Walindi Plantation Resort celebrates 37 years of operation in 2020. 37 years is a long time in a human life span. Much can be achieved with vision and determination. I am often asked by guests and visitors about what it was like in the beginning and what changes have occurred over such a length of time.
With husband Max, I had learned to scuba dive in Kimbe Bay, on the north coast of New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea during 1976. Max arrived in 1966 and I arrived in 1972 to work as agricultural officers for the PNG Department of Agriculture Stock and Fisheries. The intervening years up to the early 1980's were spent in underwater exploration of the reefs of Kimbe Bay. 'The Bay' was our undiscovered universe. A scuba diving holiday to the Red Sea's Sinai Peninsular in 1978 sowed the seed of the idea with Max to develop Walindi Plantation Resort on the shores of Kimbe Bay where we lived at Walindi Plantation, a plantation growing oil palm even to this day. The Red Sea at that time was internationally hailed as the 'world's best diving'. We found the spectacular desert scenery and interesting reefs there simply no match for our home of Kimbe Bay with its dramatic rainforests, volcanic peaks as a backdrop and - the underwater difference - of so many more coral and fish species. This was an era where the term Coral Triangle had not yet been coined. Through international marine research in the years following that fateful journey, it is now recognised that the greatest marine diversification of coral on Earth occurs in the region bordered by the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, East Indonesia, and the southern Philippines. This is the so named Coral Triangle, home to 75% of the world's coral species in an area covered by less than 2% of the world's oceans. The Bismarck Sea, where Kimbe Bay is situated, is almost central to this Triangle.
Walindi Resort's construction commenced with two bungalows in 1983. Today, 12 beachfront bungalows and 8 Plantation House rooms cater for up to 40 guests. Initially our first visitors were from Australia, however it wasn't long
before Walindi was welcoming guests from all corners of the world and all walks of life.
One of the resort's first bungalows constructed in 1983.
Our Bungalows today.....why change a successful building style?
Looking back through old photo albums, images from the past bring back a flood of memories....friends made, guests we have met and good times. Of course, there have also been hard times, an unfortunate fire destroyed a bungalow one afternoon (the good news being that the bungalow was unoccupied at the time), unexpected flooding in the early 1990's severely damaged staff housing and infrastructure, and the tetchy volcano near Hoskins created some problems in 2002, with disruption to flights for a while.
The 'Main House' in 1985.
The 'Main House' today.
Swimming pool and deck in 1985.
The same view today.
The Resort started with one diving boat called Ema. Today, the day boat fleet has grown to include Cheyne and Charmaine, named after our children. These boats are used to take guests to outlying reefs and islands in the Bay on a daily basis.
In 1991, the MV FeBrina, under the command and partnership of Captain Alan Raabe, was an important addition to extending the Resort's field of operation. The live-aboard dive boat is over 20 metres and takes 12 passengers to outlying areas like the Father's Reef complex and the Witu Islands off the north coast of New Britain.
April 2019 saw the introduction of a second liveabaord called MV Oceania, a 27m catamaran under the command and partnership of Dan Johnson and MV FeBrina. MV Oceania was completely rebuilt to purpose at the end of the Walindi Plantation Resort wharf. It takes 16 passengers and will also travel further afield to areas like Rabaul, Kavieng and Milne Bay.
Walindi's first dive boat 'Ema'
The day boat fleet has grown to include Ema, Cheyne and Charmaine
It has been a long road to reach the Walindi Plantation Resort we see today. It is our life's work and an investment of time, finances, passion and focused mental and physical input. Walindi Plantation Resort has developed a momentum of its own. Along with scuba diving, the snorkelling is spectacular. Bird watching in the area has begun to flourish with an appreciation of some of the rarest birds on the planet being identified. Nearby village visits can be arranged and excursions to swim in thermal pools are popular. There is an increased interest in trekking throughout the area to observe and be surrounded by primary rainforest and all that it offers. WWII aircraft wrecks in the vicinity
serve as a reminder of the devastating conflict, which enveloped this whole island from 1942 to 1945.
In 2008, Prof. Charlie Veron, former Chief Scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences and world's most published reef scientist, stated the following after a reef study of the Bay; "The coral reefs of Kimbe Bay take me back forty years to a time when corals grew in lush profusion, untroubled by all the problems that beset them today. A short boat ride from Walindi Resort and I am diving on reefs that have half of the coral species of the entire Indo-Pacific, all awaiting those rare opportunities that come only with the clearest water. I am hard pressed to think of anywhere on earth that has this combination of vibrant health, diversity and beauty". Such statements have both encouraged and helped keep us focused on continually nurturing and expanding the Resort over the years.
Since we started down this particular road back in 1983, we have journeyed into realms and directions we never deemed possible or expected. Throughout the journey, in the good times and the not so good, the beauty, excitement and wonder of Walindi and the reefs in Kimbe Bay have remained a constant. To all those people who have visited Walindi and joined us, however briefly, on our road of discovery, thank you, and we hope to see you again soon, and those who have not visited us yet we look forward to welcoming you to our family home.
Cecilie & Max Benjamin today, celebrating over 50 years (2016) in Papua New Guinea.
Max & Cecilie with their son Cheyne, his wife Ema and their son Kobi.
Walindi plantation resort
kimbe bay, papua new guinea
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