Where to learn to dive and how I did it!
This year I decided was the year of me. I wrote a list of things I wanted to see, learn and do. Diving was top of that list after I did a trip with Solomon Island Discovery Cruises last year and got to try it. In June, I finally got to go to Munda and get my open water diving certificate with Dive Munda.
I chose Dive Munda because I had already done diving with their manager, know the owner and felt safe with them. Knowing I was in the hands of people I trusted and learning in the most gorgeous part of the world was ideal. Full disclosure, I was gifted the diving lessons but I had already selected Dive Munda as the organisation I wanted to learn with, despite living in Australia. My accommodation was at the Agnes Gateway Hotel, which was also provided.
Dive Munda is the building in the middle with the markets on one side and the Agnes Gateway Hotel surrounding it and stretching out to the other side.
Why Dive Munda?
Well, as mentioned, I already knew and trusted them. Trust is a big deal for me, especially when it comes to being underwater, safety and my life. On top of that, have you seen Munda? WOW! It is the most amazing place to learn to dive! Crystal clear water, an amazing array of marine life, friendly locals, a laid back vibe plus they are located right inside the Agnes Gateway Hotel. You can literally walk out of your room and go for a dive.
On top of that, the owner and staff are passionate about conservation and equality. Dive Munda has trained the first two Solomon Island dive instructors. Previously, this was viewed as a male job. It is female-owned, female managed but has a good mix of male and female staff. Great care is taken to maintain the area, protect the reefs, keep it clean and promote Munda as a great destination. Given my background in advocacy work, Dive Munda was a perfect fit for my personal values too.
Dive Munda also work with Pack For A Purpose to provide medical and other supplies.
Where is Munda?
Munda is a gorgeous area only 3 hours from Brisbane and now has direct flights! There are over 40 dive sites here from wrecks to reefs with sharks, manta rays, stingrays, loads of tropical fish and so much more.
Map inside Dive Munda showing diving locations
As you can see, Dive Munda services numerous incredible spots for diving, each with something unique to see.
How does it work?
Firstly, I was signed up to online learning so I could go over all the theory before arriving in Munda. It’s easy to do via the app and once you are qualified your certification will be on there plus you can log your dives.
After theory, you do the practical. I flew into Munda on Saturday, explored the area a bit then on Monday, started my first lesson with Euna. If you want to dive, be aware you need to allow 24 hours after your flight before diving and 24 hours after your last dive before flying. It is extreme changes in pressure on the body and dangerous to not wait.
Learning with Euna is hilarious which made it so much easier and less stressful. She is the second-ever female Solomon Islander dive instructor and a great teacher. You can read more about Euna and other women impacting the diving industry here. Before diving, we had to swim a set length and tread water then we got into skills. My most hated skill is mask clearing, which everyone knew and became a joke by the end of it. But we did it!
Over the next few days, I completed my training in paradise. The first two sessions would be pool sessions in Australia. In Munda, we did them at a calm beach on this gorgeous little island. I preferred learning this way as I felt it was more realistic learning skills in saltwater with sand, fish and coral instead of a concrete pool.
On my first ‘real’ dive to 18m, another instructor George came with Euna, David (another student) and myself. Poor George, I turned too quickly and smashed straight into him. Then I got confused about something and got him to repeat it possibly 3 or 4 times while we were underwater before I finally understood but he was so patient. Also, when I get excited, I tend to squeal and hug or squeeze whoever is near me. When I first got to see some of the marine life including sharks, turtles, manta rays, a giant manta ray, stingray and other creatures I may have lost my mind a little.
This was a bigger problem later with Solomon Island Discovery Cruises. There, my instructor, Justin, promised me I would see a lionfish because I have wanted to since I was 6. When I saw it, I gasped so much because I was so excited, I started to rise and grabbed him to maintain control. My breathing was way too fast and it took me a few minutes to settle. He was pretty happy he spotted it for me and the whole trip other divers kept a lookout for lionfish for me which was amazing to me.
I think Lionfish are just the most graceful, beautiful fish! Image by Justin Saula Yatibu from one of our dives.
What will you see?
You will see everything! I had friends see hammerheads at Shark Point. On my first dive mentioned above, in the first coral crevice, a green turtle came out, hovered in front then went off into the blue ocean. At the next one, there was a reef shark just sitting there. Looking up there were numerous manta rays then the others spotted a giant manta ray. George tried to get me to see it but I missed it.
Determined, I hovered and waited for a little while longer then it came back towards us and I was so excited. George and Euna seemed pretty happy I got to see it too. They pointed out stingrays, different fish, corals and so much more. Everything you could hope to see diving, we saw. Their knowledge, patience, understanding and desire to ensure we have a good time was astounding.
What else is in Munda?
You go to Munda mainly for diving because it is so diverse and played a part in WWII so you have wrecks combined with the gorgeous water, tropics and friendly people. If you are into WWII, Barney’s Museum isn’t too far away and there is quite an array of war artefacts from all countries that were here. Plus you can touch it all! You can try kava at the Agnes Gateway Hotel with Vili the manager or head to the kava bar. A little market runs during the week, with Friday being the biggest day right out the front gate of the hotel and Dive Munda. Do a walk with a local to see waterfalls or even get a massage. The massages here are done in a way unique to this area, with knowledge handed down. Grab a kayak, go snorkelling or just explore the area.
All of these things can be arranged at the Agnes Gateway hotel where Dive Munda is based, making your trip easy.
How to get there
Solomon Airlines fly directly from Brisbane to Munda in around 3 hours. Flights from other Australian cities will go via Brisbane. Alternatively, numerous flights go through Honiara, you can extend your stay and do a Solomon Island Discovery Cruise from Honiara (only available at certain times of the year) and fly to Munda from Honiara.
Another option is getting the local ferry from Honiara if you have flown there, although these are usually crowded and take a long time. Lastly, get your own boat and go or hire one there. I met a lovely couple who are sailing around and did some diving in Munda while staying on their own boat.
Soggy Paws is owned by Dave and Sherry who were a lovely couple!
As mentioned, I stayed at the Agnes Gateway Hotel. It’s a 2 star hotel with a 5 star view! You have wifi in reception, except on Fridays during the day when the markets are busy because everyone is on it. However, just 2 streets away you can get your own sim and data. Be sure to set it up correctly on data though or your credit will disappear quickly. They set it up for me. There is also an ATM and some shops next to it.
View of an evening from the restaurant at the Agnes Gateway Hotel. Some evenings there is entertainment and every evening a variety of marine life are visible off the deck.
My accommodation was the family suite which had 2 bedrooms, a lounge, walk-in robe big enough for all your luggage, bathroom, separate toilet and it’s own veranda. With AC (which I barely used because the temperature is pretty perfect), a fridge, tea and coffee facilities plus super friendly staff, it was great. Be aware, as with many places in the islands, there is no hot water but since it is around 30C every day, you don’t really need it.
My room at the Agnes Gateway Hotel.
What To Eat
The restaurant in the Agnes Gateway Hotel provides a variety of dishes with generous servings. It is best if you let them know ahead of time what you would like and when you would like it served. They also offer a buffet some nights plus entertainment. Located within the hotel is a small bar as well.
There is a little cafe around the corner or you can grab a taxi and head to Noro to the Blue Container Store to get some groceries if you prefer (it is mostly Aldi products). There are a few little supermarkets with limited offerings and a bakery in Munda as well. Some days the markets had good street food and fruit.
Personally, I ate mostly at the restaurant because it was easy, the staff were friendly and the sunset view was amazing. Plus, all the guests were so friendly. I met numerous other divers, sailors, archaeologists and filmmakers all enjoying Munda.
How To Plan And Book
Dive Munda offer great packages in conjunction with Solomon Airlines and Agnes Gateway Hotel which is the best deal here or you can check out the sites and create your own holiday.
Having been to the Solomon Islands in December, April and now June/July, my preference was April and June/July over December only because I grew up in Tasmania. So I struggle with high temperatures and high humidity. Munda I found nice because it is based right on the water with lots of islands and it felt there was more airflow than Honiara.
Be sure to pack insect repellent or get the essential oil jewellery to protect from mosquitoes. Get vaccinated, take malaria medication and a mini first aid kit. It is easier to be prepared with everything rather than get there and find out you can’t get what you need. Munda is a small area without a lot of what most people are used to.
I love diving, the team at Dive Munda are amazing and I will be going back with my daughters.