Ghizo main

Ghizo

If this outpost in the western province of the Solomon Islands isn't the final frontier of diving, it's at least in the neighborhood. As Aussie divers have known for some time, Ghizo's underwater world is filled with great reefs, staggering numbers of fish both large and small -- and some vivid reminders of the World War II, including wrecks of a Japanese transport ship and an American Hellcat fighter plane.

The main town, Gizo (yes, the spelling is different) is the second largest in the island chain, but the main street is lined mostly with small stores and an open-air market that haven't changed all that much since WWII (which may explain why liveaboard dive boats are a popular option). Ghizo does offer opportunities to explore the local culture, including traditional thatched-hut villages, and the fishing is good. It's also a good place to hire a boat to visit the nearby string of hundreds of islands (white-sand beaches are the norm) in Marovo Lagoon.

In the end, however, it's the pristine reefs, a world of corals and fish unlike few in the seven seas, that make the long journey worthwhile.