I know you’re all used to me talking about poo by now. This time, however, when I mention ‘Pupu, I am not referring to the faecal matter, but something quite the opposite.
Tavanapupu is a fish. It is also the name of a resort situated on Marau Sound, right on the Eastern tip of Guadalcanal island. Its local claim to fame is that Prince William and his wife, Kate, stayed there during their royal visit to the Solomons. Needless to say, Tavanapupu is not a budget backpacker getaway, but it is a place I dreamed to get to when a special occasion could justify it.
With just two weeks until the end of my contract here, that occasion was now. Except it almost didn’t happen.
Firstly, our scheduled Friday afternoon flight was brought forward an hour, meaning I had to depart work earlier than expected. No biggie. Then Manyoni had to rush out to the village at the last minute, which was cutting it fine as it was, but really throwing the plan out when his tyre burst on the way back. With no time to return to the house, I had to run around and pack his bag, then run a kilometre to find a taxi while carrying two bags and two sets of snorkelling gear. We managed to meet up at the airport exactly 30 minutes before scheduled departure. Except, no-one was there to check us in.
We waited and waited. While we waited, we heard from others travelling to Tavanapupu that this was their 4th attempt to reach the resort due to Solomon Airlines cancelling flights. We waited and waited. Eventually, we were told it was cancelled. There would be no more flights until Monday…at the earliest. It was just our luck that one of the people in the other group knew somebody who knew somebody important, and within 30 minutes they had arranged to divert the following morning’s Rennel flight to Marau.
So, the next morning, we arrived at the aiport again. We waited and waited. Slowly, very slowly we were checked in, still too hesitant to believe we would make it until we landed (almost on top of coconut trees) at the other end. At which point we cheered.
By 9:30am, we were greeted at Tavanapupu’s jetty with a cold coconut. Our “bargain” room was under repair, so we were asked if it would be okay to bump us up to the Deluxe suite. Oh, I guess so.
Our bungalow was gorgeous – high-roofed leaf huts surrounded by manicured lawns and coconut trees that dropped the occasional coconut with a heavy thud (sometimes just a couple of metres from where you sat – eek!); a hammock strung across the verandah, swinging gently in the breeze; a double bed with crisp white sheets and five types of pillows, looking out to the ocean and towering Gwale mountains beyond. The bathroom also deserves a mention – almost as big as the main room, it had two sinks separated by a giant mirror, dressing gowns, coconut oil soaps, and a gorgeous outdoor shower set among tropical bamboo and ginger plants (just gotta chase the mosquitos away first).
It wasn’t long before we were leaping off the jetty into the bright blue water. Then we tried to snorkel, which was futile against the strong current. After trying to fight it, I relented, and just let myself drift along as if on an escalator passing through a tropical aquarium, unable to stop or go the other way. Eventually, I ended up at the second jetty, meaning I had made it back to the resort – phew! – albeit the other end of it.
After a snooze in the hammock, it was time for lunch. I was super excited about this, as I had heard that the food at Tavanapupu was amazing. It didn’t disappoint. Crayfish and vegetables, followed by home-made coconut bushlime sorbet and fresh fruit.
Feeling content, we decided to work off a bit of lunch by taking the resort’s BMX bikes for a spin around the island. This took us up to a gorgeous little lookout over the other side of the island, then through rainforest and past giant pandanus palms flapping at the water’s edge…..a perfect hideout for crocodiles.
Clearly we deserved another snooze in the hammock after this, followed by a beer on the jetty while loving the cool ocean breeze and watching the sun go down.
Just after dark, the drum sounded in a call to dinner. The evening’s meal was also a delight and needed to be worked off. Ping pong was the nightime activity of choice, and no mention of who won 4 out of 5 games (Cough! Cough! Me! Cough! Cough!)
The following morning, after a luxurious sleep in, we awoke to breakfast served on our verandah – eggs, bacon, bread (and toaster), and fresh coffee. The natural aquarium at our doorstep then beckoned. The morning’s snorkelling was crystal clear and full of healthy coral and a variety of sea life. At one point I was chasing a swarm of mixed fish, rushing to one piece of coral on mass, then swarming off together to the next spot of coral. It was a flurry of fish and sand.
As the day heated up, it was back to the hammock with the book, then off to lunch, then more ping pong. Then, the group decided to take the boat out to another snorkelling spot. The trip on the boat was beautiful in itself – think postcard tropical paradise, except real and not on cheap cardboard or photoshopped. The snorkelling was also lovely, marred only by the multitude of jelly fish. Even paradise can sting.
We did request to go to another snorkelling spot sans jellyfish, which I think presented them with a slight challenge. They approached that challenge quite ingeniously, though, by locating a huge pod of dolphins, then speeding through them, luring them into the boat’s drag, where they glided, leaped and frolicked just a few centimetres beneath our dangling legs. It was phenomenal. After that we didn’t care about snorkelling, so returned home for more hammock time and sunset beers.
In the end, we were so busy feeling relaxed that we didn’t get to do SUP yoga or kayak around the island.
The next morning we had an early departure. For some strange reason, Solomon Airlines seemed to be running on time. So after a late, rushed breakfast, we boarded the boat to head to the airport. Unfortunately, one of boat’s fuel pumps wasn’t working, so we weren’t quite travelling at our planned speed. A tinge of worry hit us as we watched our plane fly right over our heads and we still had quite a distance to the “airport”. Fortunately, as we were the only passengers, they decided to wait and we did a quick check-in from the jetty before heading back to Honiara, feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.