The Solomon Islands (4 of 4)

By now you might wonder why is such a paradise not more popular. In fact, I hadn’t heard of the Solomon Islands before I planned to go there. Tourism is virtually non-existent, and only a few foreign companies operate in the country.

These factors make it an even more beautiful place, virtually untouched by tourists and foreign exploitation, but why? One reason is that it is expensive to travel to the Solomons. Fiji or Hawaii are cheaper destinations, and much more oriented towards the tourism industry. Another reason might be the five-minute snakes, so named because once bitten, you are dead in five minutes. Of course, then there are the poisonous spiders that are as big as your hand. A thousand other interesting creatures might deter the common tourist.

But the major reason tourists are not flocking to visit the Solomons is because of the most dangerous insect in the world: the mosquito, which causes a high incidence of malaria, the highest cause of death in the Solomons.

Malaria, spread by the Anopheles mosquito, is a very serious disease that causes fever, headaches, vomiting, general joint pain and death in many cases. Fortunately, that type of mosquito only comes out at night, so prevention is possible by wearing long clothes and taking anti-malarial pills. No vaccine existed five years ago, and after a short time the mosquitoes become immune to the variety of tablets on the market.

Of course it’s impossible to be 100% preventative, which is why malaria remains the number one cause of death. The pills aren’t generally available to the locals, nor do they have long clothing to wear at night or bed nets to use. The pills also cause strange side effects such as stomach illness or bizarre dreams, so many people are hesitant to take them.

Prevention cannot be effective if it’s not available where it’s needed. A Colombian doctor named Manuel Pattaroyo has invented a vaccine for malaria, but it has yet to be accepted by authorities. It is said to be 80% effective.

Distribution to the infected areas also would be a costly endeavour, which the countries in need can’t afford. Tourists don’t want to risk getting malaria on vacation, and it’s as easy or easier to get to other islands in the Pacific where malaria is not present. Malaria is an unfortunate reality in the Solomons, but it also prevents the country from becoming a tourist trap.

Considering that malaria kills 10,000 children on a daily basis worldwide, the mosquito is the most dangerous insect in the world and the greatest killer of man, since it spreads the disease. Many studies have been done, and attempts made to get rid of the Anopheles mosquito, but such an endeavour is impossible to achieve. Cleaning rivers, streams, and stagnant water areas, and even using explosives have been tried with some success, but the mosquito prevails. DDT has also been somewhat affective in areas that could afford to use it, but it has been banned internationally because of the damage it causes to the environment.

I’ll conclude this article on a lighter note, though, with this anecdote. Fred, Tim and I were walking back to the camp from the beach one night, when we heard heavy steps in a field not far to the right of us.

I was walking behind and got a little frightened; Fred and Tim stopped to listen when I walked into Fred. We laughed and then could make out the shadows of what we thought were wild boars. There were six, one baby. Fred said that if we had a knife we could go after one and have a feast at the village, Pawa on Ugi Island.

We thought about going back to the camp to get a machete, but it was still about 15 minutes away. I had a pocketknife so Fred said he would go after the small one with it.

Tim and I had to control our laughing as we crouched and watched Fred set out in the dark. We couldn’t see him for a few minutes because clouds were blocking the moonlight, but we supposed he was getting close. We could still see the shadows of the animals.

Suddenly we heard a loud splashing sound, and the animals went running. The splash was followed by Fred swearing. He had stepped into a puddle in the field. All of us laughed hilariously, as with each sloshing, soaked step Fred came with us back to camp.

When we got back Fred told us some other stories about experiences he had wrestling boars to the ground to slit their throats. The next day we found out that the animals weren’t wild boars at all, but cows owned by a man who lived behind the field! A large fine would have had to be paid if we had killed one.