In the second episode of our new podcast Trip Notes, New Zealand's First Man of Fishing, Clarke Gayford, talks with co-hosts Stephanie Holmes and Tim Roxborogh about his favourite travel memories.
As well as reminiscing about his time as Getaway host, and the competition that almost saw him win "the best job in the world", Clarke revealed one of his favourite South Pacific destinations is the Solomon Islands.
"I've been there twice now and it has that element of nature and that wild element and people that are still connected with their culture . . . you still feel like you're having a proper adventure when you're going there," he says. "It doesn't feel sanitised. It still feels a little edgy."
Clarke believes it's a place not many travellers have explored yet, but that really they should.
"We were in small boats going down along reef edges looking at perfect surf breaks with no surfers in them," he says. "And if that had been Fiji or Bali or anywhere else there would have been a hundred people in the water and you just think, 'man, this place is untouched'."
From the World War II history, to the diverse indigenous culture, to the hidden spots that will blow your mind, download episode two of Trip Notes, brought to you by Intrepid Travel, to find out more.
And, if you're inspired to see it for yourself, Tim Roxborogh - who has also visited the Solomons - has some tips of his own . . .
1. Don't chicken out
Sure, there are definitely easier places to take a holiday, but I don't want to hear any excuses because easier doesn't necessarily equate to more rewarding. So with that in mind, if you're after real adventure to go with your tropical sunshine, there are few more adventuresome places in the South Pacific than the Solomon Islands.
Though even with that Indiana Jones-like proviso in mind, you can still find some really comfortable accommodation with places such as Honiara's Heritage Park of genuine international standard (and with an outstanding main restaurant courtesy of an acclaimed Sri Lankan chef). There are also a number of lovely over-the-water resorts with Fatboys on the island of Gizo arguably the best regarded.
2. Explore the jungle
With roughly 70 per cent of the Solomon Islands still untouched virgin rainforest, this is the most significantly forested of all South Pacific nations. A hike to the stunning 61-metre high Tenaru Falls along the Chea River in Guadalcanal will have you swashbuckling your way through vines, muddy hillsides and oversized foliage and it will all be entirely worth it.
3. Snorkel or dive a shipwreck
The act of snorkelling a WWII shipwreck is one of the more surreal experiences I've had and just 15 minutes away from Honiara at Bonegi Beach, you can be doing just that. Right next to the beach too. All told, there are dozens upon dozens of sunken planes and ships to snorkel or dive in the Solomons (the Battle of Guadalcanal killed more than 38,000 soldiers and was the first American involvement in WWII after Pearl Harbor) with one area of water so littered with vessels it's known as Iron Bottom Sound.
4. Do A Village Tour
Solomon Islanders are determined to show off their culture to the world and from traditional practices, such as the use of shell money necklaces, to the playing of percussive music with old jandals on bamboo, to the sight of school children singing at full voice just to welcome you, a village tour is as humbling as it is fun. On Guadalcanal you can have authentic village tours in places like Sikaiana (a large, ethnically Polynesian village) and Lumatapopoho (a much smaller, ethnically Melanesian village).
5. Pack Insect Repellent
While malaria levels have dropped considerably in recent years, it's still recommended to take some kind of anti-malarial medication. At the very least, make sure you're well-stocked with a repellent such as Aeroguard Tropical Strength.