled out to the beginning of the double barrier on the eastern end of the lagoon. It would have been hard to make a more perfect day – imagine effortlessly floating across turquoise, aquamarine and indigo blue water, looking down 10 or 20 metres into gin clear water, down to coral, fish and giant sponges. All around are green cupcake islands decorated with coconut palms and giant pandanus. Look up to a Homer Simpson sky – blue with fluffy white clouds… and an osprey or a Solomon Sea Eagle.

As we passed the first of the double barrier islands a man in a dugout called out “where are you going”? He invited us to stop at his island and enjoy the powdery white sand beach, coloured fish like hundreds and thousands sprinkled amongst the coral. Which we did. And then paddled back home in a dream (Aeram testing us to see whether we could navigate our way back.)

Aeram checking out the coral Lunch stop

Just in case our palate had been jaded by the previous day’s perfection, day three brewed up a small storm. We had a strong following wind and rain squalls for the one hour paddle from Lolau’s Island to the big island Vangunu. Aeram showed us how to hold up our paddles to use as sails and so we surfed into a miniature harbour and then slid up a tiny rainforest stream sheltered by swamp forest. A little way up we were met by a smiling Gary who helped us pull the kayaks onto land. Gary had never had tourists at his village before and was anxious to make us feel welcome. We felt honoured to be shown his family’s ‘pet’ eels. Gary’s village has been looking after the eels that live in the fresh water stream (now muddied by nearby logging activity) for twenty years. Some of the eels are at least one meter long and very fat. Gary’s father is a skilled horticulturist and so the village has a large area under cultivation for peanuts among other crops. Tropical ornamentals such as hibiscus, ixora, gingers and heliconia surround the traditional timber and leaf houses. Gary’s father was also proud of his water lily ponds, orchids and canoe trees. We learnt how in olden times, war canoes were made by weaving rainforest lianas. Today these techniques are used to make baskets.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Gary and his father who had shown us such kindness and warmth. Now that the rain had gone we paddled the short distance to Kajoro Lodge in calm waters. John Wayne’s Lodge is in a village with the most picturesque lif haus built out over the water. John’s son Waeno looked after us and took us on a rainforest walk to visit their family shrine. He told us stories about his great grandfather who had been a warrior and head hunter before becoming Christian. This is a family of artists – John and his son are celebrated wood carvers and their work is in galleries throughout the Pacific. The women in the family make beautiful baskets and have created a magical garden around the Lodge and their family buildings. They are also good cooks.

The afternoon was for resting, Solomon style, dozing on the giant bed on the open verandah, cooled by a gentle breeze and listening to the waves lapping under the Lodge and the excited chatter and giggling of pikininis paddling their dugouts home from school. After dinner was ‘stori taem’ with Waeno and Aeram sharing a little of their life history.

The final day we set off  ‘early’ (9.30am) and reinvigorated by the previous day’s rest. Aeram had been concerned about the north-easterly wind and we planned to island hop rather than go directly across the open lagoon waters back to Uepi (just in case any of us became over tired and needed rescuing). It actually turned out to be rather fun, the easterly component pushing us along the way we needed to go. After an hour or so, the wind diminished and we paddled easily back to Uepi by lunchtime. Aeram showed off by leaning back and paddling with his legs up on the deck. However, we made sure that our return to Uepi was done in style for a photo finish when Grant met us with camera and cold drinks. It was sad (for us) to say goodbye to Aeram but we hope to be back for second helpings.

  Paddling up the river
Paddling up the river Uepi

Dinah Hansman March 2012.

We sincerely wish to thank the following people for use of their photographs in our website:

Oceania Films/Matt Guest, Fred Bavendam, Roberto Rinaldi, Jill Kelly, Grant Kelly, Wes Kelly and Jason Kelly.

 

Kayak Solomons - Marovo Lagoon - Solomon Islands
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