Explore coconut plantations, take a turtle monitoring trip and bush walks in this relaxed provincial capital.The Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana sighted Santa Isabel in February 1568, and after anchoring in a harbour the following day, called it Estrella Bay and Santa Isabel after the patron saint of his voyage.
Relationships between the Spaniards and the islanders were initially friendly and the visitors were impressed by the local chief who wanted to learn Spanish promising to supply food in return. However, when insufficient supplies came, the Spaniards seized hostages to trade for extra food. Violence ensued and the Spaniards were disgusted at the islanders cannibalism and worship of lizards, snakes and crocodiles. This prompted them to depart after only two months.
During their stay the Spaniards penetrated deep inland in search of gold, reaching Santa Isabel's central ridges with claims of some fraternisation resulting in a smattering of Spanish blood in today's population, although this is more likely associated to past contacts with Polynesians.
The friendly â€˜Thinking Rat', which lives at the top of tall trees and eats nuts and fruits, is endemic to Isabel Province, although related species can be found in Guadalcanal.
The people of the Isabel Province are Melanesians with 75% living in Santa Isabel's southeastern corner. Tapa cloth made locally from bark of the paper-mulberry trees and tinted a lightish blue using dye made from crushed orchid leaves. Inheritance is matrilineal in Isabel Province, with ownership of land passed on through the mother. This system developed during head hunting days when women's lives were usually spared during raids.
Explore Buala, the relaxed provincial capital surrounded by forests and coconut plantations.
Stay at ecotourist villages near Buala where you will see traditional dances, go on guided bush walks, and learn pidjin.
Visit Kia, the northern village guarding three inlets, where houses are built on stilts.
Take a turtle monitoring trip in the Arnavon Islands, one of the largest nesting grounds for the endangered hawksbill turtle.
Flights to Isabel Province
Solomon Airlines operates three weekly flights to Isabel Provice, Fera Island and Suavanao.