Savo is a small island we’ve looked at many times from our deck during our morning coffees wondering, “What’s over there?”
Our recent research expedition has confirmed the following major facts: people live on it, dolphins live near it, there are volcanos, and it’s home to the endangered pokémon, Megapode.
Savo makes for a very pleasant day trip out of Honiara if you start early, or a stay-over trip if you have more time to enjoy the island. We went over in a group of eight for a one-night stay, which is a good number for shooting tropical breezes and splitting the cost of the banana boats.
Highlights were seeing dolphins, hiking, snorkeling, and naps in the hammock. All at the affordable pricetag of $1,650 SBD for the two of us including a few extra hidden costs they don’t tell you about until you get the bill – watch out for that. This was a fun little weekend trip and one we are likely to do again.
How to Savour Savo
The best way to get to Savo is by tagging onto someone else’s trip so that you don’t have to organise it yourselves. Failing to do that, this piece of paper from the Tourist Information Centre in Honiara has everything you need to know (updated January 2017).
Sunset Lodge will be your base camp during your visit to Savo whether you are staying the night or not. Call them to arrange accommodation and transportation. All of the phone numbers on the information sheet are equally as difficult to get someone to pick up on the other side as the other.
Once you get someone on the phone, stay vigilant as you will probably get cut off more than once and you might be in for a bit of bartering, “No I said 8 people, not 9 people… yes, I’m sure I only want to book for 8.”
There are several meeting arrangements available, the most convenient being getting picked up at a hotel in Honiara and getting driven 45 minutes west to a banana boat pick-up point that is closer to Savo. You can also get a boat from Honiara, but whenever there is an option to spend less time on a banana boat you should take it. The boat ride from the Western pick-up point will take about 40 minutes. Once you’re on the island, everything is on foot or a short boat ride away.
I should mention that the best time to banana boat in the Solomon Islands is early in the morning when the moana is flat. By the afternoon, usually the time you’re thinking about going home, the seas get “lelebet choppy” to use our boat driver’s words. Compare my morning and afternoon face.
I’ve been cured of my fear of flying. I now suffer from fear of banana boating.
The lodge provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Chicken and fresh fish are staple options for lunch and dinner, and a hot cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon and Australian G’day sausages for breakfast. Order your meals in advance because it takes an age for them to come out.
The food is ok. It would definitely pay to bring your own snacks to Savo as there isn’t much to buy on the island. In fact, it is probably a good idea to bring your own food for breakfast and lunch if you aren’t taken by Solomon cooking; in other words, a technique of cooking so that all traces of moisture are obliterated.
Plenty of bottled water is available to buy, but cokes and sprites are prone to running out. Beers are available but served warm; red wine, on the other hand, is served cold. To save yourself the disappointment from any beverage mischances on the island, there are plenty of disappointment-free coconuts available.
Spartan – a hot box with two single beds. Linen is provided, bedstands, chairs or any other forms of furniture are not but at least all of the bedrooms have a ceiling fan. The generator doesn’t get turned on until it gets dark so we didn’t find out that our lightbulb was dead until we went to bed. On the plus side, the fan was operational and I’ll take a fan over a lightbulb any day. Be prepared for a sweaty awakening at around 4 am to 5 am when the generator man (or lady) switches them off.
Once you get to Savo, pick and choose the activities you want to do. You won’t be able to do everything unless you stay for a few days. Everything costs but is mostly affordable. The timing will matter for some of the activities: megapodes you need to do early in the morning, volcano walk is more bearable in the morning, the waterfall walk is ok to do in the afternoon, the village walk and snorkeling can be done at any time.
A barefoot 12-year-old and 7-year-old lead the way if that says anything about the difficulty of this walk. The walk starts in the bush and then follows a river that goes from cool to hot as you get closer to the waterfall. Your reward at the end of this hike is a hot pool bath. Exactly what you don’t feel like at the end of a hike in the tropics. But you’ll get in anyway because you already made the effort of walking all the way there.
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes return
Although you can actually swim with and get tugged along by the dolphins, we must have had a royal stink about us because none of them came near us. We had to content ourselves by watching them taunt us with their dives and flipety-flips from the boat. They are very good at it.
When your local guide leaves the jandals at home and puts some real shoes on, you know shit’s about to get real. What’s missing from this walk are the warning signs saying, “DANGER! BOILING WATER”. So, if you like your feet skin, wear shoes and don’t be a clumsy human. In fact, if you like your kids, pets, grandma, leave them all at the lodge. All of your sweat glands will be working overtime and you will emerge an extremely sweaty and pungent version of your former self.
Duration: Under 3 hours return
If you’re doing one of the walks, pack your snorkeling stuff and stop for some snorkeling on the boat ride back. You’ll need some freshening up. If you’re lucky, unlike us, you might see dolphins.
This one is a Dan and Nid special. When the fans go off at 5am, put on your expat cologne (deet), wrap yourself in your mozzie shield (sheet), and sleep for another hour and a half in the hammock. #islandlife #beachlife #generatorlife #whattodowhenthefansgooff
- Mozzie repellent
- Covered shoes (for the Volcano walk)
- Snorkelling gear (though this is available for hire)
- Reef shoes
Do it. Close and cheap with lots of things to do. DOLPHINS! Keep your accommodation expectations low. Like really low. So low, maybe consider making it a day trip instead? Take snacks and wine, and ask them to put some beers in the fridge beforehand if cold is how you take your beer. Leave early afternoon before the sea gets choppy. Lifejacket.