Story and pictures by COLIN TAIMBARI
A quiet but significant revolution is about to transform a local community in the enchanted Duke of York Islands in East New Britain.
The local community on the second largest island of Rakanda has ventured into self-help projects to empower local villagers by providing simple village level employment opportunities, protect their local biodiversity from the impacts of climate change, improve food security and of course open up opportunities in eco-tourism.
Since 2015, the Rakanda Integrated Tourism and Fish Project has built 10 fish ponds with funding from the Coastal Fisheries Development Agency. RITFP have also marked out mangrove habitats for conservation, built seawalls and a jetty.
The most exciting project for them though is the T’Shindes Village Resort modelled on an eco-friendly concept and offering both international and local visitors alike the spoils and tastes of these magical isles.
The island getaway is located within the pristine enclave of the Duke of York Islands and is less than an hour’s ride by boat from the main commercial hub or Kokopo through lagoons of turquoise waters and dotted with stretches of white sandy beaches ideal for picnics or just lazing around in the tropical sun.
Snorkelling, diving, fishing or village visits and island hopping are also on offer by T’Shindes for the adventurous traveller while the island is full of history including items from World War 2 for those that want to learn more about the past. The wreck of the allied submarine HMAS AEL is said to be lying some 20 metres below the water and only a stones’ throw away from the resort while legend has it that a nearby cave houses a Japanese chest abandoned during the war whose pad-lock is the size of the mega chest itself – what remains stored inside is best left to the imagination.
Of course, legends and myths are also abound in these enchanted isles which are also translated into amazing cultural dances and performances such as the famous rokrok or frog dance for visitors.
The islanders put on a special performance for the chief executive officer of the Tourism Promotion Authority Jerry Agus when he visited them recently. Agus was indeed impressed with the ecotourism development concept and the islanders’ vision to create opportunities for themselves and their future generations.
“Tourism is here to stay and I am happy that people of the Duke of York Islands are embracing ecotourism as a means to improve their livelihoods and at the same time protect their vulnerable communities from the effects of climate change,” he said.
Agus said TPA would be happy to assist the islanders in terms of technical advice or support and tourism training and awareness in the local communities.
T’Shindes Village Resort offers six fully furnished rooms complete with modern luxuries such as flat screen television and mini bar fridge. The fringes of the resort are lined with traditional hauswins and barbeque stands for day visitors complemented by the resorts aptly named Mangoro Kolwin Bar. The resort also has facilities to host workshops and conferences.
Tropical seafood and island delicacies are a favourite on the menu for any visitor to the resort while local communities are happy to sell you souvenirs such as arts and crafts depicting the islanders’ rich cultural heritage.
No island getaway is fully complete and infrastructure developments including an amphitheatre for cultural performances are still work in progress for T’Shindes Village Resorts which hopes to piggyback and gain meaningfully from the National Government’s tourism hub concept for East New Britain.
The resorts tagline “see what a difference a stay makes in the Duke of York” could not be further from the truth and as they say – you only have to experience it for yourself.
T’Shindes Village Resort can be contacted on their Facebook page tshindesvillageresort or email [email protected]
- Collin Taimbari is the media coordinator and board secretary of the PNGTPA.