After crossing the Pacific Ocean, an overnight in Brisbane, and another plane ride to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, I touched down in one of the least visited tropical islands in the world.
Yet another commuter airplane ride to the island of Munda, then a 20 minute speed boat ride landed me on the island of Lola, the base of our operations for the next 10 days.
I'm greeted by Mikayla Wujec and Andrea Reid, two National Geographic Young Explorers studying Bolbometopon muricatum, the bumphead parrotfish, and documenting effects of Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) on their well being. I will be 3D modeling coral reefs to see how benthic structure and complexity further influence these underwater giants.
This island feels like a mash up between the Hobbit shire and the Bahamas. Orchids line every square foot of the property. Coconut trees clump between houses, and a dozen mysterious birds call to us from the dense rain forests behind our leaf huts.
Blacktip reef sharks circle the dock like sentries. The gargantuous Kolambangara mountain towers over us at 1770 meters (or about 5800 ft for my fellow Americans.) The stifling heat and malaria packed mosquitos increase as the day progresses. My daily malarone pills and hole ridden mosquito bed net are all that prevent me from a 5 week bowel and sweat intensive sickness. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to our days ahead.