New Georgia (Munda & Marovo Lagoon)
Western Province is perhaps the most visited region of the Solomons. It is home to many Melanesian and some I-Kiribati (settlers from the Gilbert Islands in the 1950's and 60's) tribes who appreciate and welcome visitors. The main two languages are Marovo and Roviana, although there are many other languages spoken, too.
The province has as its centerpiece the largest double barrier lagoon in the world, Marovo Lagoon, nominated for World Heritage Listing. Literally thousands of islands scatter the lagoon, from tiny coral islets on the fringing reef to massive 1600m volcanic islands (some are still active and can be visited such as Simbo and the undersea volcanoes near Ngattokae such as Kavachi ). Inside the lagoon, the islands are surrounded by spectacular coral formations and white sand beach, the lagoon waters shimmering in every shade of blue, turquoise and jade green.
Rightly so, the region is a world renowned scuba dive location, with not only the natural wonders to marvel at, but WW2 ships and aircraft, too. There are internationally accredited dive companies and schools in several centres including Munda and Uepi Island Resort. There are numerous airfields serviced by both companies scattered around Marovo Lagoon. Local guides are available for historical and cultural tours and bush walks to tambu sites.
The people of Marovo Lagoon live in many small villages dotted throughout the lagoon. Most of the Marovo People live a traditional subsistence lifestyle. Uepi visitors are welcomed to experience some of the cultural activities which have been arranged with a few of the local villages.
The Western Province was an area feared for head hunting in the 19th Century. The use of human heads or skulls was central in the burial customs and death beliefs of many of the Marovo Lagoon islands' people. Frequent raiding took place between islands in search of heads which were used in many rituals including burials and the launching of new Tomoko (war canoes). Raids extended not only within Marovo Lagoon, but also as far as Guadalcanal and Isabel, where the southern coast became so depopulated and terrorised that the remaining population were reduced to building and find shelter in tree forts. Prior to about 1850 the situation had calmed down for a long time during the so called "Great Peace"; however, the arrival of Europeans with iron axes to trade quickly destabilised the region leading to renewed raiding. Of all the Western Province, Roviana was the most feared for head hunting. War canoes carried carved figureheads called nguzu nguzu on their prows in the shape of a dog with either a skull or a dove in it's paws depending on the ill or goodwill of the mission.
The headhunting was put down by force by the British District Commissioner, George Woodford, in 1900.
|Munda is a quiet little
town serving as a gateway to the Vona Vona and Roviana Lagoons. There are
daily flights from Honiara and Gizo, and other connections by air and sea
to virtually everywhere else in the Western Province. Munda was an
important military airfield during WW2 and there are war relics
everywhere: in the bushes, on the beaches, in the water. There is great
wreck diving available. In the lagooon at Munda, Roviana Island has a
colourful history of headhunting, animist religion and tribal wars. On the
hill behind the village lie the ruins of an ancient coral fortress
protecting the stone dog-idol previously worshipped by the tribe. From
Roviana Island a variety of excursions by motor canoe can be undertaken
into the Roviana and Vona Vona Lagoons for snorkelling, fishing and
sightseeing: war relics, waterfalls, bat caves, and cultural sites such as
the skull islands where the 'trophies' of yesterday's headhunters were
|The Marovo Lagoon is the
largest saltwater lagoon in the world. It has many unique & rare
natural qualities & has been nominated for World Heritage Listing.
The 150 km long lagoon is bounded on the south-western side by the south-eastern portion of New Georgia Island and by Vangunu Island. The southern end is bounded by Gatokae Island. These islands are of volcanic origin. A complex and unique coral barrier reef bounds the lagoon on the northeastern side, from the wider southern section to the narrow northern section.
The marine & terrestrial environments provide one of the last frontiers of the Pacific. Kayaking is a first rate means of travelling about & experiencing this environment.
The Marovo people are Melanesian & despite most villages having some monetary income, many families still rely wholly on a traditional way of life to provide food & shelter.
In the not so distant past the Marovo was the centre of fierce head-hunting & many artifacts, sites, stories, songs & dances remain. The highly decorated War Canoe was the means by which warrior parties raided far away villages, capturing heads and taking prisoners.
Other rich customs are still evident. The Marovo people welcome you to their villages & enjoy your interest in their way of life. The 'Eco-Lodges' accommodation enables paddlers to enjoy the Pacific Island hospitality & culture of individuals & communities of the Marovo Lagoon.
The Marovo wood carvings are renown as the finest carvings in the Pacific. Hand carved from kerosene wood, coconut, rosewood, king & queen ebony, they are beautifully & artistically made, some featuring intricate shell inlay, some reflecting tradition, others the natural world, whilst some are practical objects.