Dive Log inc Sportdiving magazine

Barramundi cod at a cleaning station with Gorgonian seaman

One of Munda’s many plane wrecks

the rocks between all the hard and soft corals, brightly coloured sponges and spectacular gorgonian fans. The last ten or so metres at the gorgeous Rainbow Reef are a poignant reminder of the tsunami of 2016, the slopes in the shallows being almost completely comprised of coral rubble. Yet life goes on and there are scattered signs of new growth and marine life, a testament to the resilience of nature. The breathtaking Langarana (along with nearby Belobelo) is one of Munda’s world class signature sites. A sheer wall goes down hundreds of metres, festooned with gorgeous brightly coloured spaghetti-like sponges

This region is rich with historical significance. Several islands stand as shrines to one Lieutenant John F Kennedy and his heroic, life saving feats when his vessel was rammed and wrecked by a Japanese destroyer. Diving the easily accessible plane and shipwrecks in this region, seeing them take on new lives as artificial reefs, is just one of many reasons to explore the lagoons of the Solomon Islands’ Western Province. During my visit, a group of aquatic historians are laying plaques on known wrecks and seeking local knowledge to discover wrecks that have never yet been dived. While I enjoy the immense privilege of photographing the small fighter plane wrecks, I find myself more drawn to the living, breathing pelagics swirling past the current prone slopes and drop offs of Munda’s Shark Point, Eagles Nest, Barry’s Breakfast and Secret Spot. I’m enthralled by three spotted eagle rays dancing at depth, large schools of barracuda, curious batfish, midnight snappers, bumphead parrotfish, yellow tailed kingfish and trevally. The appearance of occasional black tip, white tip and silvertip reef sharks, small devil rays and turtles are always cause for celebration. When I am underwater surrounded by such incredible diversity of marine animals, I can barely spare a thought for the complexities of life on land. A diverse range of sites is easily accessible between ten and forty minutes across the gorgeous bay by boat. Haipe Reef, Rainbow Reef and Susu Hite Island play host to bommies and rocky outcrops abounding with hard and soft corals, barrel sponges and countless fish species. Amongst the most photogenic are many types of anemone fish; the White-bonnet variety are endemic to the Solomons and are easily found along with nine other varieties. Dartfish, bannerfish, tangs, triggerfish and moray eels are some of the more commonly sighted species seen availing themselves of the ever-present cleaning stations. The highly decorative leopard wrasse are far less common and sighting one feels like winning a jackpot. Small octopuses and cuttlefish hide amongst

Right: Seastar - Solomon Islands Munda

www.divelog.net.au | ISSUE 379 | FEBRUARY 2020 | DIVE LOG Australasia inc. Sportdiving Magazine | 57

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