Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Happiness that matters- at Conflict Bay Lodge

By Niniu Oligao

Life began to change for Elijah Maumamura when he decided to incorporate his passions of travelling and owning a rural business in 2011.
“I have learned what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my years as a teacher in rural areas, and try to leave each place better than how I found it”, said Maumamura, a Marau native whose today is one of the founding owners of the Conflict Bay Lodge in Marau Sound, East Guadalcanal.

The lodge got its name from where it is situated- Conflict Bay.

Conflict Bay sunrise- from the Conflict Bay Lodge.
 
Living history
For a history lover, one of the most exciting aspects of living in Marau Sound is that you don’t need to go to a museum to see the traditional culture: they are everywhere. In the villages you can see traditional hatched houses, cultural entertainments from women, men, and children, handicrafts, and you can learn few common words in Marau dialect to greet local children and women.

Conflict Bay, a name depicts a rich history of the strained relationship between the first European contacts with the natives in the late 19th century. A moment which many refers to as the ‘Black birding era’- many Marau people, along other Solomon Islanders had been kidnapped to cultivate the sugarcane fields of Queensland, Northern Australia and Fiji. Some returned, others chose to remain in their new places. And the rest is history.
Symbol of Marau Sound
In addition to the scattered cultural and historical sites and villages, Marau Sound is blessed with white beaches and uninhabited islands which form the ‘dream paradise’ to the holiday makers and honeymooners. These beaches and islands have been a landscape to the Marau people since the early migration of their ancestors from South Malaita and Are Are regions- to marry and live with the Guadalcanal people of Birao, and formed a distinctive culture.

The Conflict Bay Lodge has made tours to three of these islands which provide perfect snorkelling places and island experience to those whose lives confined to cities and the rush of passing hours and work.

“Marau Sound blue mountains form the backdrop of the perfect island holiday, as the lullaby of the breaking waves composed just for you”, added Maumamura.

His words are not just tourist rhetoric. Almost all of those to Kosa and Whale Island said their trips were truly wonderful.

Good things are on the way
The Conflict Bay Lodge is just in its fourth year and has put its mark in the tourism and hospitality. Its local architectural designed accommodation blends well with the local environment. Elijah said the principles of sustainable tourism development should not be taken lightly in designing, planning and development of that lodge.

He said they only built on the disturbed area in his family’s old coconut plantation. The beachfront is left undeveloped because the Hatare Marine Park is just right there. And also it goes well with the stunning scenery of the islands.
“We incredibly hosted guests of diverse backgrounds; photographers, filmmakers, savvy travellers soul searched for peaceful times in the company of their loved ones, and soft adventurers who have been spent a lot of their times in the outdoor”, added Ezekiel Apoia, a local chef at the Conflict Bay Lodge with more than 20 years of experience at the Tavanipupu Resort. “But what sets this lodge apart is the sense of friendliness you feel walking through our door, the beautiful people and hospitality and service”.

Each guest of the lodge has stories to tell at home- “Awesome place”, “thank you for the great weekend”, enjoyed the sound of the ocean and village life, the laughter of the children”, “food was fantastic”- the good words of mouth made others to visit, and some guests to return to Conflict Bay Lodge.

Being a good neighbour to the local communities is not just about local purchasing. Rather, an effort to be there for the pressing needs of local communities, especially the young generation of Marau Sound- the education of 16 children. Elijah said those children come from big families and with both illiterate parents. There are two of those families whose parents are employed as cleaners, maintenance workers, and security for reasonable wages at the lodge, and also are empowered by having their shares in this business.

Holiday packages are negotiated with providers of cultural activities, new eight kilometres trail in the Marau Mountains, and Hatare community to spread local tourism benefits, and attracting visitors by offering better products.

And that is the happiness Elijah and his team are passionate about. And what lies ahead is to make things going in the rural Marau Sound for the Conflict Bay Lodge.

Accessing the lodge
If you want to spend your holiday at the Conflict Bay Lodge, you can book the Solomon Airlines or Virgin Australia flights from Brisbane to Honiara for three hours. New Solomon Airlines Sydney connection will start in June 2015.

The Solomon Airlines domestic flights to Marau Sound can take 45 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

To stay at the Conflict Bay Lodge, you can call Elijah Maumamura in Marau Sound on mobile +677 7424029, or send to email: conflictbay@gmail.com.