One of the most popular walks in Honiara, due to its draw of being able to tube down the river, is Mataniko Falls.
This hike is popular enough that you don’t need to book a guide in advance. Just do what we did – park up at Tuvaruhu Village around 8 am, and ask some passersby, “Ay, mi like fo go lo waterfall”.
The lady told us to cross Mataniko river and pointed at Lelei village on the other side. This is where we picked up our guide, four tyres and an itemised receipt – the first time we’ve ever received a receipt for a hike.
Admin settled, the walk started with our guide leading us up a rude ascent to the top of the ridge.
We’re messy once we get to the top: legs burning, lungs wheezing, and a tyre looped around us to add to the spectacle. The path to Abland is an arduous one for all disciples.
From here, we tracked along Galloping Horse Ridge which is well-marked and undulating. It’s hot on the ridge with very little cover for the next 45 minutes however we pass some cool stuff like Japanese Fox Holes and other remnants of WWII along the way.
When we reach the bush-line, we are faced with an extremely muddy and slippery descent. If you think going uphill is hard, going downhill is harder. I should know – I slipped and fell off a small cliff (miraculously, nothing broke except my game face).
After about 10-15 minutes (our guide could do it in 5), the bush opens to a waterfall oasis.
For the spry, you can climb up to the top of these waterfalls where there are a network of caves you can explore, or go diving for river prawns. Seeing as I’d just fallen off a cliff I didn’t want to push my luck so… no pictures for you.
After a good part of the hour spent connecting with nature, we pushed on.
It’s a perilous clamber down the rock-face to get to the river. I’m not a graceful human-being so I inched my way down via bum-sliding, doubly awkward with a tyre. There is the option to climb down a vine tied around a tree-stump, which is a new addition since the last time, as long as you don’t mind the fray around the edges.
We also know someone who fell off the side during the climb down and got sucked under and into the current. He survived to tell the tale, but the moral of the story/this paragraph: be very, very careful coming down from the waterfall.
Climbing over rocks to pass the first few rapids, we finally got to put the tyres to use. This is the best part of the hike.
The first 10-15 minutes of floating offer the best float experience: the water is deep and you’re floating between canyon rock walls. The further down the river, the shallower it gets; and when it gets too shallow to float, you walk.
All up, this part takes about an hour and a half of both floating and walking.
As we got closer to town, we encountered more and more people using the river: swimming, bathing, cleaning and diving for prawns. We ended the walk back at Lelei village where we started just before noon. Thanks J!
After the walk, we headed over to the Bulk Store in Chinatown for an ice-cream reward. It was at that point when Nid, holding his orange and chocolate-chip ice-cream, discovered his ring was gone. A quick forensic investigation on our go-pro revealed he was definitely wearing it at the beginning of the hike.
So, now, we’re encouraging everyone, “Go do Mataniko. It’s great!”. And if by chance you find a wedding ring, let us know.
The Dets in Less Words
This walk should take around three to four hours depending on how long you want to swim at the waterfall. The walk has a steep ascent, and consequently, a steep descent. Bring water and snacks. And maybe leave your wedding rings at home.
Just turn up early in Tuvaruhu (around 8am) on the day. If you do the walk in the dry season (June-Oct), you won’t get as much float time – it’s a lot more fun when the water level is high.
$100 per person for kastom fee and $150 for one guide. You’ll split the guide fee between your group members.
Drive past Honiara Hotel towards Chinatown Bulk shop. Take the immediate road on the left after the Bulk Shop. Follow this road all the way for about five minutes to get to Turaruhu village – there is a spot next to the river that looks pretty obvious for parking. Ask around for guides to the waterfall, and eventually you’ll cross Mataniko river to get to Lelei village. This is where you’ll sort out your guide, fees and tyres.
1 hour walking, 1.5 hours slow floating/walking through the river back to the village. You can do this walk from ridge to river, or river to ridge. Usually, punters do it ridge to river.
- Walking shoes (+duct tape)
- Dry Bag
- Drinking water