The Solomons' underwater denizens introduce themselves to Richard Moore.

The waters of Morovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands are clear, calm and, at 28C, luxuriously warm. It's like taking a saltwater bath among amazing coral formations and gloriously coloured fish.

In almost any direction from the Uepi Island Resort, off the southern tip of New Georgia, a short boat ride will take you to dive spots where you can enjoy nature at its best.

You can do it almost alone, because you can guarantee the only people within miles are those in your dive group.

Our introduction to Solomons' snorkelling was at Landoro Gardens and what a place to enjoy Morovo Lagoon, the largest saltwater lagoon in the world.

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The islands nearby are pretty enough but, once the face mask is down, a new world opens up as major coral reefs rise close to the surface of the water only then to drop away into very deep, very blue trenches.

The reef formations are huge and made up of so many different types and shapes and colours of coral that they are impossible to count.

There are large, platter-like formations, thick staghorns, types that look like pale brown gherkins, little yellow sponges, pale blue tripe and others that look like giant yellow brains. A marine biologist would think this was heaven.

Among the reef's nooks and crannies swim beautiful fish, their colours catching your eye as they make their way through the sun's rays reaching down into the depths.

After a good exploration of the gardens we were taken a few kilometres away to Roma, which, in the Morovo language, means sloping reef.

We were dropped off from the boat then swam along the lee of an island through another visually exciting submarine landscape.


Snorkelling at Uepi Island. Photo / Richard Moore

Our guide told us the water was not as clear as usual - following a storm and very heavy rains - but as I lay on the surface looking down, it was clearer than anything you'd see off the New Zealand coast.

There were hectares of formations around Roma, almost a prairie of coral and you could easily swim about for hours just watching life underwater going about its daily business.

For those who don't want to go far from the Uepi Resort, or who have small children, there is plenty to see off the small wharf there.

Fish by the thousands teem around the edge of a drop-off into a deep channel and if the kids are into Finding Nemo then they will be thrilled by the varieties they could name from the movie.

Uepi Resort's owners, Jill and Grant Kelly, are veteran - and devoted - divers and they know all the places that will excite visitors with scuba tanks. The island alone offers 10 dive sites where you can come mask to face with giant trevally, barracuda, manta rays, luxuriant gorgonian fans, octopus, surprisingly benign sharks, turtles and more.

And this is in waters where, on the bottom, visibility can often exceed 40m.

Then, to add even more excitement, there is the night diving.

Throw in excursions to snorkelling spots and you can see why this place has divers of all persuasions reaching for their masks and fins.

If you haven't scuba dived before reaching Uepi that's no drama as the resort offers full diving courses with its expert team.

Uepi Island Resort deserves its international renown for fabulous diving, and those who try its waters regularly return for more adventures.

While we were there an American family on their second visit were thrilled to have just dived with hammerhead sharks.

Me? I'll just stick with mooching along with my cameras trying to get a portrait of Nemo.

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Further information: Uepi Island Resort is on the edge of Morovo Lagoon near the southern tip of New Georgia. It is an 18km boat ride from the airfield of Seghe, about an hour's flight from the capital, Honiara.

The writer travelled courtesy of Uepi Island Resort, the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau and Solomons Airlines.