Vona Lagoon, Western Province
the fictional world Skull Island has the shape of a
human head or a giant rock formation that resembles
is home to either a giant gorilla – a la Kong, of King
Kong fame – or a nasty bunch of piratical thieves and
naughty fellows who bury their treasures near the X
on the worn-out map.
In the real world of the Solomon Islands, however, Skull
Island is a place of death, human sacrifice and more
than enough malign spirit to make sensible visitors
tread very carefully and respectfully.
have long held the view that it doesn’t matter where
you are on this planet you should always be mindful
of the spiritual beliefs of other cultures.
desecrate sacred sites, don’t mess with taboos and don’t
the ghosts of the past are very strong on Skull Island.
a matter of a few of decades ago trespassing on the
island, if discovered, could mean your death.
today you can be escorted in safety on to the small
tree-covered island in the picturesque Vona Vona Lagoon.
visit to Skull Island began at the beautiful resort
of Zapolo Habu on Lola Island, where I was lucky enough
to spend a couple of days.
island is about 30 minutes by boat from the large town
of Munda, which has air connections around the Solomons.
Habu is idyllic with very comfortable, beautifully made
two-bedroom bungalows, lovely views across the smaller
islands of the lagoon to the western tip of New Georgia
at Zapolo Habu is fresh and the seafood superb, which
is no surprise as the resort is famed for its fishing
and marine activities.
is only a 20-minute longboat ride to Skull Island from
Zipolo Habu and the places are like chalk and cheese.
resort is friendly, well looked after and relaxing,
while the resting place of chiefs’ skulls – and those
of many of their victims – is not so much.
the boat Skull Island looks very much like any other
islet in the lagoon – although it does have a short
length of white picket fence that
adds an incongruous
sense of urbanity to a macabre destination.
am surprised at how small the island is, as it seems
we have only just hopped on to it before we come to
the temple area.
It is in a clearing surrounded by tall trees and jungle
growth. The burial mound is about waist high and made
of at least 10 cubic metres of volcanic rock.
several little alcoves skulls sit eyelessly watching
proceedings, the grins of those with jawbones silently
adding to the menacing feel.
young guide appears a little nervous before he removes
the front cover to the chiefs’ wooden sanctuary.
is triangular, about a metre high and sits on top of
the mound. There are many skulls inside but three are
instantly in your face, so to speak.
In front of them lie five large pieces of shell money.
you gaze at the skulls you cannot help but wonder what
they looked like in life, how fierce they were, how
brave and … how many victims they killed in raids on
This area of the Solomons around New Georgia was infamous
for head hunting.
the tradition wasn’t all about increasing the strength
of the victorious warrior – head hunting was also about
political control, revenge, or using slaves as sacrifices.
Island is a fascinating place, but is pretty eerie.
I have to say I would not like to spend a night here.
with that in mind the front board is replaced and we
make our way back to the boat.
sooner are we aboard than the heavens open up and drench
us in a prolonged heavy downpour.
skies are very dark and the lagoon is no longer placid.
Read into that what you will …