Just off the plane at Hoskins Airport on New Britain Island in Papua New Guinea, the humidity peaks and the lush greenery is overwhelming. Heading towards Kimbe by diesel van, the screeching parrots and squawking crows announce the presence of over 700 species of birds. Past sunset, clattering tree frogs and buzzing locusts take on the night shift. In the water, the biodiversity is just as amazing: With about 400 species of coral and 900 species of fish, neon colors are splashed everywhere the eye can see. This is staple fare at Walindi Plantation Dive Resort, but the beauty and diversity of Kimbe's reefs and, in fact, PNG's entire ecosystem might not last much longer because of careless logging, mining and over-fishing, practices which alarmed Walindi's proprietors, Max and Cecile Benjamin. Max has been working toward setting a standard in the tropical resort and live-aboard dive industry by supporting conservation, renewable natural resources, research and education.
All of Walindi's diesel engines from generators to vehicles now run on a 50-percent-palm-oil and 50-percent-diesel mixture, with the live-aboard Star Dancer as the exception: it runs on 100-percent palm oil. Other oils, such as crankcase and cooking oils, are donated to the local palm-oil refinery for use in their boilers. Palm oil is not only an environmental choice, but it is grown and processed locally here on New Britain, supporting the surrounding communities.
Using a renewable fuel that isn't a dangerous pollutant when burned or spilled is the major factor, but it is also nice to know that you'll never run out of cooking oil on a dive trip and the exhaust smells like fish and chips!
To supply Walindi's energy needs, generators run from 6 in the morning until 11 at night, and then battery banks and water towers take over for night use. To lesson fuel use and wear when running the generators, all the facilities use low-watt light bulbs and keep air conditioning to a minimum. This becomes a problem when trying to entice customers who demand all the amenities, and there has been some pressure to construct cabanas with cooling equipment, but that would violate Walindi's conservation goals.
The kitchen has also been adjusted toward low energy use. Meals are served banquet-style at specific times of day in the plaza in order to reduce the use of valuable resources. Organically grown foods are purchased from local farmers and ranchers, and all fruits and vegetables are ripened on the vine for freshness and the best flavor.
Walindi has also become a part of academics and education by supporting the neighboring research facility, Mahonia Na Dari ("Guardian of the Sea" in Talasea, the local language). Mahonia was established in 1996 to facilitate the preservation of one of the world's most diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems through community-based conservation and resource management. Max thought it paramount to establish a place to gather fleeting collective knowledge and heighten local environmental awareness as soon as possible. Like Walindi, Mahonia's stilted buildings are built in the traditional style, using local lumber from eco-forestry companies with woven sak sak wall coverings and thatched roofing. Inside it is home to resident James Cook University scientists and researchers the world over. Currently, Mahonia is working with the Nature Conservancy to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPA), working with local resource owners to establish Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA), working with ForCert on a sustainable logging certification program for international markets, a Marine Environment Education Program (MEEP) for surrounding secondary schools and local educational events, such as puppet shows, for younger audiences.
In the future, Max and Cecile plan to gear toward the stringent ISO14000 standard of conservation. The next step will be to make bio-diesel fuel, converting all engines to 100-percent use and further reducing energy needs. When guests come to see the beauty both above and below in Papua New Guinea, Walindi fits right in.
Visit www.walindi.com to learn more.