Stranded in the Marovo Lagoon

 

It was pitch black when we disembarked the cargo ship at Seghe, a tiny town in the remote Marovo Lagoon, after a twelve hour journey across the Solomon Sea from Honiara. We had no idea if the owner of the lodge on the isolated island we planned to stay on had received our message the day before, and if he would be here to pick us up or not. As the other passengers scattered and disappeared into the night, and only a few local people were left on the small pier, we realized we were on our own. It was very late, and we would have to find transport to our little paradise island somehow, or a place to stay the night.

After delays in Hong Kong and subsequent delays in Brisbane we finally touched down on Honiara International airport on the island of Guadalcanal two days later than we planned. The scent of the tropical air and the interesting conversations with another traveling couple in the one hour immigration cue – and Kelli, our taxi driver taking us to our hotel – helped us forget our exhaustion and jet lag and start getting excited about traveling again.

Honiara is an unremarkable place at first glance, mainly a congested main road along the ocean lined with decrepit buildings, but what the town lacks in beauty it makes up for in its friendly and charming inhabitants. Guadalcanal was a major fighting ground in WWII, and is littered with wrecks both on land and under the water, but we were more looking forward to a relaxing time on one of the Solomon’s many, many remote and beautiful islands.

We boarded the weekly cargo ship headed for the Marovo lagoon, one of the world’s finest double barrier enclosed lagoons. The journey across the Solomon Sea was a proper adventure, sitting on the floor of the top deck among local families and crewmen. We had lost our planned accommodation the night before, and had to book an alternative in a hurry. But communicating with people on a remote island with no internet and no cellular reception was hard, so we took a chance and left Honiara without confirmation of our booking.

Honiara Central  Market / Beate ready for boarding / On deck with the locals / Asle getting comfortable

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Stranded in the Marovo Lagoon

Now we found ourselves stranded on the pier in the small town of Seghe at night, asking around for help. Luckily the locals were very friendly, and being the only white people there we obviously stood out, and it wasn’t long until someone offered their assistance. Matthew, a theology teacher and a large confident man, knew someone with a boat and soon we were racing across the dark lagoon in a large motorized canoe towards the private island of Nggatirana. The water was calm and black, but the moon in the clear starry sky provided enough light for us to make out the silhouettes of the myriad small islands of the lagoon passing by. After half an hour or so one of them appeared in front of us, and a moment later the boat slid onto a beach.

Just behind a line of trees we could make out a pale light in the dark. At least someone was home. Asle got out of the boat and walked up the beach towards the trees where he was met by the night watchman. “Yes, the boss is here” the man said after Asle explained the situation, and they walked up to the main building. Andrew, British expat and owner of the resort, was completely surprised by the nightly visit, our messages had not come through, but he received us with open arms and great humor. He hadn’t had any guests in a while and kept apologizing for the slightly unordered state of thing, but we were just too happy to have arrived to even take notice. He offered a cup of tea, which was just what we needed.

Private Island Adventure

The next day we woke up in our king size bed in our large bungalow, looking out on a beautiful empty beach. We were the only guest on the only resort on the island, a humble but fairly luxurious eco lodge set in natural and wild surroundings behind an untouched coral sand beach and clear blue waters. Just off the beach we could snorkel a beautiful coral reef teaming with colorful tropical fish of every kind, and for the next few days we would have all this completely to ourselves.

Every morning Andrew would serve us freshly baked bread for breakfast, and locally caught fish and lobster prepared to perfection for dinner. Lola and Hanna kept our room clean and set out lovely arrangements of tropical flowers. Patrick and Shelton took us out to the lagoon to snorkel coral reefs, and one sunken ship wreck, and to picnic on a gorgeous deserted island beach. We had baking sun and heavy rain in almost equal amounts, making it a true tropical hideaway adventure we’ll not soon forget.

Nggatirana Island / Our Clown fish neighbours / Deserted island paradise / Andrew serving a unicorn fish / Andrew’s breakfast bread / Lola, Asle, Hanna, Andrew, Partrick & Donald

A Village Visit

On our last day Patrick took us to Mbopo village, a small settlement on the neighboring large island of Vangunu, beautifully situated by a long secluded beach. We met the chief, Marshal, and talked about our long journey, village life and his ambitions for the community.

We walked between the small wooden huts with lovely laid out flower gardens to the home of Patrick’s cousin Junior, who we’d met at the resort earlier, to meet his family, and later to see the local school just outside the village boundary.

Heading back to the beach we said goodbye to the village people. The kids riding the surf with their wooden surf boards waved and shouted as we left their little tropical paradise to head back to our own for our final evening on Nggatirana island.

Mbopo village beach / Junior and his son Jason/ Boys playing soccer / School break / Leaving Mbopo / Surfer kids waving goodbye

The next day Andrew and Patrick took us back to Seghe and it’s tiny wartime airstrip where we boarded a Twin Otter heading back to Honiara. Being back in the city it felt like we’d been gone for ages. Time moves differently when you’re on an isolated little island in the Pacific.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Andrew Granger says:

    Thank you for the wonderful description and compliments. Yes, communications are difficult in the Solomon Islands, certainly on Nggatirana where we have an intermittent phone and text signal, and no Internet. But that’s the beauty, trying to plan with the minimum of information. Fortunately we get a great internet signal in Honiara and bookings are relayed nightly by phone.

    • A&B says:

      Indeed! If you want a unique off the grid experience you’ll have to make do without certain modern conveniences, but it’s definitely doable, and so worth it! We also realize it’s not everyones style to travel like we do, with minimal pre-planning and maximum flexibility. It does sometimes come with challenges, but it also allows for unexpected and adventurous experiences, like we had on Nggatirana with you 🙂

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