The Solomon Islands have the credentials of an absolutely first class
dive destination and are only a 3-hour direct flight from Brisbane;
yet they remain little known and visited.
The Russell Islands
Put simply, the Russell Islands are all about spectacular seascapes, coral gardens, caves, drop offs and huge crevasses, bathed in crystal clear water!
This group lies approximately 48 kilometres north west of Guadalcanal and comprise of two main islands and a number of smaller ones. It is here that Leru Cut can be found, one of the signature dives in the Solomons.
This chasm reaches some 100 metres into the island of Leru and the light streams in shafts through the gin clear water down to the white sand floor. It is an incredible sight and after the long underwater swim you can eventually surface in a secluded chamber to see the roots of trees hanging down the steep cliffs that lead up to the encroaching jungle.
The Russells aren’t just about caverns and caves however. Beautiful hard coral gardens adorn Leru Bommies whilst Karumolun Point is also a notably stunning dive, shelving down to a depth of 30 metres before dropping off steeply. Grey reef sharks patrol in the blue water whilst the reef itself is home to the coveted ornate and halimeda ghost pipefish, whose exquisite camouflage serves to hide them from both predators and the tiny crustaceans they feed on.
We moved on to White Beach, a site where the US forces dumped all their machinery off the piers before they left at the end of the war. The seabed is now littered with artefacts including trucks, cranes and genuine 1940's Coke bottles. It's also a critter-rich location ideal for muck diving! One of the more unusual inhabitants here is the archer fish. which catch their prey by shooting a jet of water into the air at any unsuspecting insects crawling about in the jungle above them. They've evolved quite remarkably, not only compensating for the refraction in the water but also being able to vary the power of their shot for different size prey, bringing insects down from over a metre above the water.
Mary Island, known locally as Mborokua, is an extinct volcano to the west of the Russell Islands. Rising from deep water and rarely visited, the names of the dive sites leave little to the imagination: Barracuda Point and Jackfish Point!
Even before we entered the water I could see a huge school of jacks swirling like a silvery grey cyclone as if threatening to suck our small tender boat down to the depths. I slowly descended right into the heart of the jack school, and they momentarily parted before engulfing me, masses of fish only inches from my mask and unbothered by my presence. A similarly sized school of Barracuda orbited further up the reef. Mary Island is all about the fish schools!