Magical Munda, Roviana, Solomon Islands.
Solomon Islands To Do

Diving Munda

on
January 19, 2019

#Magicalmunda, that’s their tagline. Located in Roviana lagoon in Western Province, Munda is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Solomon Islands. Its drawcard: diving.

We arrived at an airport that was even more endearing than Suavanao’s container airport with dated posters and vines growing all over it.

Dan and Nid’s blue boxes are famous. Only the coolest way to travel.

A taxi arrived to take us to Agnes Lodge, the biggest and most popular lodge in town, but really we could have walked. It was less than a minute to drive there passing a handful of Chinese waku shops, hardware shops, a bar, a few other guesthouses, and a market.

We checked in and were shown to our rooms which were large, had air-conditioning that was brisk, and even a working fridge. Pretty gud for the Solomons but our singing in the shower with our mouths open was cut short because of the salty tap water. Our toothbrushes tasted savoury for the weekend but you never get everything you want in the Solomons.

We discovered that we’d arrived during an inter-hotel sporting competition that was running over the weekend. With his newfound skills as a triathlete, Nid wanted to join and tried signing up for the swimming race. Sadly the only spaces left were in ‘Water Sleeping’ in the kids section. In other words, ‘holding your breath underwater for the longest’.

No kids signed up so Nid, and six other man-kids, overrode the rules and signed up.

As this was Nid’s first water sleeping competition and having never studied the techniques, his competitors were helpful and told him to find a rock to help weigh him down.

3… 2…1 the whistle blew and everyone ducked underwater.

After a few seconds, a cheer went up from the crowd for whom I could only assume was meant for Nid.

“WAKUMAN, WAKUMAN!” (“Chinese Man, Chinese Man!”)

Unlike his competitors who had wrapped their bodies around the rock and were fully immersed, Nid held his rock in his hands resulting in his feet floating to the surface. Obviously, he had missed the point of the rock and it subsequently looked like he was trying to breathe through his feet much to the delight of onlookers.

“FEET BLO WAKUMAN, HEM CHEAT, HEM BREATHE LO FEET!” The crowd hooted with laughter and cheers for Wakuman.

Two men came up bursting for air, a third and fourth man emerged but surprise surprise Nid wasn’t one of them. Nid was still going and the crowd cheered.

And then, disappointment because Nid was the next to surface, but not without mana and hard-earned respect for coming third place.

How to do it wrong get crowd love at a water sleeping competition.

We started diving the next day.

Dive Munda is conveniently attached to Agnes Lodge’s reception and our guides were two expatriates outnumbered by local Roviana women – how cool is that?

We’d never been on a dive trip before so we were in for a treat. Stakka fish and corals, lots of nasty trigger fishies, and we even saw sharks and rays. The dives were absolutely stunning with a mix of reef and wreck dives at sites with names like Dream Island, Shark Point, Secret Spot, and Susu Hite (means smol boob. No boobs were seen though – minus points for false advertising).

Much of the info on these dive sites can already be found on www.divemunda.com so we won’t double up on what they’ve already said. For our 4 nights and 5 days, Nid got in 9 dives while Dan got in 7. Definitely well worth it and highly recommended. Nid’s highlight was going on his first night-dive and seeing crabs, crays, and coming face-to-face with a camouflaged cuttlefish.

Our favourite between-dive rest was our cooking lesson from a bunch of 10-year-olds on a tiny island who’d just returned from collecting a bucket of strawberry conches and a sack of fish.

One pikinini clattered away in the kitchen explaining the lunch menu for the day while stuffing his mouth with the cookies we’d brought.

“First, kukim rice.”

His mates were busy stoking the fire and stringing fish-kebabs, “stick lo eyes.”

The conches were next and plonked in a pot of water over the fire.

Our chef held one up, “Callem ununusu. Time hem kam out lo shell, hem redi.”

In the Roviana language, ununusu means pullpullout.

After 15 minutes on the fire the ununusu were redi to eat.

“Outem, kaikai.”

Not too bad. A little tougher than pipis and be great with some fry bread.

By the time the rice was done, a new pot of ununusu was redi and there was a pile of fish to share around.

Not only did we manage to catch the Inter-hotel Festival, we also caught the beginning of the Roviana Lagoon Festival. This is a yearly festival held in Munda where people from all over the Roviana lagoon come together for the cultural shows, competitions, and activities.

Fun fact: The last competition and the signature event of the Roviana Lagoon Festival is the Alec Wickham Swim. Roviana Lagoon is the birthplace of the modern ‘frontcrawl’ swimming stroke. What most know as ‘freestyle’ was originally the ‘frontcrawl’. In early freestyle swimming competitions, freestyle meant a style of your choice. Once everyone realised the frontcrawl was the fastest, frontcrawl became synonymous with freestyle. Alec Wickham is the Solomon Islander who made the frontcrawl/freestyle famous.

Magical Munda, Roviana Lagoon Festival, Solomon Islands.

While at the market looking at leaf hats a man asked if we had time to judge a speech competition. Theme: The importance of preserving Roviana culture.

“Sure, what time will it start?”

“Around 6 pm” (Solo taem. It actually started at 8:30 pm).

There were the usual suspects you’d expect to see in speech judging criteria; Delivery, Timing and Relevance to Theme, and some Solomon flavoured categories like “Punctuality (time to get on stage)”, and “Crowd Reaction.” My fellow judges were an Australian woman and a Roviana man and woman.

First to the stage was a young girl in the junior category who had a simple but compelling speech about kastom medicine.

“When I had pink-eye my mum told me to go into the ocean and open my eye to the current. And it worked!”

My favourite in the senior category was a girl who had a bone to pick with man trousers.

“Women should not wear man trousers, except in the privacy of their own homes.”

A risky choice of subject seeing as there were two culturally insensitive expatriate women in the judging panel both wearing man trousers (one of them was me).

The kids nailed their speeches, but the adults had apocalyptic second coming approaches that made it difficult to take seriously.

One ended all sentences in exclamation marks and wild gesticulations.

“Our culture is in danger! GAY MARRIAGE! Look at countries like New Zealand and Australia!”

I wondered what my Australian counterpart in her man trousers was thinking. I hoped she wasn’t new hia. Or gay.

For a speech competition about culture, it was surprising all of the speechs were in English and only one person wore half a kastom costume. Points for free, in my humble opinion.

Overall an enlightening and charming experience.

To add to their sporting accolades, Roviana people, like many Solomon Island tribes, were also fierce head-hunters in pre-Missionary times. Trophy skulls were hunted from enemy tribes and kept as political symbols, and skulls of ancestors were preserved. These skulls were kept at tribal sites, including one only a few minutes boat ride from Munda.

One skull island of many.

Obviously, there were skulls, but I couldn’t bring myself to put some ancestor’s heads on the interwebs. Here are pictures of conch shells you can imagine are skulls. You’ll just have to visit in person to see the real thing 🙂 Or google it.

After visiting skull island, the rest of our time was spent either chilling out at the lodge, looking out into the distant horizon, getting ngali nuts at the local market for a bargain price, and watching kids do mean bombs. All in all, a sweet trip. You could say, #magical.

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Dan and Nid
Honiara, Solomon Islands

Kia ora. We are Dan and Nid. We've just moved from the Solomon Islands and are exploring New Caledonia for the next three years.

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