COLIN TAIMBARI writes about exciting new developments taking place on two little islands off Lorengau town in Manus province.
FROM the Harbourside Hotel in Manus looking out north towards the Admiralty Islands, are two small islands separated only slightly by a natural but narrow channel of water. The islands are a stoneís throw away, or just three minutes by banana boat, out off Lorengau town- the provincial capital of Manus.
For far too long, probably since World War Two when Manus was a strategic military hub for Americaís pacific campaign, Manus has since been forgotten by the outside world.
Itís a place one might feel time has genuinely forgotten.
But that is all about to change, especially for the picturesque harbour that captures the imagination of visitors to the island town of Lorengau far away in the Bismarck Sea. With funding assistance from the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, under its tourism credit facility, there are exciting new developments taking place on these two little islands off Lorengau town which the locals call Butjolou (outer island) and Butjoleng (inner island).
Locals have big plans of developing the islands into a tourism ëMecca for Manusí and have appropriately named it 2Island Resort.
Six modern self-contained bungalows on the waterís edge around Butjoleng looking past dwarf coconut and casuarinas trees and facing the vast Pacific Ocean are almost complete and will be the main feature of this tropical island paradise for tourists.
The 2Island Resort project is a partnership between Bill Paulus and young Preston Powley who plan to build more bungalows all around the two islands over time.
With its many ships wrecks and remains of military hardware under turquoise blue waters- diving will be a main attraction for the resort- complimented by a variety of other activities such as
snorkelling, fishing, island village tours or those just wanting to get as far as possible and have an island paradise to themselves, if only for a few days.
There are also plans for a conference facility to accommodate corporate entities looking for a genuine working holiday.
To add to their attraction, Mr Powley said guests would be ferried in a giant traditional Manus canoe from a new pick-up/drop-off point in Lorengau which is only 600m to the two islands.
“We have some bookings already and we will be taking in our first guests in December with the official opening of 2Island Resort in March 2010,” he added.
Mr Prowley is also on national flag carrier Air Niuginiís next batch of cadets to undergo pilot training overseas soon.
Butjolou and Butjoleng also have interesting histories of their own pertaining from World War Two with Butjolou being a submarine base and recreational isle for American soldiers, while Butjoleng was the communication nerve centre for the US armyís pre-invasion of the Philippines.
PNG TPA manager corporate affairs, William Bando, oversees the tourism credit facility which is managed by the National Development Bank as a soft loan revolving fund facility which it is hoped will sustain itself over the long term.
Mr Bando said it had been testing since the facility was launched two years ago, but PNG TPA was happy with progress on projects funded so far, especially 2Island Resort.
“We are pleased with the work done so far at 2Island Resort and weíd like to think that we are part of this exciting project with a funding capital of K200,000 through our tourism credit facility,” he added.
Mr Bando was so impressed with the developments in Manus that he believed that once completed and fully operational, 2Island Resort would be a model for others to emulate under the tourism credit scheme.
PNG TPA has received many applications under the scheme so far, but many have also failed to meet certain standard requirements such as the project has to be easily accessible by land, sea or air, it has to be marketable, it must be seen to be sustainable and it must be seen to be eco-friendly and blended into the environment.
For the proprietor, some equity and security for the loan is paramount.
Successful applicants are expected to start repayment after a grace period of six to seven months from the day of draw down.
Mr Bando said currently, the maximum amount allowable under the scheme is K200,000 but with PNG TPA Board approval, it is hoped that the amount will be increased to K500,000 and the interest rate reviewed and cut down to 5% from 10% in future.
PNG TPA, through NDB, has already funded eight projects around the country under the scheme with four more to be approved for funding, expanding a total of K1.2 million.
Mr Bando said a further K1 million would be injected into the facility next month.
Apart from 2Island Resort, tourism projects funded so far under the scheme include three in Western Highlands, one in Mt Wilhelm (Simbu) and one each in New Ireland, Popondetta and West New Britain.
There are also projects in Madang, Lae and Kokoda awaiting final endorsement for funding.
Preference is for the tourism model provinces of New Ireland, East New Britain, Madang, Milne Bay and Eastern Highlands, but other project proponents in other provinces with potential are encouraged to submit completed application forms which can be obtained at any NDB branch or at the PNG TPA office in downtown Port Moresby.
Mr Bando is adamant that Papua New Guinea should develop quality eco-friendly tourism products to sell to international visitors that visit our shores and he is encouraging more applications, especially from the model provinces.
“So far, itís been good and we hope to continue the scheme next year because thatís the only way we can assist our people by building quality products which are owned and operated by Papua New Guineans,” he added.
As for those two islands in the harbour, come December, it should be abuzz with tourists looking for that genuine adventure in paradise or just sipping fresh Manus kulau in a hammock and swaying to the breeze of the Bismarck Sea under the palm trees on the sandy white beach.
Manus might not be that undiscovered and forgotten paradise again.
Welcome to 2Island Resort.