Our next stop in Marovo Lagoon was Minado Eco Lodge, about twenty minutes down the lagoon from Driftwood, located on a small island 2 km in circumference which Google calls Tambapeava and the landowner calls Turupu.
Minado, which means love in the Marovo language, is a local-run lodge that is right next to their partner business, Solomon Dive Adventures. The lodge is run by the landowner and dive master, and past ship engineer, Johnlee Koli. The dive business is run by an energetic, sun-browned 70-year-old woman, Lisa Choquette. Lisa is an American diving and fish enthusiast who set up shop in the Solomons 10 years ago and has never looked back.
The boat ride to Minado was a short 20-minutes on Johnlee’s 60HP whip, but by now the weather had cleared up and we were able to appreciate how beautiful the lagoon was. Tiny islands where coconut trees stretched over the sides, and small settlements scattered along the shores.
Pulling into the jetty at Minado was like pulling up to a postcard. Minado Lodge is perched on the edge of Turupu island and brimming with marine life. A leaf hut, Minado’s new pride and joy, sat at the end of the jetty overlooking a giant clam garden. We could tell we were going to get some 👌 snaps for the gram over the next couply days.
We heard her before we saw her. It had to be Lisa. And she wasn’t talking to us, she was having a garbled conversation through a snorkel to a fish. This first impression is accurate because if there is one thing you should know about Lisa, it’s that she really, really, likes fish.
We check out our lodgings which we have all to ourselves as there are only two bedrooms. At full capacity, the lodge can accommodate four people – not that we’ve ever had any problem with crowds here, but that’s pretty special. There is a small kitchen, and a shared toilet and shared bathroom down the end of the building. In the dining area is a bookshelf packed with fish books and a small collection of games.
Not that we would have time for any reading or games, because all we wanted to do was dive. We’d already scheduled our first dive for later that afternoon with Evin and Brian, two local divemasters and guides.
Before we even got into the boat, we needed to demonstrate that we could put our own gear together. We didn’t really want to because we had gotten so used to others doing it for us when we’re out on dive trips, and ultimately, we are lazy. To add to the mix, Solomon Dive Adventures uses the American system which we had never used before.
We fail the first test because “tank goes this way not that way”, and the second, “reg wrong way”, and the next one but that’s because it’s mathy and hard trying to convert bar to Freedom Units, “I’m… 80% sure that’s enough air?” However, we were very impressed at such a professionally run, safety first operation. We are sure we did not spark the same confidence.
All up, we went on four amazing dives. We saw sharks, curious eagle rays, scallops with electric currents running across their lips, crabs, lobsters, and a cuttlefish trying to hide. One of our dives was a night dive after which we were served Lisa’s famous Shivering, Starving, Divers’ Soup.
Lisa is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about fish. Before every dive, Lisa sat us down and took us through a powerpoint of what fish we could expect to see, and what hand signals she’d use to indicate what specific sub-species of a certain fish family we were looking at and what it was doing. After diving, we were then treated to a post-dive brief complete with pictures. If you’re not into fish and fish behaviour, this might be painful. But if you are into fish, you are in for a treat. We’ve never had dive briefings this thorough anywhere. We learnt a whole lot of new things from Lisa and was even inspired to buy our first fish book.
If you can’t dive, Solomon Dive Adventures doesn’t certify new divers anymore. But, you can snorkel, and there are a few village activities on offer that we didn’t have time to do. Or, you can just chill out on the jetty which is where we were when we weren’t diving, eating, or sleeping. The cooks at Minado kept us very well fed, and once they even came out with popcorn.
We could have easily stayed for a few more days but all good things come to an end. It’s probably worth mentioning that the Marovo area is Seventh Day Adventist, including Minado, which means no work on Sundays. This also means no diving on Sundays. They do bend the rules for drop-offs and pick-ups and Johnlee was kind enough give us a lift to Seghe airport about an hour’s boatride away.
That brings us to the end of our Marovo adventures. From Honiara, to Driftwood Lodge, to Minado. We wish we’d had twice as much holiday time to explore. There are so many excellent places to stay in Marovo, so if you can, definitely try and make the pilgrimage west especially if you’re a diver.
To get to Minado, either take the ferry from Honiara to Bunikalo or, take a flight from Honiara to Seghe airport. Minado will pick you up from either destination.
To book, contact Minado lodge on their facebook page or Solomon Dive Adventures on their website. Lisa regularly updates the Facebook page so you can message with confidence that someone will actually reply. It is also likely to be Lisa that you will be liasing with. Also, a new satellite has been built nearby which means Minada has unusually stellar mobile reception. Brian is a Telekom agent and can hook you up with credit so you can keep your social media feeds fresh.