” Tourism is not an easy industry to grow and develop as many people and countries might think or expect. In fact it can be a daunting and, at times, difficult industry to be involved in if you don’t have the right advice, proper support, a good kappreciation and sensitivities of others’ cultures, government support, and of course capacity and resources, to start with.
Bougainville can learn a lot and benefit from the advances PNG and neighbouring pacific states have made in tourism. The biggest income earners for our Melanesian neighbours Fiji and Vanuatu, for example, is mass tourism. “
Simon Pentanu see Pokpok Island webpage for info
Picture above and below : Travellers and crew from the cruise ship True North on Pokpok Island 19 December 2016 experiencing a cultural performances
Governments that have realized and seen the potential to add substantial tourist dollars to their GNP have developed elaborate policies and support to public and private corporations to promote the industry in a big way.
In this venture and adventure local communities who are the custodians of their environment, interesting natural attractions, historical sites and indigenous arts and cultures must see some benefit in the development of tourism by the government and the private sector through tour agents and operators.
Developing what Bougainville offers, step by step and not en masse is the most sensible approach with VAs. Tour companies and local operators and agents can pick and choose with local communities what is on offer regionally and locally around the Island.
All that begins well ends well means a lot. For Bougainville every little successes in this industry is important. The adage which goes something like, “to succeed we must know what we are doing and we cannot be too satisfied until it’s done and dusted”, is true, isn’t it?
The advice we often hear how best to rebuild Bougainville is to build from the ground up is equally true, isn’t it. For starters and from experience it is a good advice to start and keep things simple, affordable and manageable from the start. This involves listening to industry experts, not being afraid to ask questions and have early meaningful discussions and consultations with the buyers of the product we are trying to promote and sell.
A successful tour or promotion is a win-win outcome for the travelers and the communities visited, including service providers. The win-win formulae requires proper consultations between all parties involved in the arrangements in advance.
This gives everybody a breathing space as no one is choked or shocked not knowing what is happening, who is coming and going, how the community is involved, how the benefits are shared and there are no surprises and disappointments.
Bougainville is a good product to promote. Areas all over Bougainville in the North, South and central will surpass expectations of any traveler if these are promoted sensibly and not just for the sake of quick profits.
Slowly but surely we can all contribute towards a sensible policy discussion and a well construct for tourism for Bougainville.
We have a good product on Pokpok Island. for example. Water sports such as Kayaking , surfing and Skin diving have huge growth potential
More than that, on this first occasion we thank Bougainville Experience Tours for gracing us with three cultural groups from the mainland, prearranged and prepaid to perform for the travelers and crew on the cruise ship True North.
If anything else it does a lot and speaks volumes in familiarizing and promoting unity and union between and amongst different cultural groups from different areas in Kieta district.
When we look back this is a win-win formulae as it spreads the benefits directly into communities. The early meaningful tripartite consultations which started more than five months ago between North Star Cruises Australia, Bougainville Experience Tours and Chief Peter Garuai of Pokpok and Uruna Retreat venue owners on Pokpok meant that every “i” was dotted and every “t” was crossed as much as it was practically possible to do so.
There will always be issues and hiccups to sort out when a number of parties and groups are involved in trying to achieve something together. We must be prepared to put a positive spin to any differences and challenges faced.
When dealt with and addressed sensibly challenges more often than not opens up opportunities to try harder to do things better for even better results.
The True North is expected to make another visit in December 2017.
“We should tell our stories in the first person because this is the best way we used to share our stories and exploits as children growing up in the village. I still see and hear kids in the village doing the same today”.
– Simon Pentanu
Picture 1 Above : The faithful canoe still very much in use to take you anywhere : Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.
As I remember, growing up more than three score years ago, Pokpok Island was covered with a lot of primary green forest, thick jungle, dense canopy and impassable undergrowth. Along the coastal beaches the forest laden with its vines and creepers came bearing down to meet the sea.
This was before Lucas walkabout sawmills, Stihl and Husqvarna brand chainsaws, purseiner nets, and material affluence and its effluence from mining arrived and happened on Bougainville.
Growing up on the Island what we mostly liked and enjoyed was what we did, not what we had or acquired. Our idea of abundance and being happy growing up was not toys, computer games, gifts of sorts for every occasion or a treat in shops where mum and dad could get you whatever you asked for.
Picture 2 :Children still create their own fun climbing up or sitting on tree branches above ground
Rather, and looking back, it was more about what we did with a lot of time we had like making kids bows and arrows, going up trees and hanging from their branches, getting into canoes and paddling out, staying out in pouring rain and playing in puddles or small floods, swimming a lot, or running into the bushes looking for wild fruits and nuts and admiring the pingtu (praying mantis).
Growing up in the village you couldn’t miss noticing the Island always teemed with a lot of life and innocence that was simple. Everyone then seemed more caring. The whole Island also looked bigger and taller with taller and bigger old growth trees still standing from the beaches up to the hills and mountain.
Possums, other tree climbing marsupials, and snakes roamed the island from end to end along tree tops and along the forest canopy without touching the ground. This might sound like something like a story with drawings from a children’s story book.
No, this really is true about what was then before human habitation, starting with first initial years of settlement of the Island by Chief Sarai and his son Miramira.
In the bushes, brushes and shrubs the hissing flow of pristine creeks was unmistakable for anyone walking or doing gardens or hunting and gathering that wanted to quench their thirst.
Near the ground on the small branches and vines the pingtu always camouflaged itself well but its stationary, slow motion stick dances and sways gave them away.
I used to wonder what they ate and lived on. As for the kids we could wander and walkabout most of the day feeding off the bush on wild fruits, ground tucker and tree nuts like the galip.
Birds sang as they liked, the crickets cranked, the cockatoos blah blah’d at the slightest sight of any human movement below. Other birds shrieked and whistled their unique sounds.
You could never miss the flying hornbill couples by the continuous harmonica like noise produced by the flapping of their wings.
We came to know and realise that the deep-thong gooey sounds of some birds meant it was time to make headway home before the sun set and night fell quickly.
A lot has changed since of course. And not all of it for the better. Along with many of the old growth trees have also gone family members, relatives and friends.
But those of us that are still here still remember them by the trees that still stand, the same bush tracks that we used to walk following each other, and by the familiar sound of birds though they aren’t plentiful and boisterous anymore.
Pokpok Island still supports its inhabitants in increasing numbers. The Islanders are more conscious and have increasing awareness and respect for the environment. There is less and less food gardening in the hills.
Fishing is the mainstay of food for protein as well as being the main reliable income earner.
Picture 3 :Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.
To all inhabitants this is their Paradise, a safe and peaceful haven where everyone knows and respects each other.
It is an Island of peace, of peaceful people and is quickly becoming an allure for day visitors and short stayers.
Our traditions in Bougainville are founded more in sharing than in giving and taking. This is the case with most traditional societies in most parts of this planet.
We share the lavish beauty that surrounds us, the food that we grow in family or communal plots, the sunshine we allow everyone to get by sharing open spaces with no boundaries, the beachfront where we swim and play together, and staring into each other’s eyes and faces as a gesture to acknowledge we all have similar differences.
Picture 4 : Sharing village beach with young Australian visiting Marist students.
If you venture to Pokpok Island today you can still soak some of the past but it is a stay that is more about how much time you have to enjoy what is around today.
Accommodation is available at Uruna Bay Retreat that is already catering for the quiet, adventurer short sayer type that want to be left on their own, that prefer swimming, snorkelling, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, bit of surfing and other water sports. Trekking is included in the mix.
It’s fun. Come and rejuvenate, enjoy, and leave with a clear head, as a kinder soul, and with a mindful heart. It is in places and surroundings like this that you can find peace, stop talking and listen to and understand the language of your heart.
😇 May you enjoy the rest of the remaining days of your life with joy, peace and happiness as you desire.
For more info about or book
“Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,”
Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.
“Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,
We envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history”
Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government
– The Panguna copper mine, located in the mountains of Central Bougainville, an autonomous region in the southwest Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea, has been derelict for 27 years since an armed campaign by local landowners forced its shutdown and triggered a decade-long civil war in the late 1980s.
The former Rio Tinto majority-owned extractive venture hit world headlines when the Nasioi became the world’s first indigenous people to compel a major multinational to abandon one of its most valuable investments during a bid to defend their land against environmental destruction.
Today, local leaders and entrepreneurs, including former combatants, see the site playing a key role in sustainable development, but not as a functioning mine.
“Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,” Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government, told IPS.
He and many local villagers envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history.
“It is not just the mine site; families could build places to serve traditional local food for visitors. We have to build a special place where visitors can experience our local food and culture,” villager Christine Nobako added. Others spoke of the appeal of the surrounding rainforest-covered peaks to trekkers and bird watchers.
An estimated 20,000 people in Bougainville, or 10 percent of the population, lost their lives during the conflict, known as the ‘Crisis.’ Opposition by local communities to the mine, apparent from the exploration phase in the 1960s, intensified after operations began in 1972 by Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, when they claimed mine tailings were destroying agricultural land and polluting nearby rivers used as sources of freshwater and fish. Hostilities quickly spread in 1989 after the company refused to meet landowners’ demands for compensation and a civil war raged until a ceasefire in 1998.
In the shell of a former mine building, IPS spoke with Takaung and Lynette Ona, local landowner and niece of Francis Ona, the late Bougainville Revolutionary Army leader. A short distance away, the vast six-kilometre-long mine pit is a silent reminder of state-corporate ambition gone wrong.
According to Ona, the remarkable story of how a group of villagers thwarted the power and zeal of a global mining company is a significant chapter in the history of the environmental movement “because that is what we were fighting for; environment, land and culture.” And, as such, she says, makes Panguna a place of considerable world interest.
Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.
“Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,” he said.
In a recent survey of Panguna communities by Australian non-government organisation, Jubilee Australia, tourism was identified as the second most popular economic alternative to mining after horticulture and animal farming. Although realising the industry’s full potential requires challenges for local entrepreneurs, such as access to finance and skills development, being addressed.
Objection here to the return of mining is related not only to the deep scars of the violent conflict, but also the role it is believed to have had in increasing inequality. For example, of a population of about 150,000 in the 1980s, only 1,300 were employed in the mine’s workforce, while the vast majority of its profits, which peaked at 1.7 billion kina (US$527 million), were claimed by Rio Tinto and the Papua New Guinea government.
Today, post-war reconstruction and human development progress in Bougainville is very slow, while the population has doubled to around 300,000. One third of children are not in school, less than 1 percent of the population have access to electricity and the maternal mortality rate could be as high as 690 per 100,000 live births, estimates the United Nations Development Program.
People want an economy which supports equitable prosperity and long term peace and local experts see unlimited possibilities for tourism on these tropical islands which lie just south of the equator and boast outstanding natural beauty
“In terms of doing eco-tourism, Bougainville has the rawness. There are the forests, the lakes, the sea, the rivers and wetlands,” Lawrence Belleh, Director of Bougainville’s Tourism Office in the capital, Buka, told IPS.
Bougainville was also the site of battles during World War II and many relics from the presence of Australian, New Zealand, American and Japanese forces can be seen along the Numa Numa Trail, a challenging 60-kilometre trek from Bougainville Island’s east to west coasts.
“There are a lot of things that are not told about Bougainville, the historical events which happened during World War II and also the stories which the ex-combatants [during the Crisis] have, which they can tell…..we have a story to tell, we can share with you if you are coming over,” Belleh enthused.
Improving local infrastructure, such as transport and accommodation, and dispelling misperceptions of post-conflict Bougainville are priorities for the tourism office in a bid to increase visitor confidence.
“Many people would perceive Bougainville as an unsafe place to come and visit, but that was some years back. In fact, Bougainville is one of the safest places [for tourists] in Papua New Guinea. The people are very friendly, they will greet you, take you to their homes and show you around,” Belleh said.
The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is the furthest island from the mainland of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The island’s unique ethnicity, vibrant culture, natural scenic landscapes and historic sites offer many opportunities for major tourism development.Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Hon. Tobias Kulang , the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (PNGTPA), the Office of Tourism Arts and Culture and staff from the minister’s office were in Bougainville to officially launch the Buka Town Tourism Development Initiative 2016-2020.
The project aims to develop Buka Town into a tourism hub by 2018 and connecting the Autonomous Region of Bougainville with the Pacific through the Solomon Seas Tourism Zone Initiative.
Above: Hon.Tobias Kulang with Buka town mayor, Buka town manager, Tourism Associatin Minister, Vice Minister Robert Hamal, Hon. Jimmy Minigtoro, Minister for Communication and ABG Tourism Director at the official unveiling of the Buka Town Tourism Development Initiative.
The visiting national tourism delegation was taken on a tour of popular sites and attractions in Arawa, Buin and Kieta. During the tour Minister Kulang and the delegates met with officials from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and representatives from the local tourism industry.
In an internal report based on the findings from the visit, the PNGTPA made a number of recommendations for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville government (ABG) with regards to tourism development, including: developing a Tourism Master Plan, Tourism Funding support for the ABG and for the local tourism industry to form an association to better voice issues and concerns faced by the tourism industry in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
PNGTPA and the ABG will continue tourism discussions throughout the year. Tourism delegates from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville will be invited to the annual Lukim PNG Nau tourism expo in Port Moresby hosted by the PNGTPA and the PNG Tourism Industry Association.
Included in delegation is Zhon Bosco Miriona ,Managing Director, Bougainville Experience Tours who has now represented Bougainville Internationally for the past 6 years travelling to Europe and Australia
For further information regarding the national tourism delegation visit to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville contact PNGTPA marketing coordinator Mr. Joel Keimelo, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“By taking a targeted approach to tourism development, Pacific Island countries can ensure visitor numbers are kept at sustainable levels, while attracting higher-spending tourists – helping to protect the precious natural environment and cultural heritage that make this region so special.”
A new World Bank report says careful and sustainable planning around emerging tourism markets could help Pacific Island countries gain as much as US$1.8 billion per year in additional revenues and create up to 128,000 additional jobs by 2040.
The Pacific Possible: Tourism report, which was released for public comment today at the annual board meeting of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, outlines a plan for long-term, balanced and manageable tourism growth to the year 2040.
The report recommends four key strategy areas for attention:
- improving international transport links to the region;
- attracting higher-spending tourists;
- improved public sector engagement;
- and improving linkages between tourism and local economies.
“Tourism is one of the Pacific region’s most economically viable sectors, with significant opportunities for sustainable growth in the Chinese tourist, cruise ship, luxury travel and retiree markets,” said John Perrottet, report author and Senior Technical Specialist at the World Bank.
“By taking a targeted approach to tourism development, Pacific Island countries can ensure visitor numbers are kept at sustainable levels, while attracting higher-spending tourists – helping to protect the precious natural environment and cultural heritage that make this region so special.”
Tourism plays an important role in Pacific Island economies and is one of the region’s few economically viable sectors. Total tourism spending in Pacific Island countries for 2013 amounted to US$1.4 billion.
In 2014, a record 1.37 million overnight visitors arrived across eleven Pacific Island countries, with Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Samoa and Vanuatu making up the top five destinations. Two thirds of visitors traveling to Pacific Island countries are from Australia and New Zealand, while the United States, China, Japan and Europe represent significant growth potential.
“Tourism has a multiplier effect in local economies, helping to boost business activity and the livelihoods of people working in various other industries, including agriculture and retail,” said Franz Drees-Gross, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Pacific Islands. “We hope this report will assist Pacific Island governments in sustainable planning for more tourism arrivals from both existing and emerging tourism markets.”
The report is the third of seven in the World Bank’s Pacific Possible series, which looks at potentially transformative opportunities for Pacific Island countries that warrant further research, understanding and policy action. The series aims to inform government and stakeholder decisions on planning and long-term decision-making.
Bougainville’s cocoa industry will be expecting a huge boost following the recent announcement by the ABG Minister for Primary Industries Honorable Nicholas Darku, on the Inaugural Bougainville Chocolate Festival.
The event which is a first of its kind in the autonomous region will be held in Buin and Arawa from the 4th to the 8th of July this year.
Minister Darku says this project aims to encourage good cocoa farming practices, while at the same time, raise awareness of the efforts put in by the ABG and its stakeholders to develop this industry. It will also give Bougainville the chance to showcase its cocoa farmers to the international chocolate community and create opportunities to build better market links.
“The cocoa industry represents the economic sector with the greatest immediate growth potential in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. It can, and will into the near future, provide for sustainable rural employment, generation of government revenue and contribute to household incomes and improved livelihoods”, he said.
One of the highlights of this event will be the Chocolate Competition which involves international judges tasting and providing feedback on chocolate made from Bougainville Cocoa.
“Growers from across Bougainville- twenty from each region, North, Central and South will be invited to submit twenty kilograms of dried cocoa beans, and each sample will be made into chocolate by Paradise Foods.
Chocolate samples will then be distributed to the judges well in advance of the festival to enable a thorough appraisal and judging”, explained Minister Darku.
There will also be agricultural showcases, business stall displays and entertainment during the three day festival. The opening of the Primary Industries Field Station in Buin will also coincide with this event.
This festival is an initiative of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, led by the Department of Primary Industries in partnership with the Australian government.
A small New Zealand business is demonstrating how Bougainville can have a future without a return to large-scale mining and the reimposition of colonial-style dependence on foreign powers like Rio Tinto… (Mine Watch)
Source: PNG Mine Watch
The Wellington Chocolate Voyage
A voyage to make a unique artisan chocolate bar and a better tasting world. This is the new chocolate revolution.
Can you imagine the most beautiful tropical paradise on earth?
And the most mouthwatering, delicious chocolate you’ve ever tasted?
We’re going to bring them together and help make a better tasting world.
We are Gabe Davidson & Rochelle Harrison, co-founders of New Zealand’s Wellington Chocolate Factory, and international development worker Sera Price.
We are Kiwis with mad passions and big hearts.
We’re going to make a delectable artisan chocolate bar with rare cocoa beans from Bougainville, a South Pacific region devastated by civil war. The bar itself will be a unique taste experience of the highest quality: the voyage of making it will connect us and you with a cocoa-farming legend, a better way of doing business, and a sailboat journey across the mighty Pacific. Plus you can get chocolate!
We see this as part of a new chocolate revolution, and we want you with us on the adventure.
The Wellington Chocolate Voyage will:
1. Upgrade a South Pacific cocoa plantation– a farming community in Bougainville, led by legendary grower James Rutana, will be able to improve their drying sheds and grow a high-quality crop of unique Criollo varietal cocoa.
2. Buy a tonne of beans– literally. The Wellington Chocolate Factory will purchase 1 tonne of the resulting bean crop at a fair, premium price.
3. Sail the sparkling seas– in the tradition of legendary ocean voyages and historical trade routes, we will transport the beans from Bougainville to Wellington harbour ourselves via sailing ship!
4. Make amazing chocolate – once the beans arrive, we will use our master chocolate-making skills to produce the ‘Bougainville Bar’, a highest quality artisan treat with a unique flavour.
The Wellington Chocolate Voyage combines everything we’re passionate about: making great food, supporting ethical development and trade, connecting with people across the globe, and going on an adventure. We see this as part of the new revolution in artisan food, where mega-industrialised production takes a back seat to skill, care, and people.
By backing us you will be part of:
Supporting Bougainville and a local legend– recovering from a 10 year civil war, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea is trying to develop its own economy and future. James Rutana helped build Bougainville’s cocoa industry only to see it get destroyed by war and neglect. He is committed to rebuilding and we want to help him.
Making truly great food– the Wellington Chocolate Factory are a values driven company who make highest quality bean-to-bar chocolate. You’ll be invited into our world and get to share the inside story of creating the Bougainville Bar. Then you’ll get your very own bar to try or share or hoard!
Nurturing unique cocoa varieties– rare and unique cocoa varieties are being lost to the dominance of lower value industrial strains. We’re encouraging farmers to grow higher quality crops and earn a premium price for their effort.
Doing it by sailboat!– Sailboats are fun and romantic in all the right ways, and there is a proud tradition of great Pacific sea voyages throughout history. Imagine being in Wellington Harbour as the first sail-driven shipment of cocoa beans in over fifty years arrives. If you’re super-keen, imagine coming on the boat with us!
Wouldn’t it feel good to be part of a better tasting world?
What’s the Wellington Chocolate Factory?
We’re snuggled in the heart of Wellington city in New Zealand. We have 11 staff and are open to the public. We make organic, ethically traded, bean-to-bar chocolate of the highest quality.
Bougainville is a beautiful tropical island cluster just north of Australia, with a troubled history. Geographically part of the Solomon Islands but politically part of Papua New Guinea, Bougainville is now an Autonomous Region with its own government and economy.
In 1970 Bougainville had the world’s largest open pit copper mine. The mine contributed significantly to the development of the region, but also to its collapse. A civil war followed that lasted 10 years from 1989 – 1999 and killed 20,000 people.
The Bougainville people brought about peace with assistance from the New Zealand and Australian governments, and the new Autonomous Region hasn’t looked back! There are many challenges in rebuilding the economy and raising business confidence: cocoa growing, for which Bougainville was once internationally renowned, is a way forward.
We want to help put Bougainvllle cocoa back on the map! Making the world class artisan Bougainville Bar will help shine a positive light on the region’s potential, and demonstrate that this is a great place to work and do business.
In this article Simon Pentanu picks out interesting features, sights and things in Bougainville where most locals take the ordinariness of life and place for granted.
After travelling the world whose variety of civilisations, traditions and cultures provide so much variety and spices of life, he says seeing and writing about things and places gives him a new lease of in the twilight years of retirement and rest from work. Here is his offering on Wakunai in Central Bougainville.
W . A . K . U . N . A . I .
Wakunai is one of three districts in Central region, central Bougainville. The other two districts are Kieta and Panguna. To those that have visited or have worked on Bougainville, Kieta and Panguna do not need much introduction.
Next time you are on the east coast highway from Buka to Arawa or all the way to the bottom end down south in Buin do yourself a favour and take a quick stop along Wakunai beach. You will be pleasantly surprised what meets with your eyes and senses. It is a breath of fresh air of the sea breeze facing out to the open sea. During and nearing the end of the crisis the same seas were part of the lanes for the plying sea traffic of outboard motors doing cargo supplies from Buka to Kieta. Wakunai station also served as the half way security check for sea traffic between Buka and Kieta. This is all in the past tense now.
Wakunai has a long, wide consuming bay where you’re a tiny speck in the distance with long, jutting peninsulas on either side which give the bay its width and vast expanse.
Along its long beach with the Wakunai river mouth delta at the northern end pebbles and polished stones in assortment of smooth shapes, sizes, colours and contours adorn the black beach. They are bared out by the ebb and flow of the tides. They are nature’s work and a marvel to hold or carry and look at.
Looking up from the beach this a place where the daily sunset disappears behind the ruminating Mt. Balbi, the highest altitude on Bougainville. On some very clear days the vents atop bare Balbi can be seen to jettison its own geyser-like white steams like a tired baldy old man at a very advanced age that is trying to exhale his puff and smoke in slow motion. It’s a clear view from the bluish black beach along Wakunai bay.
Nearby by the beach inland from Kiviri point is an overgrown Wakunai landing strip that has seen better days. You can’t see much of the strip driving by with kunai-like tall grass getting in the way. I can still vividly recall landing here on my first airborne travel on a TAA DC-3 in late January 1965 after taking off from a dirt Aropa airstrip on the way to Buka to start high school at Hutjena. The Wakunai airstrip is in disuse now but it is a short-cut walking track. It is also there, not really abandoned, if ever a distressed small aircraft or a helicopter might need it for emergency crash landing.
Wakunai used to boast one of the biggest coconut plantations in the southern hemisphere, the Numanuma plantation. Numa was planted during German times. The Numa WW2 track that traverses a tropical terrain from east to west starts here. The trek is either a trying and difficult walk or an exhilarating, refreshing walk to the west coast. It depends on level of fitness and mental preparedness to start and finish this personal challenge.
Wakunai’s evergreen hinterland and soaring hills and peaking mountains right up to and around Mt. Balbi remain a Pandora’s box with such tales as sightings of the mamanguria for example. This is the district where you cross the Red river with its source high in the mouintains, so named because of the red rocks on its river beds and banks that you can see from its old bailey bridge crossing.
This is Rotokas country. The Rotokas language holds the claim in the Guinness Book of Records as the indigenous language with the fewest vowels. Up inland on good, trafficable dirt road are Togerau and Ruruvu where there is majestic waterfall that attracts local visitors no end.
Up here too is Bougainville’s first hydro project that is supposed to harness the Wakunai river at its multiple heads not far from the waterfall. Rotokas culture and traditions up here and further inland remain intact, including the Upe culture that is revered and protected here and along the West Coast.
The Upe symbol on the Bougainville flag livery gives the flag it most identifiable and conspicuous feature.
The upe is totem-poled to mark the inner boundaries of Bougainville’s Parliament House at Kubu on Buka Island.
Wakunai district will also always hold pride of place and history on the Island where the first girls high school was established. The Catholic nuns from Australia from Society of Mary established the only girls Asitavi Girls High School when teaching began here with a handful of girls in 1959. The roll-call of girls who have passed through the school and done well in professional life and personal and family lives in the country and at home on Bougainville is a long one. The school as it exists today is worth a visit.
Next time you are travelling by road along the east coast highway, do yourself a favour and stop. Just like Colin Cowell did on a Bougainville Experience Tour last year
Or convince your driver to make the next relief stop by the beach. Walk Wakunai’s black beach and pick yourself a souvenir to take home, a small or large pebble polished by the ebb and flow of both sea and sand since creation They come in all sizes and are a marvel for all seasons. The rarer ones are the round and elongated, clayish- to-almost-mission- red colours.
“ABG recognises the largely untapped potential of tourism and is aware Bougainville has the natural attraction to lure adventure and niche’ travellers to its shores. But a lot needs to be done . Success does not come overnight. There are no short cuts and quick fixes in success in anything.
ABG’s financial resources and capacity which has to be shared with other areas and services seeking more urgent attention has not been easy. Clearly, this creates a lot of room and space for private enterprise driven participation in an industry that can be both profitable and enjoyable with the right advice and approach and sense of ownership.
Simon Pentanu was appointed Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives in June 2015.
Picture above Bungalows under progress at Uruna Bay Retreat
He comes from Pokpok Island where he has a home and a private retreat through which community participation and paid employment of women and youth amongst its Island communities is being promoted. He advocates“small, rural and local is beautiful” across Bougainville.
Bougainville’s natural beauty and attractions, including its vibrant culture like the rest of the country, can be best showcased with serious and deliberate government involvement. For now this is lacking and can be explained largely as a result of lack of resources, capacity and focus and due to the fact that since it was established the tourism office and responsibility has been moved from pillar to post. The settling in, focus, funding and seriousness has been amiss.
With so much potential staring at us in the face tourism in Bougainville it is time our political leaders and bureaucrats alike take the attitude that if tourism has to contribute to ABG’s coffers, then it should be well-intended and for good gain. A number of private operators that have been self-starters to promote tourism are the ones carrying the baton up front. The amount of promotion they are doing both out of joy in promoting the beauty of the Island and as a business is a good story.
The Autonomous Region today is, in many ways, at the stage in its attempts to promote tourism where PNG was about 30 years ago. Then, PNG started its budding attempts to promote the industry. It wasn’t something easy like a casual walk along the beach, a nearby bushwalk or a small hill climb. It was gradual with early forays into areas of unique attractions like for example driving into a village in Asaro to be greeted by its famous mystical Asaro mud men. There are other numerous examples such as the early cruises up the Sepik or the Baining Fire Dance and the Malagan mask phenomena in the New Guinea Islands. Along the way tourists started fitting their itineraries and visits to the annual calendar of many provincial Cultural Shows which have now become well renown and frequentedannual events. Bougainville can not only learn enormously from these early starts, including teething issues in the rest of PNG but can start to fit its own cultural events around some of the dates of these events.
The PNGTA is a vast repository of information and experience that Bougainville tourism authorities can tap into. The world has become small in an industry that has virtually encompassed countries globally and where there are no boundaries or barriers to movement or travel, barring religious and fanatical wars. PNGTA is benefitting enormously from its membership, attendance and participation in regional and global tourism events. It has also learnt that it does not have to copy or compete for the same markets like others but has created its own brand of adventure, cultural and niche’ attractions.
Along the way PNGTA has learnt some hard, some sad but many useful lessons. The aches and pains have come with the successes and joys in seeing and industry grow into many niche’ attractions around its many tribal and ethnic cultures, languages, landscapes and seascapes. Bougainville stands to gain a lot from the road travelled and challenges met by PNGTA. Bougainville does not have to reinvent the wheel but we can improve the oiling and lubrication in our spokes and nuts and bolts to cruise forward with so much potential begging to be tapped.
Zhon Bosco Miriona, Managing Director of Bougainville Experience Tours for second time in the past few years was able to represent Bougainville on the world stage supported by Colin Cowell an International media and tourism consultant with over 25 years’ experience marketing Indigenous tourism
Download the PNG ITB Promo press release
Top Photo Social media : Online tour bookings site , Facebook ,@YesBougainville on Twitter and Bougainville Tourism INSTAGRAM are playing an important role in Bougainville Experience Tours International Marketing
Second Photo Above : Developing partnerships with Wako Napusu Inbound operator Country Tour PNG and Asian operators above to bring in small groups for a 7 day Bougainville Tour Experience
PNGTA has also matured in keeping in check the pros and cons of tourist invasions, so to speak. It is a very sensible approach. The country does not necessarily want to promote tourism for arrivals en mass. This is a very important consideration in developing niche’ markets and keeping cultures genuinely intact. No one can ever completely preserve cultures in a test tube or a freezer but impact of outside influence and modernity can be managed with sensible long term policies and cooperation between government policy makers and independent state supported tourism bodies or corporations. In this regard, in terms of government support to PNGTA it has been a journey on bumpy roads, through humps, pot-holes and sometimes swaying bridges along the way. But the Association has been the richer and mature for the experience.
Bougainville can learn from all of the above. We can forge meaningful contacts, contracts and understanding for assistance in going forward in a planned and deliberate fashion with PNGTA.
It is heartening to see emerging self-start operators like Zhon Miriona Bosco from Bougainville Experience Tours and others in north and south Bougainville to establish links with PNGTA in brooding tourism in Bougainville. In time, there is no doubt other individual operators will emerge as Bougainville continues to open up to one of the cleanest and visible industries that can promote the Island.
ABG recognises the largely untapped potential of tourism and is aware Bougainville has the natural attraction to lure adventure and niche’ travellers to its shores. But a lot needs to be done over the years. Success does not come overnight. There are no short cuts and quick fixes in success in anything. ABG’s financial resources and capacity which has to be shared with other areas and services seeking more urgent attention has not been easy. Clearly, this creates a lot of room and space for private enterprise driven participation in an industry that can be both profitable and enjoyable with the right advice and approach and sense of ownership.
Clear, comprehensive, comprehendible mid to long-term policies is one way ABG can put tourism on a better footing. It is from this position that the Ministry, office and authority charged with responsibility to promote tourism in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville can develop deliberate and better long term view from the standing, stationary start is at now.
In the present Momis-Nisira Government the Minister for Economic Affairs Hon Fidelis Semoso MP has the will, the clout, the credentials and the leverage required to establish a meaningful and working contact with PNGTA. This would move the office from its dormant existence to at least some level headed planning view to where or how far Bougainville wants to take its tourism.
There are some aspects of office work that does not necessarily need huge funds but rather just thinking things through and mapping out. One such area concerns the risks and inhibitions to any opportunity to attracting and expanding tourism as an industry. First and foremost is the issue of law and order. This is a major concern in selling tourism in PNG but to its credit the PNGTA has spared no effort in putting better and localised perspective to this menace. Bougainville can certainly learn a thing or two from the arduous efforts PNGTA has made in this area. Landowner issues is another one when trekking and bird watching or just bushwalking is involved. Issues of benefits to a local community are matters that should attract attention to authorities. Advice and mentoring to willing starters in local areas is another area our officials in tourism office can help without much expenditure in resources or efforts.
The cost of travel to and within PNG is expensive. In more Bougainville it is even more expensive right across the board including airfares, local transport, accommodation, even food in lodges and motels. This should change over time and there is some evidence of this as the level of accommodation and variety of food in Buka and Arawa in more decent accommodation is improving.
Developing an annual calendar around cultural events that are staged by communities for their own importance and purpose at their own time is something the office responsible for tourism in Buka can certainly work on. It is more reliable to plan this way because for communities these cultural events aren’t scheduled around tourist visits but have been a part of their life and cultural significance for years. On the part of tourist office staff this involves going out to the people to promote awareness over time. Instead of waiting for large funds the tourism office should go out to the people for which the cost shouldn’t be huge at all.
Some training and education for intending and existing tour operators and tour guides is a must so there is proper awareness on the do’s and don’ts of tourism. Again there is no need to reinvent the wheel. A working relationship can be established with PNGTA to help the tourism office in Bougainville. To this end there are also opportunities annually for the office of tourism and for private operators to attend tourist expositions hosted by PNGTA and by other Associations in the region.
It often begs the question, what does the office of tourism actually do in Bougainville? This is not a rhetorical question but a question that is being asked more and more. And rightly so. When you have good, attractive, usable and functional product to develop and promote and sell very well why is it hard to promote and sell. Everyone boasts about how Bougainville is beautiful, how we might become a Mecca for tourists looking for authentic pristine beauty or how relatively peaceful it is for tourist to find once they get here. BUT who is doing the hard yakka that’s got to be done?
The Minister responsible for tourism can be best served by the tourism office by providing good briefs on where we are at, where we want to be in the next four years based on the remaining years of the current Government. And, in addition, how best the Government and private operators can best consult each other. The experience of PNGTA in this regard would be quite valuable. The current Minister’s audacious, no nonsense and result oriented approach would bode well with the benefit of good, regular advice from those that are charged with developing the industry. As already mentioned, establishing meaningful links with PNGTA is bound to pay good, tangible dividends.
Bougainville has always learnt the hard way from its shortcomings. The courage and conviction of the people to succeed at all is always there and has always moved everybody on and forward. Tourism has the potential as a reliable and clean income earner and cash generator . We can do this through joint effort between government and private enterprise and through humbling ourselves to ask others that have travelled this road to help and guide us, specifically PNGTA. PNGTA is already a very recognisable product, a global brand name in the tourism industry.
Bougainville can prove its worth best through doing the hard work led by those tasked and paid in the office of tourism. Any other joint effort will come if the officers and authorities start pegging and advancing their work inside and outside the office. It is not enough to just trumpet out the all too familiar metaphor we are so used to chanting and hearing that “we can do it”.
Simon Pentanu pictured above learning international tourism marketing from Colin Cowell ” selling ” to 30 international buyers at a travel Expo in Port Moresby 2014. From left Zhon , Colin ,Simon and James Tanis.
“Bougainville is a land of simple, untouched pleasures; from our turquoise seas to lush rain forests.Experience our unique Bougainville Island, nature, culture, history and friendly people “
The U.S Embassy Port Moresby and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State are pleased to announce the 2016 call for proposals for the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP).
Since its creation by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. AFCP has provided financial support to more than 640 cultural preservation projects in more than 100 countries and represents a contribution of nearly $26 million towards the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide.
Proposals are welcome from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
The Fund is aimed at preserving cultural sites, objects and forms of traditional expression that have a historical or cultural significance. Of particular interest are projects that support risk reduction and disaster preparedness for cultural sites and collections in seismically-active and other disaster- prone areas as well as projects that empower women, youth or under-served communities. Grants usually range from $10,000 to $100,000, but may be higher for exceptional projects.
The deadline for submitting a proposal in English is Friday, January 8, 2016 at 4:30pm PNG time.
Proposals should be submitted to:
U.S. Embassy Port Moresby, Public Affairs Section
Attn: Public Affairs Officer
Subject: U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation 2016
For more information about the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation 2016, please contact the Public Affairs Section at PDPortMoresby@state.gov or go to the Embassy’s website at http://portmoresby.usembassy.gov