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Travel - Wilderness Lodge, Solomon Islands




If ecotourism is important to you, consider this small Solomon Islands property, Wilderness Lodge.



It consists of two beautifully carved and constructed beach-front bungalows, and two slightly less desirable rooms attached to the main house.



Wilderness Lodge is well-integrated into the surrounding village of Peava on the island of Gatokae, located in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands.



It's accessed by a one-hour DHC-6 Twin Otter flight from Honiara to tiny Seghe Airport, then an open boat ride that takes between ninety minutes and three hours (dependent upon weather conditions). Before you wince, it's a very beautiful trip through thirty shades of aquamarine water, that's home to countless vividly green islands that make up some of the Solomon Island's 992 islands.



Being attached to a village means your sun-drenched days playing on the protected lagoon will have the gentle hubbub of everyday village life as their background soundtrack.



For the villagers, it's an opportunity to earn money to pay for things they can't otherwise have in their subsistence lifestyle.



For Jack who served our meals, this was his school fees, but for other villagers it might be money for fuel, or imported products like rice.



Staff are particularly welcoming to visitors; keen to share details of their way of life, and interested in finding out more about yours.



With the Australian federal election taking place while we were there, much discussion took place about politician promises. In the Solomons, the promises offered to convince the locals choose between the two bigfela candidates were tangible items, like solar panels or outboard motors, both very useful in remote villages such as this one.



Snorkeling at the end of the lodge's pier immerses you in upwards of three hundred different species of marine life, including the lagoon's eight or ten black and white tip reef sharks.



They'll visit when the staff clean tuna, caught by villagers, and presented as sashimi and breaded fish for your dinner hours after it was caught.



Outside the lagoon there are three close islands that are wild and uninhabited - Malemale, Bulo and Kicha. All of which you can visit with a local guide on a very inexpensive boat trip.



You'll find turtles and great chasms of coral at Bulo. Make sure they take you to them via the friendly pod of dolphins who leap and dive round the boat with particular glee when it goes fast!



Kicha is very unspoiled as it has been a marine sanctuary for quite some time; while Malemale's protected side was picturesque in the morning sun, and absolutely teaming with fish.



Meals at Wilderness Lodge taken on the deck by kerosene lantern light, are plentiful, with local dishes like cassava pudding and cassava chips added to more Westernised items, ensuring there's always something each guest enjoys.



We particularly enjoyed trying the local river fern, poucha, that made an excellent cooked and salad green.



You'll get as much tropical fruit as you care to eat, served up with each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner, the per night price here includes full board) including banana, papaya, pineapple, soursop, bush lime and jackfruit.



Despite the whole island being Seventh Day Adventists (yep, not much happens here on a Saturday) and not eating shellfish by religious decree, we were even cooked crayfish twice during our eight day stay (it was delicious).



While their protein mainstay is fish, they were able cater to a vegetarian guest while we were staying there. When a fresh catch comes in, position yourself on the wharf where they gut the fish, and watch the lagoon's reef sharks get fed.



For those who are precious about mod-cons: the airy bungalow's bathroom has a toilet and clam-shell sink.



(You can see living clams just off the pier).



The shower is outdoors and cold water only. There was no electricity in the bungalows, bar for very dim solar powered lights, so your devices will need to be charged in the main house (they were perfectly safe there). Wifi on Gatokae Island is limited, and even worse when it's cloudy or raining (satellite), so your iPhone's most useful function while you're at Wilderness Lodge will probably be as a torch to read by.



As a Sydneysider keen to have both a people and technology detox, this made this place pretty close to perfect.



Wilderness Lodge
Peava, Gatokae Island,
Western Province, Solomon Islands

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