|A view from the Conflict Bay Lodge beach towards the Hatare Marine Park.|
Monday, 2 April 2012
Sunday, 1 April 2012
By Philip U.
Travelling in a fiberglass canoe powered by a 40 horse power Yamaha outboard motor was a new experience for me. I made a more than three hours trip from point Honiara’s Yacht Club with a local boat owner and skipper with three other local passengers to Marau Sound, East Guadalcanal.
The sea was crystal clear with gulls flying over schools of tuna (bonitos) indicating to the fishermen in dugout canoes of another good catchment for their families evening meals.
We passed a beautiful white sandy island before heading to Aola station when our skipper point out that it is the Vulelua Island which used to accommodate the famous Vulelua Resort before it was destroyed during the Ethnic Tension on Guadalcanal. I was wondering if that beautiful resort could be re-developed to help in booming our country’s tourism industry.
As we approached Kaoka Bay, our boat skipper pointed out to an island at the tip of the eastern end of Guadalcanal. He happily said we were about to enter the waters of Marau Sound. My heart was pumping with excitement. I heard about the beautiful uninhabited white sandy islands, the traditional stories about Marapa Island and early migrations of the ancestors of Marau people from South Malaita and Are Are to Marau Sound using dugouts, and the first contacts of early European traders with Marau people which were fierce.
I was dreaming of another world with new experience anticipated from the place I would spend my three days.
We passed a white sandy island at the passage to the glassy Marau waters. It was really beautiful with pristine water and reef for snorkeling. But there were lots of tempting islands ahead as I looked out.
Water around Maraupine (a white sandy island owned by an Australian family) and the Hatare fringing reef was a dream comes true for me. Pristine water, colorful corals, and warm sea temperature gives an ideal place for snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and swimming.
Our boat was anchored at the Conflict Bay Lodge beach front and I was met by Mr. Elisha, the owner of the Conflict Bay Lodge which I would spend my three nights at.
Elisha is a teacher at Potau Primary School but has passion for tourism. As I chatted with him at the veranda of his lodge, overlooking the Conflict Bay water across to the beautiful uninhabited islands, he said his interest grew when he was a tour guide at Tavanipupu resort, the only upscale resort in Marau Sound.
“My vision is to establish this lodge to help in the sustainable development in Marau Sound. We are part of this community and as much as we can, we will contribute back to the communities in Hatare area”, said Elisha. “We helped in the establishment of the Hatare Marine Park with other local small operators over the past seven years”.
His dream for his lodge is to engage his visitors in community activities which will benefit the communities in long run. He anticipated establishing a Hatare Marine Park trust fund. Guests can donate in cash or in kind to conserve the marine park.
Locals admitted that the biggest fringing reef of Marau now a marine park has shown a big change in the pasts seven years. Abundance of fish and other marine lives are increasingly available as foods and source of cash incomes to local fishermen.
Kupai (Elisha is commonly called) has seen a bright future behind the two rooms accommodation he has developed. The Conflict Bay Lodge is there to provide employment opportunities to locals. Since its establishment in December 2011, the lodge employs three locals beside Elisha as housekeeper, security, and tour guide. He is optimistic in employing more locals as permanent and casual tour guides when his lodge runs more tours and other outdoor activities.