It is with a heavy heart the Catlin Seaview Survey Shallow Reef team ends their final Coral Triangle deployment for this year in the Solomon Islands. In my opinion, there is no better place than here to end our challenging and rewarding Coral Triangle campaign. The extreme beauty above water is enough to make you want to stay, come back, explore for years, without even mentioning the extraordinary coral cays and fringing reefs visible at the surface through the immaculate crystal clear waters.
Our 10-day expedition surveying aboard the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation’s M/Y Golden Shadow was expertly guided by Wade Fairly, an experienced film documentarian who’s been based in the Solomon Islands for the last 6 years. He politely showed us around the reefs of his home, which are some of the most unspoiled and remarkably diverse in the Coral Triangle. In particular was a special stop to Uepi Island Resort in the Marovo Lagoon. The dives here brought spectacular cliffs of tabulate and branching Acropora forking into the abyss, weaving through canyons bursting with almost flower-like Pachyseris, Turbinaria, and Echinophyllia only beginning to bloom.
The corals only painted half of the picture, where parallel to the reef were fishes of all shapes, sizes, and colors, casually coasting through the current. The favorite of the trip quickly became the ever fascinating bumphead parrotfishes, Bolbometopon muricatum, floating over the reef much like cows mooing about. Another notable stop was a wreck dive on an old Japanese pole and line fishing vessel, which sank in the 1990s due to some rumored drunken navigating through the channel. The vessel now rests vertically stretching from 5m below the surface to 30m into the blue, covered in colorful coral, sea fan, and sponge recruits, providing a unique structure to call home.
The Solomon communities care for, respect, and are clearly preserving the spectacularly virgin coral reefs. Living sustainably comes naturally to the people here, with most of the reefs showing little indication of harvesting for fish, invertebrates, or otherwise. The people have established and are maintaining their own marine protected areas. It is clear that everyone around the world can learn from the people of the Solomon Islands, from the innate desire to protect their environment, to taking only what is needed, and to slow down and enjoy the beauty every once and a while.