Meaning ‘a place where the fish pass through’, Tavanipupu is not a place you want to just pass on through. Kate Webster ditches her watch, goes barefoot and dives into the waters to see if the fish do indeed pass through.
An exciting 25 minutes’ flight east from the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara and I jump aboard a traditional banana boat for a short but scenic ride across the coral mosaic aquamarine waters of Marau Sound. My destination is Tavanipupu Private Island Resort, a place that I am told could be one of the South Pacific’s best-kept secrets.
That was until the Royals – Prince William and Princess Kate – came to stay for their honeymoon. Since their visit in September 2012, this paradise in the Pacific has scribed its name on the map. The locals swear by the timeline that it was here that Prince George, Prince William and Princess Kate’s firstborn, was conceived.
Stepping off the boat and onto the wooden jetty, I can see why the Royals found this five-star private island resort so appealing. Tavanipupu is all about space and privacy. With a fruity alcoholic concoction in hand, I am walked down the jetty and told the resort’s history.
The 13-hectare island once was a coconut plantation in the 19th century, owned by Norwegian Traders who bought it off the locals for some ammunition. Sipping my cocktail I thought what a bargain those Norwegians got and wondered what trinkets I had to possibly offer for a sale.
Today, the coconut palms are fewer but are still very much a part of the resort. I was quick to kick off my shoes and change into my swimmers before venturing off to explore around the island. The resort itself was romancing me enough with its sweeping manicured lawns adorned with private villas hidden under the coconut trees that remain from the previous plantation palms. I fell more in love as the path soon led me to exceptionally beautiful bays and white-sand beaches. A couple of jetties branched out from the island over the lagoon reef and I decided it was here I would see if those fish do in fact pass through.
For my first inspection of the reef, I chose to do so by traditional dugout canoe. Launching myself from the shoreline, I had a few wobbles and nearly ended up swimming sooner than I had intended. The canoe was far shallower in the hull than I expected, but with a large wooden paddle to stabilise me, I was soon paddling around like a local. Squinting through the glare of the sun’s reflection on the water, I managed to spot a few fish darting away from my arrival.
I decided it was time to dive in, so I slipped on some fins, fixed my snorkel and mask and dove beneath the surface. To my delight, the coral reef was teeming with marine life. Little silver fish schooled and glittered in front of me as if someone had thrown confetti into the ocean. Parrot fish chopped away at coral creating an almost deafening noise like crackling bacon cooking.
Immersed in the underwater wonderland, I floated over the shallow reef dominated by soft corals that swayed as the ocean current ebbed and flowed. There were giant clams and blue starfish scattered around the reef. Snorkelling to where the reef flat ends and drops off to a reef wall rich in corals, I see where the island gained its name. Here I saw regal angelfish, ornate butterflyfish, bannerfish and several species of damselfish, just like the story goes, passing on by the reef and around the island.
Time has no meaning on Tavanipupu. I am not sure how long I floated around in the ocean but the sun was beginning to set, the only indicator I had on the time of day. Sunset meant it was time for sundowners, so I meandered back to my villa, coincidently the same villa that the Prince and Princess stayed in, and took a long outdoor shower before settling onto the chair on the balcony with a drink in my hand. With the sunset throwing off pastel hues of pinks, purples and oranges across the horizon, I felt like a Pacific Princess myself.
There are only a limited number of bungalows at Tavanipupu which keeps the place secluded and private. Each spacey bungalow overlooks the water, with king-size beds protected by a mosquito net and fan-cooled rooms. The bungalows are well-vented and their high roofs built with traditional materials keep them cool, night and day. There is a self-catering bungalow that includes a deck built over the crystalline waters of the Coral Sea, complete with a kitchen, separate bedroom and bathroom. The Royal Bungalow Suite (named after the Royal guests of course) features a king bed, expansive bathroom, private outdoor deck with shower, and sublime ocean and beachfront view.
This story was published in Solomon Airlines Inflight Magazine – Fly Solomons (Issue 83).
Flip through the magazine HERE.