|The garden behind the LoLoMo Resort, where hundreds of flowering wild orchids thrive.|
We walked down through mud and coral as we headed back to our boat. This marked the end of the first part of our trip – visiting health posts in Temarae and Baeroko. Our boat now went back through the narrow channel leading towards Munda, and then turned again into a series of spectacular lagoons. Several simple tourist resorts had been built on the islands here and one of these was our next destination.
The rain stopped as we approached LoLoMo eco-resort. “Idyllic” is an over-used word in the Pacific, but this resort, with eight rooms built from local materials on stilts at the edge of a sheltered channel between two islands, with hundreds of fish easily visible in the clear emerald blue water, an extraordinary “garden” of hundreds of flowering wild orchids behind the huts, oaths into the thick forest for bird-watchers to explore and a restaurant area where we were served a magnificent spread of lobster, shellfish and sea-fish really was something out of a tourist brochure's dream world. (and for me the kittens running around were yet another attraction).
The LoLoMO eco-resort was also a Rural Development Program project – a Solomon Islands Government project supported by the World Bank, Australia, the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. This particular resort was not a community project like most implemented under the program, but financed out of a different part of the program’s grant to the Solomon Islands. The owner had approached a local commercial bank for a loan to help him build the resort.
|The wharf at LoLoMo Resort looks like it's straight out of a tourism brochure.|
Under the program such projects could benefit from additional support. The bank loaned the borrower 40 percent of the investment, he had to provide 20 percent and program added a grant of 40 percent. This was for small enterprises in remote areas – certainly a fair description of LoLoMo, an hour or more by boat from the nearest airfield. The construction had been completed just before Christmas and the business had started well, with full occupancy over the Christmas period from “locals” who wanted to see a new resort.
However, since then it seemed that they had had very few visitors – there was no one staying there when we passed through. It was not clear how widely the resort was publicised (I must check Google to see if I can find it there) or what the owner was doing to market his wonderful resort.
As we continued to our next destination we noticed quite a few other small resorts in equally beautiful sites, and we also noticed that many were well publicised at Munda (the gateway to this archipelagic area) – often with carefully selected “niche” specialities – dugong or crocodile watching, diving, deep sea fishing etc. It looked like LoLoMo faced a lot of competition and we wondered if the bank's loan would be repaid.
To be continued.