Location: South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Papua New Guinea, northeast of Australia, northwest of Vanuatu Time Zone: UTC plus11 hours Geography: 900 islands, mostly high and forested; several atolls Population: 560,000-93 percent Melanesian, 4 percent Polynesian, 1.5 percent Micronesian, 1.5 percent Asian and "other" Language: Officially, English; pidgin is the lingua franca; there are 74 local languages Currency: SBD (the Solomon Islands dollar); seven SBD equal approximately one USD Ports of Entry: Honiara, Gizo, Noro, and Yandina Fees: clearance-50 SBD, lights-100 SBD, quarantine-50 SBD; individual villages may impose anchorage fees Visa: three months (upon entry) for U.S. citizens; a 90-day extension is available for a fee Pets: No animals are permitted to land in the Solomons Climate: Tropical monsoon Seasons: April-November feature southeast trade winds and the dry season; December-March features cyclones and the wet season Health: Malaria is endemic, so prophylactic medicine recommended. Apply ample insect repellant, use mosquito screens, and avoid villages near sunset. Tropical ulcers are problematic. Dress all cuts and scrapes, especially from coral, immediately. Tap water is not potable. Custom: Modest dress is important, especially from the waist down for women. When you're near Seventh Day Adventist villages, avoid swimming, loud music, and other such activities on Saturday; ditto on Sunday when in the vicinity of other Christian denominations. Attractions: spectacular scuba diving and snorkeling throughout the nation; picturesque villages; exquisite carvings from Morovo Lagoon, New Georgia; the artificial islands of Langa Langa Lagoon, Malaita. Advisories: At present, there are no U.S. State Department Advisories. Local advisories regarding inland travel on Malaita Island are now in effect.