Diving with crocs in the Solomons

Deborah Dickson-Smith

Would you dive with a crocodile?

The Solomon Islands is one of the world’s last wild frontiers, world famous for its incredible scuba diving, a place where you can dive WWII wrecks, pristine coral reefs, scenic caves and caverns and… maybe come across a saltie underwater. Wait. What?

Here’s just a few of the amazing underwater adventures you can have in the Solomon Islands, which we discovered diving with Solomon Islands Dive Expeditions (SIDE).

Saltwater Crocodiles

Fancy a dive with a saltie? Source: Dive Planit

We came across this guy (about 2m long) swimming through the shallows of the Russell Islands, as we were happily swimming through some rather beautiful coral gardens.

The dive guides on our live-aboard dive boat, the MV Taka, come across them quite frequently, and they’re not too worried about them.

They do however, make sure we don’t venture any closer.

It’s just one of many incredible dive sites we discovered during a week diving in the Solomons, which takes us from Munda, to the Florida and Russell Islands.

Alice in Wonderland

One of the prettiest dive sites in the area is called Alice in Wonderland. Source: Dive Planit

SIDE has two dive operations in the Solomon Islands, including Dive Munda, in the Western Provinces.

One of the prettiest dive sites around here is called Alice in Wonderland – and it’s aptly named.

Here you can glide through impossibly clear water around and over coral bommies, as large schools of barracuda and unicorn fish motor past us.

It’s hard to decide whether to look out into the blue to watch the fish, or into the reef at the multi-coloured soft and hard corals and delicate little creatures such as nudibranchs, anemone fish and Christmas tree worms.

Hammerheads

Nearby there’s a dive site that for some reason is called Aussie Point, which drops down dramatically for hundreds of metres.

Hammerhead sharks and large schools of bump head parrot fish are often spotted, and as we dive in, a hammerhead circles towards us within 10 minutes of hitting the water and glides past us gracefully.

This is the entrance to Cave of the Kastom Shark. Source: Dive Planit

Best Cave Dive Ever

Hike a few metres into the thick undergrowth on one of the Western Province’s more remote islands and you’ll find a small grotto, roughly two metres in diameter.

We jump in feet first and lower ourselves one by one down this narrow vertical tunnel, which eventually opens up into a large underwater cavern.

It’s pitch black and we have to be careful not to kick up the fine silt as make our way slowly through a small tunnel that descends to a depth of 30m before opening up onto the reef wall.

The blue light at the opening silhouettes giant Gorgonian fans at the entrance and we swim out and along a steep wall, covered in fans, feather stars and cascading corals of all shapes and sizes.

I’m making a call: the best cave-dive ever.

WWII Garbage Patch

This is the winding frame pictured at Ghuvatu Wharf. Source: Dive Planit

Over in the Florida Islands you can explore the wrecks and general WWII refuse at Ghavutu the comically named dive site: Garbage Patch.

There are several wrecks here, some WWII casualties, a few the result of neglect and unfortunate maritime accidents.

There’s also a large sandy area littered with unexploded WWII bombs.

Our dive guides are particularly worried about this area, as several guests in the past have taken it upon themselves to tap these bombs to ‘test’ them (why on Earth?)

Mirror Pond

A barracuda guards the entrance while diving in Mirror Pond. Source: Dive Planit

Over on the Russell Islands, we swim into a shallow open cavern, alerted beforehand that there is a resident barracuda at the entrance, and possibly crocs in the pond.

The barracuda is indeed waiting for us, so we check him out while our dive guide swims ahead into the pond to check for crocs – if they’re small we can follow him in (two at a time) but if there’s a big croc there, it’s a no go.

We each have a look before swimming along the reef wall a short way to explore a relative maze of caverns and swim throughs.

Leru Cut

Blue light is seen penetrating through an opening crevice at the Leru Cut. Source: Dive Planit

Also in the Russell Islands, this is a tall and narrow cut through the limestone that again leads inland and opens up to overhanging greenery and vines.

There are a few dive sites like this one nearby, including Bat Cave, which leads inland to a cave populated by a colony of bats.

We’re warning not to take our regs out when we surface for fear of guano.

The Funnel

Clown fish are seen swimming through blue anemone at the Funnel. Source: Dive Planit

All of these dives are the lead up to the most exciting part of our week on the MV Taka; The Funnel.

A steep wall covered in colourful soft corals and Gorgonian fans opens up onto a shallow coral garden, where we have two incredible encounters.

The first, a large saltwater crocodile, a truly unique experience.

The second, equally unique but in a completely different way, a family of clownfish living in a bright blue anemone.

It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever laid eyes on.