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Honeymoon in Solomon Islands

The history of these far-flung islands

Archaeological and linguistic evidence shows that Solomon Islands was settled between 4,000 – 5,000 years ago by people from Southeast Asia. From here, a group continued the east and south migration, settling in what is now known as Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and the Polynesian islands of Tonga and Samoa. It was not one way though, as archaeologists point to a return migration of mainly Polynesians sometime later. Their descendants now live in atolls that border Solomon Islands’ northern and eastern boundaries.

It was not until the 16th century that the European world came to learn of Solomon Islands. Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana made the first contact in 1568. When he discovered alluvial gold on Guadalcanal, he thought he had found the source of King Solomon’s great wealth and named it the Isles of Solomon. It was through his influence that many of the islands in the archipelago bear original Spanish names. After Mendana, others – mainly Dutch and French explorers – made forays into the group. Then it became the turn of the Germans and British.

The islands of New Georgia, Guadalcanal, Makira and Malaita became a British protectorate in 1893 with Tulagi proclaimed the protectorate capital in 1896. The islands of Santa Cruz, Rennell and Bellona were included between 1898 and 1899. The Shortlands, Choiseul, Santa Isabel and Ontong Java were not roped into the protectorate until 1900.

Japanese aggression turned the islands into a theatre of war during World War II. Both the Japanese and Allied Forces suffered huge losses in land, sea and aerial battles. Over 60 years later, the archipelago is littered with war wrecks and some of the country’s infrastructure today, like airstrips and roads, owe their existence to the war.

Solomon Islands gained independence from Britain on July 7, 1978. Twenty years later in 1998, tribal rivalries erupted into armed hostilities on Guadalcanal, which prompted Australia and its Pacific Islands neighbors to launch RAMSI, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, in July 2003. Hostilities have ended and the nation is back on track with an elected government in power.

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People

As part of the Melanesian group of islands that also includes Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji, Solomon Islands was first settled by hunters and gatherers from Southeast Asia. Seafarers followed later.

Through the tracing of a distinct type of pottery called Lapita, archaeologists say the original settlers of Polynesia in eastern Pacific trace their origins back to Melanesia, to the Solomon Islands actually.

Today, between 70 to 80 percent of the population lives a subsistence form of life in their small villages, settlements and islands away from the main urban centers.

Flora & Fauna

forest

The main islands of the Solomons are volcanic in origin, covered with dense tropical forest with fast flowing rivers and streams. They are home to many endemic flora and fauna species which includes the common cardinal lorry.

Current estimates put a total of 4,500 plant species and 173 species of birds including the famous Megapode bird which nests in the thermal sand of some islands in Central and Western Provinces. In the World Heritage Listed Rennell Island alone, ten plants and 4 species and 9 subspecies of birds have been identified as endemic. Also endemic is the saltwater sea snake known as the krait.

Culture

Communal, clan and family ties remain strong in these islands with the existence of the Wantok system. A key part of the Melanesian culture, Wantok means people from the same language group who are blood relatives and part of the extended family support and assist one another.

culture

Kastom, the Pidgin term for custom, refers to traditional beliefs and land ownership. Despite the predominance of devout Christians, traditional practices are still being followed, especially by those living in the interior of the country’s larger islands. Off the beaten path, village life remains much as it has been for centuries.

While some do welcome strangers, not all do so – so it is always a good practice to ask local authorities first before venturing to visit these remote and far-flung areas.

Source: www.visitsolomons.com.sb

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