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November 05, 2017

You Almost can't get there from here...

For years I had been diving and even lived in the Caribbean and saw only a small glimpse there of the unimaginably immense and diverse reefs of the South Pacific. My desire was to someday be able to dive near those remote tropical islands in the Pacific.

MAC TERZICH, DVM, ACPV

Since 1965 when I started my first saltwater aquarium it has been my dream to explore the reefs of the tropical South Pacific islands. The fish in my aquarium were so colorful and fascinating to watch that I could only imagine their beauty in their natural habitats. For years I had been diving and even lived in the Caribbean and saw only a small glimpse there of the unimaginably immense and diverse reefs of the South Pacific. My desire was to someday be able to dive near those remote tropical islands in the Pacific.

In 2005, I was offered the opportunity to invest in a coral farming project in the remote Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. I jumped at the chance to fulfill my dream! It would be perfect I thought—not only could I see the reefs of the tropical South Pacific, but I could also invest and participate in a worthwhile endeavor.

The Solomons are a chain of hundreds of tropical islands located in the South Pacific northwest of Vanuatu and southeast of Papau New Guinea. Many of these islands are mountainous with dense forests surrounded by diverse coral reefs. Cannibalism is still practiced by some inhabitants as a religous ritual to honor the deceased relative and the culture is obviously quite different from what I was used to in the US or Caribbean. This island nation gained independence from England in 1978, but has had a troubled history of self governance. The main island of Guadalcanal is famous for intense battles during WWII and hundreds of Americans died there. In many ways these islands never recovered from its troubled past.

"The main island of Guadalcanal is famous for intense battles during WWII and hundreds of Americans died there. In many ways these islands never recovered from its troubled past. "

My outbound journey to the Solomons lasted a long and tiring 47 hours from my doorstep to the capital city of Honiara on Guadalcanal, the largest and most populated island in the Solomons. When I first thought about traveling to these remote islands my searches for flights came up with itineraries that seemed like I couldn’t get there from here, but piecing together flights on several different airlines solved the problem and soon the journey of my dreams would begin.

My trip started with a 6-hour cross country flight from Washington DC to Los Angeles, then an 13-hour overnight flight to Nadi, Fiji arriving at 5am. The flight to Honiara on Solomon Airlines was not due to leave until 9:30pm that night, so I spent part of the day catching a nap and freshening up at one of the hotels near the airport that offered day rooms. Later in the afternoon I was able to visit the facilities of several marine life exporters including the famous Tony Nahacky and Walt Smith. Walt had been a customer of mine when I worked at Marine World in a Chicago suburb in 1968 so it was great to see him again and tour his impressive facility. These exporters are pioneers in collecting and shipping fish, corals, inverts, and live rock for years and are responsible for the reefkeeping hobby as we know it today. While at their facilities I was lucky enough to see the daily catch being brought in by local divers, it was fascinating to see those same colorful fish I once kept in my aquarium now in their country of origin, but my goal was to see them in their natural habitat and that the rest of the journey would prove to be more challenging!    

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