The Solomon Islands are a string of tropical islands located in the South Pacific Ocean, and named after the Israelite monarch, King Solomon. Today, the islands are remembered for their involvement in World War II battles fought on Guadalcanal, but they also exist as a thriving community of hundreds of islands and dozens of ethnic cultures. The land offers exotic rain-forests, wild species and rich culture to anyone who ventures across their sea foam waters.
The first discoverers were other pacific islanders who found the islands during some time between 1,000 B.C. and 30,000 years ago. They settled on the main island and, despite their oceanic surroundings, developed land-based communities. Inhabitants lived off agriculture and animal husbandry, especially pigs.
Later, descendants from Sikaiana, the Reef Islands and the Temotu Islands, mostly Polynesian people who utilized fishing and navigation skills, occupied the outlying islands.
The Spanish explorer lvaro de Mendaa de Neira arrived in 1568 as the first European discoverer of the Solomon Islands. In the mid-1800s, missionaries (who converted the majority of the population to Christianity,) traders, whalers, entrepreneurs and British colonial government officers followed Mendaa to the Solomon Islands.
Prior to Britain’s claim over the land in 1893, the Solomon Islands operated without a centralized ruling system. Instead, male leaders headed numerous clan-based communities, which traded with one another and instilled cooperative links via intermarriages and mutual alliances.
British rule was the islands’ first exposure to a monarchy-type government and ended many intertribal conflicts. British influence also exposed the population to western culture and religion.
A Diverse Culture
Boasting approximately 70 languages within the population, the Solomon Islands host a submergence of cultures from many different ethnic groups. A congealing language, “Solomon Island pidgin English,” is the only semi-universal language among the islands’ inhabitants.
A relatively peaceful people until recent political conflicts ripped through the islands, Solomon Islanders are incredibly tolerant of each other’s diverse religious viewpoints and doctrines. The concept of wantokism is a philosophy prescribed to by many islands that promotes togetherness of people who are related to a common cause. National culture was fostered during World War II, when islanders fought in unity to save their country from the Japanese.
A Sea of Islands
Positioned in the South Pacific Ocean, northeast of Australian, the Solomon Islands are part of a long strand of archipelagos called Melanesia, which includes Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and Fiji.
The Solomon Islands make up approximately 10,639-square-miles of land and 310,000-square-miles of ocean. Nearly a thousand islands are included in the Solomon Islands, including the six main islands of New Georgia, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, Guadalcanal, Malaita and San Cristbal. Located on the “Ring of Fire,” the Solomon Islands host several volcanoes, some of which are active such as Tinakula and Kavachi.
Lush Rain-forests and Colorful Coral Reefs
The Solomon Islands offer some of the most exotic rain-forestsin the world, ranging from towering forests in the lowlands to crawling mossy growths along the mountainous peaks, sites that can be seen by visitors.
Travelers may want to stay clear of the brackish mangroves that form in the river deltas, however, as they are home to crocodiles. Two hundred and thirty different types of orchid grow in the region and add vibrancy to the landscape.Some islands contain rich soil from volcanic deposits.In the waters surrounding the islands, coral reefs offer an exotic underwater world of tropic fish and plants.
Boas Underfoot and Parrots in the Air
With the exotic climate and landscape of the Solomon Islands comes the rare and tropical wildlife that live there. An unusual site for most visitors who are able to spot one, keeled monitor lizard and pacific boa live on the islands. Above head, “flying foxes” (fruit bats), phalangers and opossums awake during the night.
Travelers to the islands will be wowed by the colorful array of birds and parrots found on the islands, included the buff-headed coucal, the world’s largest cuckoo. Ocean creatures fill the sea surrounding the islands, including the mammoth humpback whale.
Unfortunately, many of the native bats, foxes, birds and marine life that used to live healthily amid the islands are now endangered.
In urban areas, Solomon Islanders feast on rice with canned meat or fish, washed down by tea. However, such a diet was not always devoured by the islands’ inhabitants. Traditionally, islanders ate yams, panas and taros (local produce grown on the islands) as main staples. Fish or seashells, snails, eels or opossums accompanied meals. Spices are rarely used in cooking, but rich coconut milk is a common ingredient.
As Solomon Islanders adopt western practices, the etiquette of mealtime has changed as well. More than ever before, islanders are sitting at tables during meals, but they still uphold the tradition of eating together.
Located close to the equator, the climate of the islands is tempered by the ocean, with heavy rainfalls near the mountainous areas. Coastal areas are more sheltered and drier. Generally, the air is extremely humid with a mean temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
When planning a trip, consider that June through August tends to be a cooler period, while November through April is more apt to bring heavy rainfall, squalls and cyclones. The annual rainfall is approximately 120 inches.
For the most part, Solomon Islanders have respected the parliament system of government that they have employed since Britain granted the country political independence in 1978. Islanders generally respect their parliament leaders because of the close relationship they maintain with the greater population. Yet, continued coalition governments have led to a weak party system and transient party alliances.
The Solomon Islands have not been exempt of the sectarian violence that has plagued many of the pacific islands in the last decade. The most serious conflict occurred when a Guadalcanal group faced off against a Malaita group, killing more than 50 people in ethnic fighting.