By NATHAN LATI
“I wanted to live here because every day out here is paradise to me and the nights overlooking the sea towards Port Moresby’s Toguba Hill and its vicinity gives me a feeling of renewal and serenity.”
Heau Solien, a retired soldier in his early 50s, is a local from Vabukori and he owns part of the beach front on Manubada Island through his parents.
After spending 16 years in PNG Defence force, he resigned to live in the village with his three daughters, two boys and his beautiful wife who he met at Aiyura National High School.
Living on an island within reach of the city of Port Moresby sounds exciting but isolated from electricity and water supply from Port Moresby city is one of the biggest challenge Solien and his family has to face each day. His elder son has become a good fisherman and he manages to catch fish each day for the family while his two daughters work in the city and the other one is still in school. The family lives an isolated life on the island but is self-sustaining.
The Solien family fetch water from the mainland and brings to the island for their needs. A 20-minute of commute between the mainland and island is costly but the family has no regrets and manages to live there happily. It has been two years now.
Solien regrets that he had never saved enough to develop the area to attract tourists but he is always on the island to accommodate needs for picnics or camping out on the island. The bigger picture is of potential in tourism there but Solien is starting the business in a small way by installing the necessary amenities on the island and changing the idea of isolated island to island of tranquillity and fun for those who need a break out of the city.
When asked of why he made the decision to live on the island, Solien said, ‘’I wanted to protect my island’s land which some people think is there without anyone’s ownership. I’m scared of the land grabbing trend in Port Moresby so I have settled here to protect my land which I own through my mother and father’s side. I might not have the money to pay for my children’s school fees but I have the land here that my children will settle and live here with their families when I’m gone. I want to teach them and show them the importance of living on our own land.”
Despite the hurdles in life each day on the island, the family lives a content life on the island with natural see breezes providing the coolest atmosphere by winds known to the Motuans as Laurabada (south-east) and Lahara (nort-west) . The winds sometimes appear bad for the island which is also same to the coastal Motuan villages but at times it brings firewood to the shores and fish as well.
The Solien family has been surviving the two winds on the little bay under makeshifts and adapted to the island life despite either winds testing their resolve. Manubada is a rocky island and located few miles away from Ela Beach or Vabukori with a little impressive bay which has a white sandy shoreline frequented by Port Moresby local residents on weekends for picnics.
I was invited to attend a colleague’s son’s birthday and had a chance to meet with Solien who is calm and never speaks a lot but always has something funny to share.
Whilst looking around, the island is within the fringes of Port Moresby but most of the people do not know how to get there and who to enquire before going there.
The Royal Papua Yacht Club, individuals and other business houses in Port Moresby which own boats do go there and anchor near the shore to use the beach but that has damaged the coral which is the biggest concern for Solien and he wants to have a jetty buildt on the island before boats can be allowed back to the island.
Anyone interested to visit Manubada Island or to help the Soliens install tourism amenities on the island can call Heau Solien on Phone 76762250.
- Nathan Lati is a tourism product development officer with PNG Tourism Promotion Authority and blogger with raonraonpng – firstname.lastname@example.org