09 December 2008 | The Western Province
As you can see from our Lat and Long we've traveled far today. About two miles as the crow flies. It was about three times that in slow going reefy lagoon miles.
After a lazy morning we decided to make for the Lola resort. We were excited to see the place as it rated high in the recent Lonely Planet guide and is reported to have a great anchorage. Almost anywhere in Vonavona would be a great anchorage, as long as you can find 360 swinging room. The marl bottom (limestone mud) holds like Superglue.
At 11AM we headed out with the sun high and behind us. The water here is a deep green from all of the limestone and marl. It is nice to look at but doesn't help you read the bottom until it is pretty shallow. We only need 5 feet to float in and you can generally see 20 feet or less in sand/marl and perhaps a bit less if the bottom is hard coral. Unfortunately a 4 foot coral head can look like deep water from a ways off, so you have to really stare hard and go slow.
It would be easy to toss caution out the window and speed up, but if you smack something hard in the Solomons, especially in our boat, you are going to be in trouble. The next place I know of with first world services and the ability to haul us is Singapore.
It was a +2 extended high tide (lagoon tides are sometimes irregular due to swell inflow and today the high lasted a good three hours) as we departed. It didn't really matter though as the official charts (and our electronic ones which are based on them) have no soundings anywhere in here. At least the little islets are placed correctly for the most part.
We began creeping our way west around the south side of the big shoal across from the island we had anchored off of. As we approached Mundahite it looked like the passage to the south was blocked by a shoal going across between it and the small island (Talisondo) to the south. So we headed up north of the island and followed the deep water along the mainland.
A squall was moving in up ahead and bringing clouds across the sun. Combine that with the fact that we were moving away from where we though the resort was (this based on a finger point from yesterday at dusk along with the comment, "over there behind that island"). We decided to drop the hook and wait for the sun to come back.
We had been hailing the resort on VHF 68, their working frequency, but small resorts in this kind of place aren't always on the radio 24/7. As we waited for the direct sunlight to return the resort hailed us! We had talked to Joe, one of the owners, yesterday evening and he had asked Lisa, his wife, to give us a call.
She informed us that we were going the wrong way (this had become fairly evident), and that she would send a guide. It is a good thing too. The guide came out in an open boat with a young guy driving and waved us to follow him. Our guide was like King Minos, the lord of the labyrinth. There are so many little islands and shoals/coral heads about, finding this place without way points, a track, or even a lat/long for the resort, would have been pretty close to impossible.
We followed our guide back to the pass between the two islands that we didn't think we could get through and then went through. The trick is to hug the south island (8 17.35, 157 10.69) where there is a patch at least 15 feet deep. This is the skinniest water on the whole route. You then pass the resort for about a mile and a half, then loop down through some more islets to the south and come back to the resort.
Lola has a map with way points that they can email them to you if you let them know in advance.
We were happy to arrive in the Lola anchorage. It is huge, clear, 30 feet deep, great holding in marl, well protected and beautiful. We also have seen the smallest number of insects here (we did anchor out a ways) and no one pesters you at the boat in Vonavona. I also feel that you would have a lower chance of things disappearing off of the boat with the folks at the resort looking out for you.
Our wonderful kayak had been our transport for the past few anchorages. It was great because we didn't have to launch and stow the big dink, we got some exercise paddling out of the deal and it was better suited for going up some of the rivers and such. We had been stowing it on the bow rather than putting it away wet everyday, only to reinflate it. Sadly the black bottom (who puts a black bottom on an inflatable kayak for the tropics?) caused some excessive air expansion yesterday and a seam broke putting a hole in the bottom. Hopefully we can fix it at some point but we are now ex-kayak.
After settling the big boat in we decided to drop the dink and clean the things up a bit. After a good deck scrubbing we headed to the resort to check things out and have dinner. Tosca and Chris, who we had met yesterday, were there and so was Lisa, the owner/chef, as well as AJ the bar tender. The resort has six good sized bungalows made in the traditional way. They are really fantastic, not often you get the chance to stay in a luxury leaf hut. All of the floors are raised wooden slats. The beaches on the island are actually sand beaches (much of the coastline in the Western Province is more mangrovey). It is a complete getaway.
We had a few beers and a great dinner, chatting with Chris, Lisa and AJ. The area house houses the kitchen, office, bar and sitting area where meals are served and general relaxing is done. After a lovely evening we walked back out to the perfect little dock where our dinghy was tied up and motored back to the big boat. We had a nice breeze and perfect sleeping conditions. This is a highly recommended spot for yachts.