Diving in the Solomon Islands is like going to scuba Disneyland. Not only does the Solomons have some of the most biodiverse marine life in the world, World War II left so much iron on the bottom of the Solomon ocean it has become one of the world’s top wreck diving sites.
Learning how to scuba dive is a major life choice for those that move to the Solomon Islands. Not only is it a significant investment, it may require overcoming some fears and growing some balls. As careful and cautionary adults, we applied a formula that usually helps us make great decisions when facing a dilemma: YOLO + FOMO² = No Ragrets!
There are three places you can learn to dive in the Solomons: Tulagi Dive , Dive Munda, or Dive Gizo . We chose to do our dive ticket with Tulagi Dive because Munda and Gizo are a flight away on another island. Doing our dive ticket in New Zealand was also on the cards and is slightly cheaper, but the premium to look at anemones and shipwrecks rather than pool tiles and grout mould out-proed that decision rather quickly.
Learning to dive with Tulagi Dive took us three days: one day of paper learning and two days of diving. This will get you a dive certificate that qualifies you to dive to a depth of 18m, as well being able to boast four wreck dives. Our instructor was Troy who has been diving for some 30 years. You can trust him with your life because, even though he was the one that turned all eight of our air supplies off underwater in the first place, he turned them all back on… eventually. “I want you to know what it’s like to run out of air underwater.” I tried to reason with him I could play out that scene perfectly fine above water, but he didn’t appreciate my proposed amendment to the PADI curriculum.
The theme for the first day focused around all the ways you could die: drowning, exploding lungs, bends, heart attacks, panic attacks, boat propellers, getting the narco crazies, cone shells, crocs, and even your dive buddy killing you by turning your air off underwater (true story). Went to bed the first night brooding about all the things that could go wrong.
The next two days were spent at Mbonege beach diving the wrecks Hirokawa Maru (B1) and Kinugawa Maru (B2). The first breath underwater was terrifying. I can’t breathe! I’m drowning! After a few seconds of hyperventilating, I opened my eyes to another world. Fishies and anemones and corals and colours and so much life. And so blue! This must be what astronauts feel like but with fish.
Troy let us get used to breathing underwater for a while before making us do all of these PADI exercises I didn’t want to do. “Life skills” he called them: filling our mask up with water and emptying it underwater, taking off our gear and putting it back on underwater, reading a compass underwater (I can’t even do this good on land), making emergency ascents, having our air turned off, sharing our buddy’s air. All of which I found quite stressful and hopefully never have to do in real life. Is that a thing? Having a perfect dive record of perfect accident-free dives?
I couldn’t help but feel all of this would be so much easier in a pool without any waves or current to fight against. However, it is highly unlikely I would ever find myself scuba diving in a pool. This is the real life diving simulation. Plus, who gets to touch a World War II wreck on their first dive?
Nid and I can now call ourselves “divers” and are qualified to dive down to 18m. On that note though, we have found out that that there are no international diving police constables down there with checkpoints asking to see what kind of licence you have. If there were though they wouldn’t be taking us to scuba jail. I get the hebejebes at a mere 10m. Next step is working up experience and confidence. It’s still scary as hell.
If you’ve read all the way up to here and still looking for an answer… yes, do it. You won’t regret it.