Supporting Ecotourism Initiatives

Mahonia Na Dari is interested in promoting eco-tourism opportunities in the Kimbe area, as a way to contribute positively to the economic well being of the local people whilst also having a strong conservation and education focus.

While eco-tourism cannot compete as a direct alternative to other income generating activities such as forestry, cash crops and the utilization of marine resources, it can be one of a range of options that collectively contribute to sustainable land and sea management in the Kimbe area.

Eco-tourism if carried out correctly can:

• Contribute to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage

• Involve all stakeholders in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the operation

• Generate sustainable income for all stake holders in an equitable manner

• Provide a learning environment for both visitor and host

Opportunities

Kimbe Bay is rich in natural resources both on land and at sea and has a history of nature based tourist activities such as diving, birdwatching and fishing. Diving has dominated the tourism industry for the last 25 years and more recently specialist bird watching and fishing have also become relatively important.

   Walindi Nature Center residents paddling a traditional canoe on Kimbe Bay. Photo by Tansy Bliss

DIVING.

Walindi Plantation Resort runs the main dive resort in West New Britain and is already world renowned for its professional operation offering access to some of the most pristine reefs in the coral triangle (see Research page). The involvement of the local communities is a key element in this operation as they have customary rights over the reefs, sea mounts and islands.

  Susan’s Reef. Photogaph courtesy of Franco Banfi

Walindi Plantation Resort has developed its diving hand in hand with the conservation and protection of the reefs. It was the main driving force behind Mahonia Na Dari and the Walindi Nature Centre. Walindi Plantation Resort has contributed to the international recognition and support for the conservation and protection of Kimbe Bay. The local communities have benefited from the continuous receipt of concession fees for use of their reefs and also from international donor funds attracted to the area to assist with local reef conservation.

FISHING

A high quality fishing lodge at Baia village to the east of Kimbe Bay has also brought monetary and other benefits to the local communities in the form of employment, training and upgrading of village facilities. In addition, the strong need to maintain a clean and viable habitat for the highly sought after Black Bass has meant conservation initiatives have had to accompany this tourism development (www.baiafishingpng.com).

BIRDWATCHING

Specialist international birdwatching tours visit Kimbe Bay to seek out the West New Britain endemics. These include the Black-headed Paradise Kingfisher, the Blue- eyed Cockatoo, and New Britain Buzzard on land, while out at sea, the recently discovered Heinroth’s Shearwater can be seen along with the Nicobar pigeon on several of the remote off shore islands. Please, visit Walindi Resort Plantation for more information (www.walindi.com).

  Birdwatching on Schuman Island, Kimbe Bay. Photo by Tansy Bliss

Both species and habitat protection are essential for bird watching to remain a viable tourism activity in West New Britain. Many of the endemics are now only found within Wildlife Management Areas established in the 1970’s as other habitats have been degraded due to logging or converted into oil palm plantation and food gardens. Eco-tourism may provide the incentive for communities to protect the last vestiges of lowland forest and riverine habitats, forming buffer zones and conservation areas that link the remaining important bird habitats.

Mahonia Na Dari’s involvement

Mahonia Na Dari is actively seeking funding to develop the Eco-tourism programs already initiated and is currently liaising with businesses, local communities and government agencies. Mahonia Na Dari also hopes to develop terrestrial education programs encompassing eco-tourism for students, teachers and the community. Ecotourism activities currently operating in the area include local bush walks, general birdwatching, village tours, forest walks and butterfly farming.

Mahonia Na Dari is working with the different stake holders to ensure the following:

• The product, be it a bird watching site, guided walk or locally made handicraft, is of a high standard and conforms to the eco-tourism principles

• Interpretation materials are available for the visitors

• The local people involved are well trained and able to develop their product

• Suitable marketing materials are available

• Links are made between the resource owners, the tour operators, appropriate local and provincial government departments, and potential eco-tourists

The challenges

Developing eco-tourism is a complex and challenging task relying on strong partnerships to ensure that the multiple goals of conservation and equitable development are met. In West New Britain eco-tourism opportunities are directly affected by

• the high cost of airfares to West New Britain,

• the low number of non specialists tourists visiting the area,

• landownership conflicts and difficult access to natural resource sites,

• a predominance of oil palm plantation on lowland accessible sites

• limited facilities and services for family orientated holidays,

• continual law and order issues

Despite all the above Mahonia Na Dari believes that small scale eco-tourism activities if developed and managed carefully can contribute to successful income generation for local communities whilst also strengthening conservation of the natural resources upon which the activities are based.

Watch this space for profiles on developing eco-tourism initiatives!