Savo Island, Famous for the Megapode

If you read my last post, I was in the Solomon Islands for about a week and decided to take a trip out to Savo Island for a couple of days. The volcanic island was located right across Guadalcanal, about a 30-minute boat ride. It was famous for the naval wars during WWII between Japan and the Allies and the Iron Bottom has a lot of battleships that sank during that time.

I found a guesthouse on Savo Island called Savo Sunset Lodge, so I called the number from the internet and organized a pickup from Honiara. The visit included transportation from Honiara to the boat terminal and the boat ride across and all the way back for 400 SBD. It was not a bad deal.

I got picked up early morning one day in front of Selena’s place (my couchsurfing host) and the driver drove to Pacific Casino Hotel. There were 5 more passengers ready to board the vehicle. It was a pickup truck and it had seats for only five people including the driver, so I was not sure how he was going to fit seven people in a 5-person ride. It was not a big problem after all, since four of them got in the back of the pickup truck, while the fifth one sat in the front seat.

I had a nice chat with Sheena who was half Chinese and half Melanesian. Her Chinese father owned the casino/hotel and they were going on a day trip to Savo. I ended up befriending Sheena, Dominic (Sheena’s boyfriend), Maria (Sheena’s sister), Luke (Maria’s boyfriend from Australia), and Daniel (A Mexican that went to school with Luke and Maria). The visitors were on a working holiday to the Solomon.

We drove along towards the west coast of Guadalcanal for about 45 minutes until we got to the boat terminal. I thought it was going to be a big terminal, but it was just a shore with two small boats like the ones that you see locals jumping into and you are not sure if it will sink (we did have life jackets). Savo was right across the straight and it was only a 30-minute ride, so I went with the flow.

 

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We got on this boat and that was Savo in the background. 

 

We waited for another couple to show up and the eight of us split into two boats. The ride was not bad at all. The weather was nice and there were no bumps as we sped towards Savo. The view was pretty amazing with a glimpse of Guadalcanal in the background.

 

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The other boat with four of the casino crew (two couples).

 

As we got closer to Savo, we saw a school of dolphins that were excited to see us. They were jumping close to us and we all took a bunch of photos. 

 

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Our captain and the view of Honiara. Pretty nice egh? 

 

When we landed on Savo, it was pretty much one big building with a dining quarter in front. To give you an idea, it looked more like a cabin when you go skiing, but of course, the materials were not as nice and don’t expect any kind of luxury. It gets the job done by having a roof over your head, instead of being on the campsite with your tent. The place needed a serious face lift, but with only two guests staying there per day, why would you?  

My room had a bed, a balcony and a ceiling fan. Electricity only worked in the evening so I would have to wait until then for light. I unpacked quickly to join the group for the assent to the volcano. Savo was a volcanic island and hiking was supposed to be pretty good. We all got back into the boat again and sailed for 10 minutes to the starting point.

 

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Some random kids on the boat. That was the starting point of the hike. 

 

The tour guide tells us that this part of the island had very few inhabitants. The starting point looked like a valley and if you are not a local, you will have no idea where to go. We followed the tour guide through streams and small rivers, slowly ascending to the top of the island. There were no clear paths and it seemed like the last visitor must have been ages ago. The hike was pretty easy, as we jumped across rocks not to get our feet wet. As we got closer to the summit, the water got warmer and warmer and some of the rocks were pouring steam. At one point, the tour guide told us that the water may be boiling so make sure we do not fall into the stream. Yes, the water was really boiling and I definitely did not want to fall in and get burned. If you plan on doing this trip, make sure to wear closed shoes, take food, lots of water, and repellent.

 

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Up towards the top of the hike. That water down there was boiling hot!

 

After about 45 minutes, we made it to the summit. We took a few group pictures.

 

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Our group picture at the top. 

 

Oh, on our trip up, I befriended Vasilay from Ukraine. We ended up hanging out together for the next two days since we were the only ones staying on the island. He had his own travel company in Guam (if you are interested in visiting one day) and was a professional skydiving instructor. He told me some crazy stories from the past, but he has jumped over 20,000 times in his life (I may be wrong and he may have jumped even more!). He likes to take poses of himself doing a hand stand and I took a few pictures of him doing that when we met up in Tonga a month later. At the young age of 60, he was super fit and his hand stands were perfect!

The hike was not that long and it was good exercise in the sun. We went back to the guesthouse for lunch, a beautiful buffet was ready for us and I ate a lot of chicken and grilled fish. The fish was very tasty, probably caught that morning. We had our little siestas by the hammock and in no time, it was 5pm in the evening. We said goodbye to the casino crew as they were all going back to Honiara, while Vasilay and I spent the evening there.

There was nothing to do in the evening, it was not a resort, there was no swimming pool nor was there music. We had an early dinner around 6:30pm and we went to bed early, hoping for a great day to go see the megapode the next day. Savo was famous for these birds that laid its eggs and buried them in the sand to incubate, since the island was volcanic. The eggs were then dug out by local people and sold as specialty food. I believe the going rate was around 1000 SBD per egg. The eggs were just a bit bigger than a duck egg and was used for breakfast and other dishes.

 

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Megapode egg

 

 

Unfortunately, the weather was pretty bad and it looked like a storm was coming soon the following morning. We had breakfast and was told from the crew that it would be best to get off the island after breakfast, since they were not sure if the boats can get to Guadalcanal. Thus, we headed back to the mainland in the morning since I was not going to be stuck on that island for another day. There were limited things to do.

On shore in Guadalcanal, our driver came to pick us up and we met the owner of the guesthouse. The owner Allan Kemakeza was the same guy that I spoke to on the phone the other day when I booked the transportation. The staff at the guesthouse told us earlier that he was the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands from 2001 to 2006 and it was really true (obviously, I checked the internet). He was an older gentleman in the 60s and he told us about how he had visited many different countries as a politician, meeting Bush Senior and Junior during his presidency. He was a very humble man, did not have a body guard or anything and he was genuinely really nice. We took a picture with him as we greeted farewell and thanked him for the great excursion to Savo.

 

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That is the former prime minister Allan Kemakeza with Vasilay on the right. 

 

 

That said, if you ever make it to the Solomon Islands, you have to make a stop at Savo at Allan’s guesthouse called Savo Sunset Lodge and make sure to go see the megapode.   

Visited in February of 2017.

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