When you visit Tulagi in the Solomon Islands for diving, you generally do not go there to dive reefs. The main attractions are three World War II warships, sunk with all guns blazing and some other War casualties like Japanese aircraft and landing craft. However, there are some reef dives (like Twin Tunnels) and some dives that are mixed reef and wreckage, like this dive.
The dive shop at Tulagi has its own wharf right in front of the shop and the accommodation, the Vanita Motel. The water off here drops pretty quickly to over 25 metres and even more. To the left and right there are dives that are worth doing if you do not want to do a second deep dive in the afternoon.
North of the wharf and motel the shore runs north before heading east to the old cannery and its wharf. While you will not make it all the way to the cannery wharf, there is a very interesting dive in the area between.
To do this dive, you gear up in the dive shop and then walk across the road to the wharf. Luckily it is not a long walk as I did this dive with the twins that I was using for the deep dives. To the left of the wharf is a set of steps that leads to the water. Do not use the ramp to the right as this is slippery. Once in the water, put on your fins and manoeuvre past the dive boat/s and then drop to the bottom.
The depth here is only about two metres. Head north-east and the depth drops very gradually on a sandy bottom to about seven metres. This is about 30 or so metres off the shore. About here, the bottom drops away very quickly to about 22 metres. The sandy slope is dotted with coral. Most of it is dead, but there is some live stuff. There are also lots of funnel sponges. Most of these are alive but some are dead. The funnel sponges are, as the name suggests, funnel shaped and the sponge is a thin sheet that is about 3 or 4 mm thick. This is a sort of corrugated texture.
|One of the funnel sponges||One of the many glass shrimps that can be seen on this dive|
Once at the bottom of the main slope at 25 metres (it continues to get deeper very gradually), turn left and follow at this depth as you head roughly north-west. Have a look back at the coral heads so that you can identify where to turn on the return trip. The slope heads roughly straight north-west. As you go, you will see that the funnel sponges are quite varied in size. Some are small, but the majority are very large, with some quite enormous. These are the biggest ones I have ever seen.
As you move further along you will start coming across some junk. There are bits of metal all over the place, with some drums. However, there is not a huge amount of junk. You will also see bannerfish, Moorish idols and various triggerfish along here. There were a number of titan triggerfish. One of these followed us for a while but luckily it was not mating season so we did not get attacked.
|Kelly with one of the anemones and clown anemonefish||Two of the "Nemos" - clown anemonefish|
Soon the slope turns to the east. It starts to get deeper here and you can easily get to 30 metres if you wanted to. However, by now you have probably been in the water for about 20 minutes so it would not be wise to go deeper. In the area near the corner there are a number of anemones. Some of these have clown anemonefish in them. These are the classic "Nemo" clownfish and are very photogenic. Some have other species of clownfish.
Many of the anemones have tiny transparent glass shrimp living in them. Check every anemone carefully, they can be very hard to see. Once you find one, keep an eye on it as they can move quickly and then be hard to find again. There are some other fixed marine life that also have glass shrimp living on them.
Just past here it will be time to turn around. Go a bit shallower and backtrack back towards the wharf. Towards the top of the slop there are more anemones and also lots of beer cans in spots. Some of these have interesting gobies resident in them. There are also a few different nudibranchs on this dive, quite beautiful.
|A Liz's phyllidiella nudibranch||Some of the razorfish straight in front of the wharf|
When you get back to the exit site, turn right and head across the shallows. In this area you will probably see a school of razorfish. These strange looking fish are shaped like a razor knife and swim with their heads down and tails up but move forward in the direction of their spin. We actually saw a couple of schools of them on another dive in this area, but while doing this dive we saw six.
After about 60 or so minutes you will be back at the wharf. Exit out the steps.
This is a nice, easy dive, with some interesting things to see. It is a good shallow dive after doing a very deep and long first dive or after doing many days of deep dives. There is no current to consider, the visibility was about 20 metres and the water temperature was about 27ÂșC.