SOLOMON IS­LANDS

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As­cat­tered ar­chi­pel­ago of some 900- odd richly forested and very moun­tain­ous is­lands and low- ly­ing coral atolls, the Solomon Is­lands has been at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional tourism since 1568 when Span­ish ex­plorer Al­varo de Men­dana first sailed into this tucked away cor­ner of the South Pacific.

Men­dana’s legacy can still be found in the Solomon Is­lands to­day with many of the is­lands still bear­ing the Span­ish names he gave them. Th­ese in­clude Santa Is­abel, San Cristóbal and per­haps the most fa­mous of all, Guadal­canal, the name syn­ony­mous with World War II, which takes its name from a small town­ship in An­dalu­cia in south­ern Spain.

Bur for the most part the Solomon Is­landers were left pretty much alone af­ter Men­dana’s visit un­til 300 years later when Great Bri­tain was given con­trol of the en­tire ter­ri­tory.

The Ja­panese in­vaded the Solomon Is­lands in World War II when the re­gion be­came the scene for some of the blood­i­est bat­tles in the Pacific the­atre, most fa­mously the bat­tle of Guadal­canal.

The Bri­tish re- re gained con­trol in 1945 and in 1976, the Solomon Is­lands be­came self- gov­ern­ing be­fore gain­ing full in­de­pen­dence in 1978.

Lit­tle has changed in the Solomon Is­lands over the years which make the place such a breath­tak­ing des­ti­na­tion for in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers look­ing for a new and very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.

To­day World War II buffs and vet­er­ans and their families – mostly Amer­i­can and Ja­panese – SCUBA divers look­ing to ex­plore the crys­tal clear, tech­ni­colour trop­i­cal fish and sub­merged war time wreck in­fested wa­ters and surfers look­ing for the ul­ti­mate un­crowded waves make up the bulk of the 25,000 or so in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers who visit ev­ery year.

But the des­ti­na­tion is fast at­tract­ing a brand new breed of trav­ellers from around the world rang­ing from fam­ily group, hon­ey­moon­ers, sports fish­er­men, yachties, cul­turelovers and sim­ply those look­ing to get off the beaten track and make their own tracks.

The newly emerg­ing, multi- faceted Solomon Is­lands can pretty much cater to ev­ery taste, de­sire and bud­get with its myr­iad choice of qual­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion – from the ‘ big gun’ ho­tels of the cap­i­tal Ho­niara to boutique resort ac­com­mo­da­tion, eco- lodges and home stays dot­ted across the en­tire ar­chi­pel­ago.

Best of all, and quite a sur­prise for many trav­ellers, the Solomon Is­lands are so easy to reach – just a quick hop to Bris­bane from any ma­jor New Zealand de­par­ture point and then an even shorter hop ( un­der three hours) from Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Ho­niara fly­ing a sleek Solomon Air­lines Air­bus A 320 com­plete with full on­board ser­vice.

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