Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Sandfly Passage
The third largest of the Florida Islands group of the Solomon Islands is Mbokonumbeta Island. More commonly known as Sandfly Island, it is located to the west of the largest island, Nggela Sule. The waters that separate the islands are known as Sandfly Passage. This waterway varies in width from a few hundred metres at the entrances to over 3 or 4 kilometres in other parts.
The southern end of the passage is located where it joins Iron Bottom Sound. This is a popular dive location for the two liveaboards that ply their trade in the Florida Islands area. Accessed from Maravagi Resort, the island is about a 17 minute run away.
Like many other reef dives in the Solomon Islands, this is a drift dive. When we dived the tide was flowing north to south so we motored 400 metres or so up the passage from the southern end on the Nggela Sule (or eastern) side.
We entered the water about 20 metres off the shore and dropped down. The reef was a sloping reef with a bottom of about 30 to 35 metres. We drifted slowly with the current. There were heaps of big gorgonias and sponges as well as excellent fishlife.
The slope gradually became steeper and there were some small gullies. After a while the slope became a wall, with the bottom getting deeper. Just past here there is a large cave or overhang. The cave is created by the cliff on the island above. It is quite dark as you approach after the bright sunshine of the open water. Here we saw at least three whitetip reef sharks, some barracuda and tuna.
The wall continues with the bottom now over 50 metres down. The fishlife and fixed marine life was very good in this spot as well. Finally, as we approached the corner the current slowed and then stopped altogether. Here we decided to finish our dive, going to the top of the reef and spending our safety stop exploring the interesting coral here.
As well as the things mentioned above, we saw at least four clown triggerfish and one huge humpheaded wrasse.
Visibility was a bit varied, from 10 to 25 metres. Water temperature about 28°C.