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Skull Island


Vona Vona Lagoon, Western Province

Skull Island, Vona Vona Lagoon, Solomon Islands

By Richard Moore

In the fictional world Skull Island has the shape of a human head or a giant rock formation that resembles one.

Skull Island, Vona Vona Lagoon, Solomon IslandsIt 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.

I 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.

Don’t desecrate sacred sites, don’t mess with taboos and don’t show disrespect.

And the ghosts of the past are very strong on Skull Island.

Skull Island, Vona Vona Lagoon, Solomon IslandsOnly a matter of a few of decades ago trespassing on the island, if discovered, could mean your death.

But today you can be escorted in safety on to the small tree-covered island in the picturesque Vona Vona Lagoon.

My 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.

The island is about 30 minutes by boat from the large town of Munda, which has air connections around the Solomons.

Zapolo 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 island.

Food at Zapolo Habu is fresh and the seafood superb, which is no surprise as the resort is famed for its fishing and marine activities.

Skull Island, Vona Vona Lagoon, Solomon IslandsIt is only a 20-minute longboat ride to Skull Island from Zipolo Habu and the places are like chalk and cheese.

The 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.

From 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.

I 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.

In several little alcoves skulls sit eyelessly watching proceedings, the grins of those with jawbones silently adding to the menacing feel.

Skull Island, Vona Vona Lagoon, Solomon IslandsMy young guide appears a little nervous before he removes the front cover to the chiefs’ wooden sanctuary.

It 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.

As 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 neighbouring islanders.

This area of the Solomons around New Georgia was infamous for head hunting.

But 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.

Skull Island, Vona Vona Lagoon, Solomon IslandsSkull Island is a fascinating place, but is pretty eerie.

And I have to say I would not like to spend a night here.

So with that in mind the front board is replaced and we make our way back to the boat.

No sooner are we aboard than the heavens open up and drench us in a prolonged heavy downpour.

The skies are very dark and the lagoon is no longer placid. Read into that what you will …



Copyright 2014 RICHARD MOORE