Uepi Island Snorkeling
The MOST popular snorkel dive spot in Solomon Islands.
Friday 1 July 2016 06:27 GMT
Northeast of Honiara, the snorkeling off Uepi Island is well known, especially in the marine life rich zone of the Marovo Lagoon. When snorkeling around Uepi Island, you can expect to encounter giant clams, clownfish, blacktip reef sharks and manta rays. A good place to start is the wooden jetty, known as the Welcome Jetty.
Uepi Island drops off into 50 metres of water at the Welcome Jetty and 2,000 metres at The Point. A fringing reef extends along Charapoana Passage and the ocean side of Uepi. Coral gardens are found at Uepi Point and Divers Bay. Charapoana Passage is a deep passage allowing water movement to and from Marovo Lagoon and the open ocean called The Slot. Despite this movement of water, the Channel provides a very safe area for snorkelling. The most popular Uepi Island snorkelling access locations are the Welcome Jetty, the Dive Jetty, the Concrete Jetty and the Fig Tree Grotto.
An experienced snorkeller can easily snorkel from Inside Point to Uepi Point. All of the reef along the Channel is first class snorkelling. Hover amongst huge schools of fish, cruise past large gorgonian fans, check out the vase sponges, nudibranchs, feather stars, octopus and the never ending array of colourful tropical fish. Of particular interest is the clam garden at the wooden jetty (Welcome Jetty), lion fish and pink anemone around the Dive Jetty and beautiful coral gardens at Uepi Point. All of the above Uepi jetties have resident fish schools, each quite different from the other. Other things to look for at the jetties are moray and snowflake eels, plus many small invertebrates in the cracks and holes. Because of the water movement there are times each day when the visibility will be less than perfect, however because of the water movement the variety of marine life is spectacular.
Morovo Lagoon is known for its deep diving chambered nautilus, which locals occasionally bring up for a quick view.
The Divers Bay area, also known as Kopi Tape (Bay of Rays) is an excellent area for snorkelling. Divers Bay is a small lagoon with an outer reef including four large bombies, a sandy bottom and an inner reef area. The inner reef has some interesting topography with cave/crevice areas, overhangs and bombies. Hard coral species are found and the bombie tops are home to many colonies of anemones and associated fish. It is easy to snorkel to the outside reef bombies which have shallow reef tops but drop off to 2,000 metres on the outer edge. Recently some snorkellers saw hammerhead sharks at that drop off (friendly ones, all our snorkellers returned in one piece).
As indicated by the name, Kopi Tape (Divers Bay) was a traditional home for a school of pygmy manta rays (devil rays). Pre-1996 it was common to see 10-20 rays gliding together. After a severe dose of coral bleaching, caused by an increase in water temperature, the rays disappeared. However the rays are coming back and coral at Kopi Tape (Divers Bay) has since regenerated or regrown back to its spectacular best.
The Marovo Lagoon, a sandy bottomed lagoon area, has some bombies and reef areas, which are quite different to Charapoana and Kopi Tape. Being a sandy bottom, the tunnelling type molluscs are common (particularly in very shallow water) and of course the shrimp/gobie combos. Some fan worms, crabs and anemones also live in these waters. Larger spaces exist between discoveries leaving you more time for reflection.
To reach the snorkeling in the Solomon Islands by air, you will need to fly into Honiara. There are regular direct flights from Nadi (Fiji), Brisbane (Australia), Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) and Port Vila (Vanuatu).