Day 11: Solomon Islands – It was a sombre morning for everyone on board, as this would be our last full day on board.
We were all keen to absorb as much as possible before we headed back to reality.
We enjoyed a relaxing morning at sea, watching flying fish, various sea birds, and some marine mammals (including false killer whales and bottlenose dolphins) as National Geographic Orion entered the waters of the Solomon Islands.
The port-of-call today was the island of Santa Ana – a small, raised coralline island located at the southeastern end of the archipelago.
It contains three villages and has a total population of 3,000 people.
We hopped off the Zodiacs and onto the white sand beach. Angry warriors erupted out of the surrounding trees carrying spears and lethal-looking slashing clubs, threatening us all with instant death.
This is the island’s traditional welcome to show esteemed guests that the indigenous people could destroy us if they want to. Thankfully, they chose not to.
After we were greeted by the various chiefs and big men, we all walked through the beautiful, tree-shaded village to a large field for what was nothing less than an extravaganza of music and dance.
“The crowd of local children got so worked up over the performance they poured onto the field to help drive away the Polynesians.”
The musical performance was quite different from anything we had thus encountered and included a very accomplished band of pan pipers, as well as a master of the famous Solomon Island bamboo piano.
The costumes and body painting exhibited in the dances were also impressive and were all the more photogenic by having the dancers perform in an open field.
The first few traditional dances were designed for large feasts both in honour of high chiefs and as provocative wedding gatherings, but the highlight was a dramatic reenactment dance known as the Aimatawa-Aifonofono. This recounted an ancient event, when Polynesian warriors came to the island and tried to steal some of their women and children. However, the mighty Melanesian warriors saved the day and drove them off.
The crowd of local children got so worked up over this performance they poured onto the field to help drive away the Polynesians.
Everyone got caught up in the moment, even us.
A little later in the afternoon, many people opted to go snorkelling at the reef edge bordering the entrance to the main lagoon.
I decided to walk to the far side of the island to visit one of the other villages and have a look at two sacred spirit houses where chiefs from long ago are interred.
It was an energetic hike to get there, on a good coralline track that took us over the central plateau, and gave us a chance to enjoy much more of this appealing, lush island.
The far village, located on the windward shore, turned out to be even more traditional in the sense that there were no corrugated iron roofs or concrete pillars in evidence, and obviously much less affluent and prosperous than the village where we originally landed. However, it is even more photogenic, if that is possible.
Everyone returned to the ship by sunset and we steamed out of the lagoon with a cocktail party on the upper deck.
It was our last night on board, so needless to say we made the most of it with several on board cocktail specialties and beers.
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