Gizo, the capital of the Western Province of the Solomon Islands, is surrounded by coral islands and reefs, providing great wreck and reef scuba diving.
Surrounding Gizo, both on the land and in the sea, are reminders of World War Two. Wrecks of ships and planes; pieces of disused iron the locals use in their huts, old ammunition and even a few old propellers. Close by is Vella Lavella, the base of the famous American pilot “Pappy” Boyington.
Wreck Of The Toa Maru
The most popular dive site at Gizo is the wreck of the Toa Maru. This is a 100 metre long Japanese freighter lying in Kololuka Bay a small bay about seven kilometers north of Gizo. The entrance to this bay, surrounded by reef on both sides, was just wide enough to get the ship through.
After being bombed and set on fire, the captain ran it aground. It lies on its starboard side with the bow at about twelve metres and the stern at thirty seven metres. The dive is as awe inspiring as the wreck of the President Coolidge in Vanuatu, by its accessibility, sheer size and amount of equipment still on board.
One of the holds is full of cement bags, jeeps and tanks. One tank hangs out the hold, held by the strong bonding of the coral growth. Another hold is full of old Saki bottles.
Like the President Coolidge, there are some long, dark penetration dives through the accommodation area and the engine room. It is possible to dive the entire wreck, right down to the stern where the propellers used to be before they were salvaged many years ago.
Kennedy Island Or Plum Pudding Island
Close to Gizo is Plum Pudding Island, or Kennedy Island. This is the deserted coral island where John F. Kennedy, who later became President of the United States, was marooned during the war.
The common story is that a Japanese destroyer cut his motor torpedo boat PT109 in half late one night. He helped his crew get to this island and then spied on the Japanese naval movements for a few days. Finally he swam through shark infested waters to get himself and his crew rescued.
Scuba Diving Plane Wrecks At Gizo
Gizo is on the waterfront of a natural channel formed by a collection of islands. In the water in front of the town is wreckage of two planes. A flying boat, upside down with the propellers still on, is in twenty-one metres. Closer to shore is a Japanese Zero fighter sitting upright. The controls in the cockpit, where a fighting Japanese pilot probably died, are still intact, though stiff and covered in coral.
Coral Reef Diving
Around Gizo are many islands and an extensive network of coral reefs. Only a few of the more accessible spots are frequented by scuba divers. There would be some incredible scuba dive sites to explore northeast from Gizo towards Bougainville and New Guinea. There would be unexplored wrecks and whole reef systems that divers have rarely visited.
Scuba Diving Conditions
One true pleasure of diving in the tropics is the water temperature. There is generally no need for wetsuits, even to decompression depths of forty metres. Most dives need only light protection against coral stings and cuts. Visibility rarely gets below thirty metres.
Gizo is located on the island of Ghizo and is the capital of the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. During World War Two it was a Japanese base and some war buildings still stand.
To explore the waters around Gizo makes a fascinating diving holiday. There is an abundance of World War Two history, reefs and accessible wrecks; all in excellent visibility and warm, tropical water.