The Great Adventure Post #1 – Australia ~ Magnetic Island
We spent time with family friends John and Kristen on Magnetic Island when we first arrived and circumnavigated the island in their boat!. Fried fish and chips and even fried pineapple are a staple item – YUM! The picture of Karen by herself is in “Whitfield Cove” as a Whitfield family representative. Wonderful hike to the Forts – gorgeous views.
The Great Adventure Post # 2 Australian Critters
Magnetic Island Critters: Wish we could show you pics of everything we saw but they move fast so couldn’t capture them. Awesome to see a full size wallaby and the smaller rock wallaby. Koalas were amazing to see the “wild” – look carefully to see the babies!!
The Great Adventure Post # 3 Australia Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is stunning! Beautiful colors, lots of fish and so much for both snorkelers and divers to see! Dennis started his diving certification there (more on that later). The video shows well what we saw at the 4 different sites we went to – it was a fantastic start to our snorkeling based trip. We understand that other parts of the reef are not in such good condition and we feel fortunate to have had such a beautiful area of the reef to explore.
The Great Adventure Post # 4 Australia ~ Brisbane
Brisbane, Australia. Stayed for 1 night in Brisbane and took advantage of a night tour to see the sites and city lights. Great city!
The Great Adventure Post # 5 Australia Great Barrier Reef – Diving (vs snorkeling)
While on the Great Barrier Reef we did an “Introduction to Scuba Diving” session. It was pretty cool to get to go down and stay down on the reef. Dennis took to it like a fish to water, I did not. I was pretty terrified the entire hour we were down there. Dennis made the decision to continue his course work and then completed his certification dives when we were in the Solomon Islands at Uepi Island Resort. The video shows him going through a “swim through,” I followed the bubble trail as he when through it! I will happily stick to snorkeling as I find it more relaxing. I did learn how to “duck dive” the last few days of the trip so that allows me a little opportunity to go down and look at interesting things here and there. Dennis is a great “duck diver”’ so no surprise he wanted to go on to scuba!
The Great Adventure Post # 6 Corals
Corals. We saw an extreme amount of corals in both the Solomon Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. Large and small, soft corals and hard corals, huge sea fans and coral “bommies” of all sizes. These images show you the diversity, the colors, and the stability of the reefs. Corals grow about 1 inch per year and some places had “fields” of corals that were dense. Coral does well in about 83-85 degree water – the water we found ourselves in was primarily 85-86 degrees – that one degree of water changes the overall environment for the coral so it is under stress even though it looks beautiful now. We did see a little bit of bleaching, we saw where the “crown of thorns” sea star had surged into an area and wiped portions out, and we also saw some cyclone damage. It was fascinating to see the whole range.
The Great Adventure Post # 7 Starfish
We saw LOTS of different kinds of starfish! In fact –we were looking at things that we didn’t know were starfish and learned that they were! Big ones and little ones, leggy one, puffy ones, and in all colors. The round puffy looking ones in the pictures below are called “Cushion Sea Star” starfish because they look like a pin cushion (lol). Little itty bitty shrimp live on the pin cushion starfish – see the pic of one!
The Great Adventure Post # 9 Solomon Islands ~ Bilikiki Liveaboard Boat
The Bilikiki live aboard was our home for the next 10 days of our adventure around the Solomon Islands. The “tinnies” were our usual transport to and from the ship, snorkel sights, and villages we visited. We traveled with 17 other people who are as excited about snorkeling as we are! The Crew would map out and plan each day according to the currents they also helped to identify fish species, catch fish for our dinner and making our 10 days memorable in the best way. In this post is an actual picture of our room – reasonable in size and air conditioned! When we made our waters crossings dolphins would enjoy playing in the bow wave!
The Great Adventure Post #8 Solomon Islands ~ Honiara
Next we arrived in the Solomon Islands and stayed in the capital, Honiara for 1 day while we awaited our boat. We got a chance to see the central market for produce and fish. We were able to see some beautiful carvings and artwork around town. It is always interesting to see how people “live” and shop so we added some images of that as well. The Solomon Islands are considered a “Least Developed Country” which means it is less than a 3rd world country. They have a language called “pijin english” and you can see from the coke ad how it translates over (pijin for them is based in English with overtones of other languages and very simple in form). Pijin is the most common language that is used a bridge as there are 74 different languages overall in a country of over 900 islands. Solomon Islands is also known as Guadalcanal where fierce battles were fought in World War 2, we saw evidence of that in the capital and in the outlying islands.
The Great Adventure Post #10 Giant Clams
We saw clams of all sizes and types on the Great Barrier Reef and in the Solomon Islands. We have never seen clams so big – as shown in the picture with Dennis diving is one that was about 4 feet wide! We also so little itty bitty ones of the same style under 2” wide. Their colors were remarkable and it was always a joy to see them. They are generally in a more open position but as we got closer they would shift and close. Dennis used his “duck dive” skills to go down and get the quintessential 007 shot of Karen on the surface through a clam shell!
The Great Adventure Post #11 Nudibranchs
Nudibranchs (pronouced – “nudi brank”) are a form of sea slug that is dynamite in color and style! The ones we saw were no more than 2” long and had outstanding markings. One of our fellow travelers was focused on finding them so we got to see a lot because of her! It was also interesting that as we were looking for “nudi’s” (as we called them) we found other cool stuff along the way too! There are over 3,000 known species and more are being found each day. For the most part they are oblong, soft body and wild color patterns. There were a real treat for us to find and we found them all over the Solomon Islands.
The Great Adventure Post #12 Jelly Fish
We have heard so many things about staying away from jellyfish over the years that we were quite surprised to see them at multiple sites and learn that the ones we encountered were harmless. Jelly fish are gelatinous swimming marine animals. We put descriptions of each where we could identify them on the images themselves and also circled where to look in the picture for them. At a couple of sites there were so many little jellyfish that we got “over” the excitement of it real quick but it was still pretty interesting to swim with them all around.
The Great Adventure Post #13 We Found – Nemo and all of his cousins!
Clown Fish are also known as Anemone Fish and also well known as “Nemo.” In the Solomon Islands there are 7 of the 10 types there to see. They range in color from yellow to orange to reddish and even blackish. They live in anemones and don’t wander far from their “home”. The female is very large and the male is small as you look at the pictures. Max size is about 6“ and we saw some that big! The Bonnet Anemone fish is unique to the Solomons and is a naturally occurring hybrid which is very unique overall. While the anemone itself has stinging tentacles the anemone fish are unaffected by that and they have a mutually beneficial relationship where they protect each other.
The Great Adventure Post #14 Solomon Islands ~ Village Visit
Yes – We did also see some sites on land! We had several opportunities to visit villages and see how the local people live. The temperature stays around 86-88 degrees and there is very high humidity so you can see how they deal with that – open airflow housing/buildings and simple clothing. They use local wood because anything else would grow mold quickly. They have vegetable gardens, are amazing fisherman and grow up both swimming and walking! Here and there we saw solar panels for simple electricity requirements such as satellite cell phones and such. They did traditional dancing performances for us and greeted us with Plumeria leis. The canoe you see that is being carved will cost the new owner about $7000 Solomon Island dollars to the boat maker which is about $1000 USA. It is a “family” size canoe and can carry lots of people. They have canoes in all sizes and the transportation is limited to walking or boats in the outer island where we were. The children were sweet and the adults friendly!
The Great Adventure Post #15 – Solomon Islands ~ Boat Visitors!
Speaking of boats we had visitors daily from the islands we were moored near. They would come to sell their vegetable to the boat manager and also just come out and visit because they can. The Bilikiki set up the local villages with seeds for gardens back when they started their tours in 1989 – this way they can ensure fresh vegetables, provide support for the villages and better their diet with dark leafy greens. The papaya we had were outstanding as were the pineapple. The children would come to visit us in child size canoes (note there is no life vest, no adult, no safety anything – just a kid in his or her canoe coming to get a cookie!) The boat we were on is the ONLY boat in those waters that does a regular weekly tour so the villagers know the general schedule and it is an “event” when the boat is near their island.
The Great Adventure Post #16 – Sharks!
Sharks here, sharks there, sharks everywhere! We saw lots of reef sharks (black tip, white tip, etc) in varying sizes from young 18” long ones to large 6 foot long ones. One day the boat crew “teased’ the sharks with a fish head and they would chase after it like a dog chasing a bone. It was fantastic to be in the water not 2 feet away while they were ripping their teeth into the fish head… NO CAGE, no protective anything – just us, in the water with sharks! We saw sharks in almost every location we went to and while we stayed aware of their actions we learned to just be comfortable in the water with them. We actually had more issues with trigger fish protecting their territory than we had with any other marine animal. Made of point of adding descriptions to the pictures – so take a peek to learn more!
The Great Adventure Post #17 – Solomon Islands ~ Woodcarving
The Solomon islanders are known for doing two things extremely well- fishing and woodcarving! We had multiple opportunities to see their woodcarving skills as several villages arranged a wood carving bazaar for us. We are showing here some the items we saw and other that we bought to display at home! The picture of us with the boat in the background is with the 2 turtle carving we got and the local village dog photo bombed us! Yes, Karen looks overdressed for almost 90 degree heat but she didn’t get one patch of sunburn the whole trip!
The Great Adventure Post #18 – Solomon Islands ~ Manta Rays
Back under water again! We got the treat of seeing mantas on 3 different days of our trip. The first time was in an area called “devil’s highway” where multiple fast moving currents (Est. 4 to 6 knots) come together. The video of a swirling eddy that looked like an underwater tornado shows how crazy the water was, and the picture of the small “tinny” boat show how choppy it was from the convergence of currents. In this spot Manta rays come to feed on the nutrient rich water that is coming in from all angles. They are plankton eaters and must eat a lot to maintain themselves. The video of them shows the speed and strength they move at. As soon as we got into the same water we were 300 ft down current within a minute so that shows how strong the mantas are to swim in that current. The other 2 days were at a manta ray cleaning station – essentially a spot where mantas go to get their teeth, and eyes and skin and gills cleaned. We had up to 3 at any given time just doing slow circles over the same coral bommie while they were cleaned. We called it our Morning Manta Meditation because it was relaxing and calm, especially compared to the devils highway experience.
The Great Adventure Post #19 – Solomon Islands ~ Pan Pipe Music
What do you get when you strap together a bunch of pvc pipe in different lengths and slap the top of them with a flip flop? Pan Pipe Music ~ This is the local music for the islanders and we had several opportunities to enjoy it. Note the drums are made from coring out a tree! The pipes can also be blown through to create music
The Great Adventure Post #20 – Solomon Islands ~ Unique Sights
Leru Cut –a well known dive site is a geologic formation where the island essentially split in half and there is a10’ wide space we could swim in to see the cut and jungle above it! The pictures with the blue line down the middle are of the Leru cut underwater. Dennis is in one of the pictures. The rock formation are the pictures from above the water in the Leru Cut. The little blue building is the domestic air terminal for Seghe which is where we had to go to get to the last part of our trip on Uepi Island- it was about 20’ x 20’ and the checked us in an weighed everything just like they would anywhere else! The overhead island shots are from the plane ride over there – we were in a 20 seater Twin Otter plane. The over/under shot is at White beach which was a supply station during World War 2. The structures you see under water were pushed in to the water at the end of the war along with lots of other supplies and equipment – easier to discard it than let the enemy get it or ship it back. The guy on top of the petrol cans is indeed smoking a cigarette…. Apparently he didn’t read the safety card about having gas and flame near each other.
The Great Adventure Post #21 – Solomon Islands ~ Uepi Island Resort
Our last week was spent on Uepi Island Resort – it has open ocean on one side and the Marovo Lagoon on the other. It is about a 25 minute boat ride from the Seghe domestic terminal. It was beautiful! Plumeria scented air, orchids along all of the paths, simple place to relax and live on the land for a week. The bungalow you see is where we stayed – we had a lagoon front accommodation – with a hammock and beautiful deck to relax on. It rained for a day or two while we were there – you will see a “grey” picture that shows that. The little brown edged animal is a worm we believe- not a nudibranch. 13 of the 19 people that were on the Bilikiki with went to Uepi for the extra land based experience. Yes, indeed, those are Karen’s feet relaxing afloat on a paddle board – we have proof now that she can relax! They have a steady stream of coconuts that fall from the island trees so they cut them open and shave the meat out on a special pointed board– see the picture! Coconut was in just about every dish in some way – Yum!
The Great Adventure Post #22 – Solomon Islands ~ Octopus, Squid and Cuttlefish
We had our first encounter with Octopus and Squid on this trip – (Dennis also got to see a cuttlefish – Karen missed it) it was delightful to see how they move and change color. We saw “herds” (shoals) of squid in all sizes from itty bitty babies to full grown at body of 10” long. The octopus was especially mesmerizing because it took 3 days and patiently waiting for it to come out of its den about 5 pm each night to hunt in order to capture the video. Notice how its skin changed from textured to smooth and then changes color! And then when it “lands” it changes to the color of the rock it lands on. The long form of the octopus video is on you tube and you can ask Karen for the link.
The Great Adventure Post #23 – Unique Marine Critters
For this post you will need to look at the description for each picture! We saw some amazing fish and marine life. Flounders, sea cucumbers, spade fish, bait balls, lion fish, scorpion fish, crabs, reef lizards (as fish but sits around like a lizard!), christmas tree worms, pipe fish, razor fish and the list goes on!
The Great Adventure Post #24 – Solomon Islands ~ Monitor Lizards
On Uepi Island we got to see 4 foot plus long lizards called monitor lizards! They were on the paths and in the brackish waters here and there. You could see the trails their tails made on the pathways so you know they were just tooling about on the island. They are carnivorous but apparently people are too big for them as a food option!
The Great Adventure Post #25 – Sky and Stars
To look out and see water and land and no cars or regular boats for miles and miles was extraordinary. Dennis was able to get some night sky shots – the stars were brilliant with the lack of light pollution! Sun up and sun down had their own amazing colors. There is no smog there, just clean air.
The Great Adventure Post #26 – Pretty Fish
The grand finale – we saw an extraordinary amount of fish every time we got into the water. We were in the water up to 5 hours a day and we each saw our own cool things because no matter where you looked there was something interesting to see. The video shows the reality of the quantity fish that were there. We saw really big fish and real teeny small fish and everything in between – with colors all across the spectrum. This is just a sampling
The Great Adventure (last post) – Thank you for allowing us to share our amazing 26 day trip with you! We got to see an interesting part of the world and we hope you enjoyed the posts as much as we enjoyed putting them together for you!