The Solomon Islands is a large island country with a distance of approximately 1,500 kilometers between the westernmost and easternmost islands (930 mi). The Santa Cruz Islands (of which Tikopia is a part) are located north of Vanuatu and are particularly remote, being more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the other islands. Bougainville is physically part of the Solomon Islands, although it is a Papua New Guinea independent territory.
The Solomon Islands archipelago is divided into two terrestrial ecoregions. The Solomon Islands rain forests ecoregion encompasses the majority of the islands. Forestry operations have put a significant strain on these woods. Together with the adjacent archipelago of Vanuatu, the Santa Cruz Islands are part of the Vanuatu rain forests ecoregion. More than 230 orchid and other tropical flower types adorn the landscape. There are many active and dormant volcanoes on the islands, with Tinakula and Kavachi being the most active. Mount Makarakomburu, at 2,447 meters, is the highest peak. The area is dotted with many low-lying coral atolls.
The ocean-equatorial climate of the islands is very humid all year, with a mean temperature of 27 °C (80 °F) and minimal temperature or weather extremes. The colder months are June through August. Though seasons are not discernible, the northwesterly winds that blow from November to April bring more frequent rainfall and the occurrence of squalls or cyclones. The yearly rainfall is about 3050 mm (120 in).
Solomon Islands had a population of 552,438 people in 2006.
The majority of Solomon Islanders are Melanesian in ethnicity (94.5 percent ). Polynesian (3%) and Micronesian (1.2%) are the two other major groups. There are a few thousand Chinese people.
Solomon Islands religion is mostly Christian (comprising about 92 percent of the population). The major Christian denominations are: Anglican Church of Melanesia (35%), Roman Catholic (19%), South Seas Evangelical Church (17%), United Church of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (11%), and Seventh-day Adventist ( 10%). Another 5% believe in indigenous ideas.
Islam, the Baha’i Faith, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are among those who remain (LDS Church). According to the most current estimates, there are about 350 Muslims in the Solomon Islands, including members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The Solomon Islands, with a per-capita GDP of $600, is classified as a developing country, and more than 75 percent of its labor force is involved in subsistence and fishing. The vast majority of manufactured items and petroleum products must be imported. Wood was the Solomon Islands’ primary export commodity until 1998, when global prices for tropical timber plummeted precipitously, and in recent years, Solomon Islands forests have been severely overexploited.
Copra and palm oil are two more major cash crops and exports. On Guadalcanal, gold mining started in 1998 at Gold Ridge. Exploration for minerals in other regions continues. Following the ethnic unrest in June 2000, shipments of palm oil and gold stopped, while wood exports decreased. Undeveloped mineral resources such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold abound on the islands.
The Solomon Islands’ fisheries also provide opportunities for export and local economic growth. As a consequence of the ethnic conflicts, a Japanese joint venture, Solomon Taiyo Ltd., which ran the country’s sole fish cannery, shuttered in mid-2000. Despite the fact that the facility has reopened under local control, tuna exports have yet to begin. Negotiations are now ongoing to revive the Gold Ridge mine and the large oil-palm plantation.
Tourism, especially scuba diving, is a significant service sector in the Solomon Islands. Tourism development is hindered by a lack of infrastructure and transportation constraints.
By 2002, the Solomon Islands government was bankrupt. The government has restructured its budget after the RAMSI intervention in 2003. It has consolidated and renegotiated its internal debt and is now attempting to renegotiate its international debts with the help of Australia. Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, Japan, and the Republic of China are the primary assistance contributors.
Notably, Solomon Islands courts re-approved the profiteering export of live dolphins, most recently to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The government first prohibited this practice in 2004, after worldwide outrage over a transport of 28 live dolphins to Mexico. The decision drew condemnation from Australia and New Zealand, as well as many environmental organizations.