Discovering The Solomons

By Matthew Smith

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Moments after a giant manta ray had blocked out the sun, I was amid a tornado swirl of thousands of chevron barracuda. Simultaneously, the deep, bassy grumble of a nearby erupting underwater volcano reverberated through my ears and chest. The water was deep, clear and warm and I moved my camera aside to absorb it all. With a smile so wide I almost lost my regulator I thought ‘this is what diving is all about.

This was one of my first dives in The Solomons at Barra Point, Mary Island, just one of many fantastic sites I visited during my trip there on the MV Bilikiki last year. And this year was even better! Now I want to share it with you. Join me on the MV Bilikiki for 10 days of diving sharks, wrecks, and reefs June 23-July 3, 2018.

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Named after a distinctive local shore bird, The Bilikiki is 125ft of steel-hulled stability built specifically for the South Pacific with ten air-conditioned, en-suite cabins, a fully appointed, well-stocked camera room and a large dive deck serviced by two tender boats. Nitrox is plentiful and useful with five dive opportunities per day.

Leru Cut, where luminous blue shafts of light penetrate into the darkness of an Island crevice, Lologhan's magnificent hard and soft corals, and the schooling barracuda and jacks of Mary Island are exquisite. The roar of the current and swooping manta rays make The Devil’s Highway a heart-stopping, high-octane adventure!

The peak of a deep water seamount, rising from hundreds of meters below to around 15m, sits next to two lava tubes at Twin Tunnels in the Florida Islands offering a fantastic deep dive. The tubes are encrusted with small sea fans and whip corals and join and exit into the blue at around 40m. Another notable dive here is the Mavis Flying Boat, a Japanese seaplane sunk by the allies during a covert ambush in WWII that sits on its belly, reasonably intact, in about 30m.

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Further west, get prepared for the excitement of our shark dives in Marovo Lagoon! Dozens of black tip reef sharks will surround you near the surface as you enter the water. This is a great opportunity for photographers to score magical half over, half underwater shots as the sharks bump into your camera. I'll be on hand for guidance for those who want it of course!

For the photographers on board, I'll be doing 3 photography tutorial presentations. The topics include:

1. Half over/half underwater photography techniques

2. Lighting techniques

3. Post process techniques

I will be available for mentoring and guidance through out the duration of the trip. Sometimes it’s the things we didn't even realize we needed to learn that have the biggest impact on the improvement of our photographs, and it's for this reason there won't be any set learning outcomes. We'll work through any challenges you have as they arise making for a very dynamic 10 days. This also makes the trip perfect for beginners and advanced photographers alike. My wife, Lauren, an experienced model, will be on hand to pose for the photographers underwater, or give tips to anyone wanting to try for themselves and their buddies.

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Diving from the Bilikiki will be some of the easiest diving (physically) you have done anywhere. The massive dive deck gives you loads of room for suiting up and getting your gear sorted. Large dedicated camera tables allow for any last minute adjustments with ease. The crew loads everything in and out of the tinnies for you and will help you with your gear when you arrive at the dive site. An easy roll off the side of the tinnie and you’re away. After the dive the crew are right there to take your gear, and the ladder makes for an easy exit from the water before being transported back to the mother ship.

Between excellent main meals, the chef prepares snacks of fresh warm cookies and huge bowls of buttered popcorn. Wonderfully, most fresh produce has been traded directly from the islanders for the 25 years since Bilikiki started touring this area. From their dugout canoes, the islanders trade fully grown produce for seed packets, enabling them to grow more food. It’s a total win-win and a real pleasure to see the floating markets approach along with broad, beaming smiles and friendly waves.

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Book now here:

Or to make an inquiry, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. OR call Matty on +61408 413 887

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Ocean Geographic Explorer (OGX) is a diving adventure resource with a special focus on marine photography and ocean conservation. Our content is divided up into six primary categories: Travel, Sea Science,  Equipment, Photography &Video, Conservation, and Lifestyle. We endeavor be a portal for people with all levels of interest in the marine environment  to learn about and become part of a community of like-minded ocean lovers who enjoy sharing their knowledge of and experiences in our fascinating ocean world.

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