Finding fortune in the Solomon Islands

There’s gold in them thar hills…

. Booty! Pic Ben King

The Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña named the scattering of islands after King Solomon, believing them the source of gold for the King’s Temple. The gilded dream didn’t last and during his second expedition in the Pacific, Mendaña’s end arrived in predictable adventurer-like fashion; he didn’t die at the hands of Islanders like many of his crew, but was brought down suffering the slings and arrows of tropical disease.

That’s outrageous fortune for you. On the other hand, if you’re a surfer, there’s a different sort of treasure to discover.

Only coconuts in the line up. Pic Ben King

Empty barrels! They’re about a kilometre offshore from a new village that has been recently settled by Gary and his wife Lydia. Vavaghio is home to their typically extensive island family and it features two guest houses for the intrepid surf traveller. Located on a freckle of land on the north-eastern part of the Isabel archipelago, the tiny settlement faces the North Pacific ocean, which churns into action from November to April.

Gary scores lunch. Pic Ben King

The reef pass out the front of Vavaghio looks like a zipper being undone, peeling left and right. With a whisper of offshore either of the waves stand to attention, clean and hollow. If there’s a bit too much east in the air then head west for a similar set up that offers a really long, friendly left opposite a punchy, sometimes bowly right. Keep searching and the potential in the area is enough to make a person lightheaded.

Expect 3-6ft waves and remember that it’s not Indo and won’t be as consistently swamped with swell. However, if surfers are prepared to forgo their Indo egos and dreams of 8ft Padang then the Solomons offer a surreal experience. Without a soul in sight there is no such thing as a line up, sitting inside, taking turns, or paddling around. So, bullion for the taking?

If you like piña coladas…

Forget sandy beaches and sunset cocktails. Vavaghio is in a remote part of the world where life is especially simple and slow. Lodgings are made from local timber and sago palm; they’re nestled in the leafy shade where mangroves meet Melanesian jungle and offer a welcome respite from the tropical sun. It’s clean, comfortable, and private.

Be charmed. Pic Ben King

There’s also the prospect of a unique cultural experience. Lydia’s family isn’t too accustomed to visiting westerners yet and initially they may be shy. Yet all it takes is a smile for the floodgates of friendliness to open.

You’re welcome to join them in the day-to-day running of village life. Husk, crack, scrape, and squeeze the milk from a coconut for a fresh fish curry. Dig, peel, chop, make a fire and bake the local sweet potato or give Lydia a hand as she prepares her locally renowned hot stone baked bread. This is what real food looks and tastes like. Or be charmed by the tireless energy of the barefoot and barely dressed pikininis (kids) as they race about, wild and free.

Keri and Lydia hanging

There’s bushwalks, snorkelling, visiting the Arnavon Islands marine reserve, fishing and spearfishing or take time out in a hammock. For a different thrill head out at night on a boat to look for the beady eyes of a crocodile in a torches beam. As Gary says, you’re free to do what you want at Vavaghio. The company is fabulous and you’d be hard pressed to find a more humble, accommodating or hospitable family.

Things to know:

Bring a decent first aid kit and make sure you travel with insurance. It’s a remote part of the world.

There are no shops nearby so best to bring all the bits and pieces you need: wax, spare leggy, fishing gear, sun block, special snacks etc.

Check out for more info.


About Keri Algar

Keri has an insatiable appetite for travel, discovery and surf. You may find her among the happy isles, smiles and empty barrels of Melanesia, or swinging her hips at a Spanish fiesta, underwater in Mexico, on top of the Argentine alps, or at home in New Zealand with her nose in a book. She is delighted by difference - both people and places, and is inspired by those who follow their own path through life with passion and courage.


  1. Crissy says:

    Well done as usual, Keri.  Always enjoy your articles.  Soloman Islands here I come.  Sounds awesome, especially Lydia’s cooking ;)

  2. Guest says:

    Glad to hear you finally made it Keri! Beautiful place and beautiful people. Well done.

  3. Ed Burton says:

    Glad to hear you finally made it Keri! Beautiful people and beautiful spot, very jealous. Picked up the free GC surf mag to find your article at the back, love it, well done.

  4. Hayden says:

    Looks great guys. What time of year is best? Same as PNG or Indo?

  5. So, so so remote!
    Remembering my Solomon Islands dollar banknote from my collection…

  6. well done!

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