Gizo, Ghizo

My last post was mainly about life in Honiara, the highlights and the daily grind. Nothing to be envious of, in other words. I think it’s fair to say that this post is going to change all that…

Sunrise over Kolumbanggara Island, near Gizo

Sunrise over Kolumbanggara Island, near Gizo

Last week I flew to Gizo for meetings with stakeholders to talk about protected areas. I’ve been to Gizo before, so I knew what to expect, but it was still pretty awesome.

Kolumbanggara Island

I flew out on Sunday in a Dash-8; the views from the window were amazing. You really get a sense of how many islands there are when you see the country from the air.

Guadalcanal (left) and Nusatupe (right) from the air

Guadalcanal (left) and Nusatupe (right) from the air

I was seated next to a lady and her gorgeous little girl – who kept trying to resist sleep to stare at me with big wide eyes.

Wide-eyed pikinini

Wide-eyed pikinini

On arrival at Nusatupe (the island where the plane lands), I was picked up by the dive boat and taken to dive the Toa Maru and Grand Central Station with one of the volunteers based in Gizo. Honestly, neither of the sites was outstanding (Komodo you have spoiled me!) although GCS had the potential to be a great dive. The Toa Maru was quite interesting as wrecks go – it’s a WWII Japanese transport ship with lots of artefacts including saki bottles – but didn’t have outstanding marine life as I’ve seen elsewhere (let’s face it, I’m a marine biologist – I see wrecks as substrates for colonisation!).

We spent our surface interval on Njari Island with a group of friends, where we were served a freshly-cooked lunch of yellowfin tuna, salad and roasted vegetables served on leaves, followed by fresh fruit.

The beautiful beach at Njari Island

The beautiful beach at Njari Island

Lunch was cooked on site

Lunch was cooked on site

Lunch! Fresh yellowfin tuna, roasted veges and rice

Lunch! Fresh yellowfin tuna, roasted veges and rice

Then it was back to Gizo (town) for a refreshing ale overlooking the harbour, then a delicious crayfish dinner with my colleagues from NSW Environmental Defender’s Office, who are sponsoring my volunteer assignment.

Racing dugouts

Racing dugouts

Gizo harbour

Gizo harbour

Yum - crayfish!

Yum – crayfish!

The next few days were taken up with stakeholder meetings and site visits. I felt really honoured to meet such a range of Solomon Islanders who are passionate about protecting their natural resources and preserving their culture and customs – we had people there from Malaita, Isabel and Munda as well as locals from Ghizo (island) and nearby Kolumbanggara.

Our site visits were to two communities living close to Ghizo who want to protect their local environment and manage their marine resources effectively. The boat ride was tough.

Some of the views from the boat ride

Some of the views from the boat ride

I also got to visit one of the nicest places to stay in the area – Oravae Cottage. It’s an eco-resort run by an Australian-Solomon Islander couple, and it’s just gorgeous. It’s definitely going on the bucket list!

View from one of the Oravae Cottage bungalows at Sepo Island

View from one of the Oravae Cottage bungalows at Sepo Island

I was also lucky enough to meet the good folks over at the Worldfish Centre on Nusatupe. While there I snuck in a snorkel to check out the giant clams they have been growing out and was followed around by a curious black tip reef shark.

The jetty at the Worldfish Centre, Nusatupe

The jetty at the Worldfish Centre, Nusatupe

All together I spent 5 days in Gizo and am already planning my next trip back. I’ve made some firm friends there, and was well looked after by everyone.

Moonrise over Gizo harbour

Moonrise over Gizo harbour

And just to prove it wasn’t all a tropical island paradise… the roads are even worse than Honiara πŸ™‚

More pothole than road, Gizo

More pothole than road, Gizo

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