Malaita

Overview

Introduction

This island, the second largest in the Solomons, is most often seen on a full-day air tour from Guadalcanal.

The two most visited areas are actually offshore: Alite Village and Laulasi Village are located on small man-made islands that sit on the reefs surrounding Malaita. The islands were built more than 300 years ago to protect the lowland villagers from ferocious hill tribes. The villages offer a good look at a more authentic island lifestyle than is seen in the capital. You can watch shell money being made (you can exchange your money for the finished versions) and ride in a canoe to Alite Village. Also, be sure to see Langalanga Lagoon (excellent snorkeling) and visit a customhouse.

If you get a chance, visit the Shark Worshippers. These islanders believe that sharks are the reincarnated souls of their ancestors. During a ritual "shark calling," the high priest summons each shark by its human name, and a boy standing on a submerged rock feeds the shark a piece of cooked pork. Incredibly, the sharks eat the pork offerings without harming the villagers swimming among them.

The main town, Auki, offers limited accommodations—advance reservations are recommended. Conditions are somewhat primitive, so this is really a destination for experienced travelers only. In addition, Kwaio tribesmen, who don't recognize the government, live in the mountainous part of Malaita. Travelers should avoid that area.

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