“Where’s the air strip?” I asked our host as we appeared to be descending in our little puddle jumper we had taken from Honiara to head to the remote and ever so serene Tavanipupu Island Resort we had heard so much about. He nodded ahead and said “there.” As I looked out the plane’s front window, I still didn’t see an air strip — what greeted me was a grassy field.
“Ahhh,” I thought. Well, I had landed in a sea plane in an ocean, a sanded piece of ice, on a lake, and some very tiny all dirt strips in my life, so why not a grassy field? As the plane landed, several locals came running over to the plane to offload the luggage for the four us of us who had come to check into the resort that day. Additionally, our host Ellison was traveling with us, who always seems to have a smile on his face.
There were no luggage carts however — our luggage were carried by hand up over their heads for the short walk down to a dock where a boat was waiting for us. In the boat were more happy Solomon Islanders, one of whom was named Joanna and had coconuts with straws in her hands. Flowers too of course. What a greeting — I felt at home immediately and it was far far away anything I had ever known as home.
The Tavanipupu Resort on Marau Sound
If you’re not familiar with the Solomon Islands, you probably haven’t heard of Marau Sound. Only a half an hour or so flight from the capital city Honiara, the Tavanipupu Resort is easy to get to once you’re in the country despite it being remote.
Tavanipupu exudes the magical and mysterious presence that so much of the South Pacific delivers, however because it is more remote and less visited, you’ll find yourselves marveling at the clear aqua blue waters and silence in all directions again and again. While I haven’t been to Papua New Guinea or the Maldives where Instagram and National Geographic photos show equally clear blue waters, it’s rare to find reef and beaches which haven’t been trotted on in more popular destinations in the South Pacific and the Caribbean.
The unspoilt waters of Marau Sound will bathe you in their pristine serenity and relax your mind, body and spirit.
The Tavanipupu Experience
As we arrived at the dock of the Tavanipupu Island Resort, some of the staff were singing and playing guitars as the boat’s motor became silent. We jumped out with our coconuts still in hand as they grabbed our luggage and made their way down the long dock that led to the resort’s main dining area, which also has a lounge to sit and relax.
Our thatched roof bungalow was at the very end — #1, which is the same villa that Prince William and Princess Kate stayed in back in 2012. It has its own dock and area for swimming and is surrounded by beautiful flowers and plants on all sides.
There’s also a large seashell at the bottom of your tiled patio where you can clean your feet from the sand before you enter.
Our experienced chefs will tantalize your taste buds with fresh caught local seafood and international cuisine. You can sit back and relax at our lounge and bar facilities, even catch the last rays of the day sipping a cocktail at the overwater Pupu bar.
Tavanipupu is one of the world’s best Island resorts and is regarded as the best place to stay in Solomon Islands. In 2012 the resort hosted the Royal couple, Prince William and Princess Kate.
Built on the site of a former coconut plantation, the exclusive 13-hectare island features just 10 bungalows. Five of the 10 bungalows have been recently renovated and three more bungalows were built new at the start of 2016. Enjoy the accommodations, with rattan furnishings, a plush king-size bed, oversized bathrooms, and private deck with ocean views. Our resort accommodations include drinking water in bungalows, round-trip transportation between the resort and Marau Airport for up to four guests. To enhance tranquility, our bungalows have no telephones or televisions, however there is complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access in the main lounge areas.
The land that the Tavanipupu Resort sits on is spiritually charged. Ancestors protect the land and you feel its spiritual essence when you walk through the grounds.
Built on the site of a former coconut plantation, you have 13 hectares to yourself — well, almost. There are only about a dozen bungalows and apparently they are working on more improvements and renovations.
The king sized beds accompany a sitting area as well (chair and a two seater couch with a coffee table) and are done in rattan furnishings. The bathrooms are also spacious and you each have your own sink area.
If you want an escape pad where you’ll be working on your laptop and browsing the Internet, this isn’t your spot. While there is WiFi in the main lounge areas, the idea is to relax without your technology for a few days, a week or more. The bungalows have no telephones or TV’s on purpose. This is a Soul’s Journey — a time for you to be present and soak in the natural beauty of the remote islands and waters that surround you on all sides.
In addition to an old fashioned bathtub with a shower inside, there’s an outdoor shower as well — one of my favorite things about the rooms.
If your room doesn’t have a mosquito net, be sure to ask for one, as they can be a pest on the island after hours. A mosquito net will allow you to have a peaceful sleep without warding them off throughout the night.
Nature, Beaches & Views
Because there are so few bungalows, you’ll find that you can avoid people altogether if you wish. Take morning walks, an early morning swim or take one of their kayaks out on the water.
The locals still paddle around in old fashioned wooden canoes, some of which were built by their fathers and grandfathers.
We were amazed to see so many of the staff paddle home at the end of their day working at Tavanipupu. Regardless of weather, they’d jump in their canoes and make their way home to one of the nearby surrounding islands. Commute time ranged from ten minutes to 40 minutes and only if a storm was brewing and the weather was severe would they stay on the island.
While they can take you out on a banana boat to find snorkeling spots on other even more remote islands and reef areas, you can also swim and snorkel around the property itself. There are plenty of gorgeous seashells, starfish and fish to be found.
Although it was dry season, we had a few days of rain. Like much of the South Pacific however (the Caribbean is similar in this way too), it doesn’t tend to rain all day, so there are always windows where you can get out for a walk or a swim.
And, as for the rest of the time, Tavanipupu has an area where you can play games and read books. A library of books that people have left behind and shared is in the main area at the front of the resort.
We played backgammon and chess and dove deep into a pile of books on consciousness and spirituality we brought along with us. The silence was golden. The silence was magical. The silence was….so needed.
There were moments where we could hear a pin dropped — between the calming airs and waters, it was a perfect play to unwind and detach from all the material things that keeps us so disconnected to nature and the essence of who you are. Pure and simple, the main reason to head to Tavanipupu is to get away from it all and simply just BE.
Be one with nature and the birds, butterflies, shells, coral and fish. Be one with yourself so you can hear the silence and the queues you’ll get from the unseen world of the wildlife and sea life you’ll engage with while you’re there.
“Pure and simple, the main reason to head to Tavanipupu is to get away from it all and simply just BE.”
The magic you’ll find under the water starts at the resort — we saw a few sea shells of this size while we were swimming. The magic you’ll find at the resort starts with the people.
Tavanipupu is locally translated as the “passage of the Trigger fish”.
Gods & Warriors Watch the Property
We loved the visual queues and reminders that the people of Solomon Islands have a deep and rich past with their ancestors. They show up in a myriad of ways from pan pipe playing and dancing to wooden carvings on walls, etched into canoes and other items or stand alone statues.
Drinks & Appetizers on the Deck
On the first evening we arrived, we joined our host Ellison and the Tavanipupu manager Mereoni Adimaisau on the main deck for appetizers and cocktails – pure bliss right? We thought so.
Because you’re surrounded by water, you can only imagine that the seafood is fresh and plentiful — our calamari appetizer had us at hello!
Exquisite South Pacific Food Delicacies
We also loved our dinners at Tavanipupu, from unique delicacies like Sea Urchin (paired with pink champagne of course) and fresh fish to shrimp dishes and a myriad of options with fresh coconut and coconut cream.
In the main dining area, you can opt to eat by yourself or join a group table. There are times when you order from a menu or have a 6 course degustation meal and other evenings where they offer a buffet of choices. The tables were set up beautifully in the open-air which face the ocean, but under cover of course so you can enjoy outdoor dining even when it rains.
Culture & History
The island has an interesting history. We mentioned that it was previously a coconut plantation (timing was the 19th century) and why there are so many coconuts to be found on the island, but it goes even deeper. The island was once owned by Norwegian Traders who bought it off the locals for some ammunition. It is said that you can still find trader’s gravestones hidden amongst the long grass throughout the island.
Locals love music and sing regularly — there are even groups who practice singing as well and a few of us played guitars for us.
We were given a wooden mask carving from our hosts as a gift of appreciation — note that the wood is a lot lighter than the carvings you typically find on your travels to Africa.
Pan Pipe Playing and Dancing
We truly enjoyed the evening where the local pan pipe players performed for us — it was so melodic and relaxing but also invigorating and toe-tapping at the same time.
Below is a short snippet of a video we shot during the performance.
The Spa at Tavanipupu
The spa at Tavanipupu albeit simple, is lovely because it faces the ocean and when face down, you can see the water below. You could sign up for foot massages, reflexology, Lomilomi massage or a full body traditional massage with Joanna. They are trying to expand, although currently there’s only space for two massages at one time in the little spa “house” that overlooks the water.
Below, I learn from Joanna about the products and process. The experience was oh so lovely — how cuold it not be short of bliss out in nature?
Many flights to Solomon Islands from major international airports are non-stop and can be easily booked between Brisbane, Australia and Honiara, Solomon Islands by Virgin Australia and Fly Solomon Airlines. Air Pacific also schedules flights between Fiji, Vanuatu, and Honiara.
Guests need to arrange flights or boat transfers to Tavanipupu in advance from Honiara so they know when to pick you up. As I mentioned, you arrive on a grassy strip so it’s important that they know your schedule so the Tavanipupu staff is there waiting to transport you across the water to the resort.
Guests will be transferred from the Marau airstrip and is included in the booking.
The views on your flight from Honiara to the resort are spectacular!
This is the dock where the boat arrives.