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Old 14-11-2002, 12:07 AM
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The Magic of Lakekamu

Story by Steven Mago - Photographs by Stewart Serawe FPCD

Our adventure at the Lakekamu Basin started in Port Moresby when we wre asked to run a tour guide training workshop for the local people. Before Steward Seware from the Foundation for People and Community Development (FPCD) first spoke to me about the training trip, I had always wanted to visit the project as I had heard so much about it.

I was more excited about the trip when we were told we were flying to Wau in Morobe Province first, since it was the only way to get there. Without much information on hand, I knew this was a place that would be perfect for tourism development - off the beaten track and having everything in store for eco tourists.

If it weren't serious, it would have been funny - flying into Wau first to get to the Lakekamu Basin in the Gulf Province. The reason - Lakekamu is much closer to Wau than to Kerema. Also, there is no air service direct from Kerema to Lakekamu Basin's Kakoro Airstrip.

For those who have not been there, Lakekamu Basin is a 2,500 square kilometre expanse of pristine alluvial rainforest that takes in the inland mountains of Morobe Province and lowlands and swampy plains of the Gulf Province.

A typical Lakekamu Village :
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Old 14-11-2002, 12:15 AM
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It indeed is a hotspot of unique biological diversity. When you get there, there is a somewhat mixed feeling about the true characteristics of the place. You will feel it's a mountain region given the high altitude, high intervening mountains, fast flowing rivers and gorges, yet you are also able to find swampy grassland plains, teeming with lowland birds and animal life and staple foods like sago, banana, aibika, coconuts and pineapples.

According to the Foundation for People and Community Development, Lakekamu Basin serves as a refuge for numerous threatened and endemic species of plants and animals. Some of these include the Great Southern Cassowary, Gurney's Eagle, Lowland Wallaby, Buff-faced Pigmy parrots, the Great-billed heron and the Clinging Goby.

This conservation project is managed by FPCD as an Integrated Conservation and Development programme in collaboration with Conservation International. The main thrust of the project is to link sustainable socio-economic opportunities while conserving the natural resources of the people.

The team to Lakekamu was made up of myself, tourism project development offi.cer Nathan Kumin and FPCD field officer and our host for one week, Stewart Seware. Our introduction to Lakekamu began on a Friday at the Islands Nationair terminal in Port Moresby where we caught a North Coast Aviation Britten Norman Islander for the one-hour flight to Wau. We had to overnight in Wau, at a well-furnished guesthouse at Wau Ecology Institute, a perfect reminder of the cool climate of the Highlands.

Arriving at the Kakoro airstrip the next day, we were met by nearly a hundred local people, some of whom had heard of our visit and others who come to the airstrip every Saturday and Wednesday to see the plane and find out who's coming and going.

The purpose of our trip to Lakekamu Basin was to conduct a training workshop for tour guides. Unlike other places that I had been to, the interest shown by participants was so high, we had about 60 participants when we were supposed to only have 20. Among the group were eight women, a flfSt in the history ofTPA's nationwide tour guide training.

The local people also cooperated well. Every day, they would bring food to us at the Kakoro Guest House, one of two in the Basin. These houses, which have mainly catered for students and researchers, are built from bush materials and equipped with basic furniture, lamps, mosquito nets and mats and give- the weary traveller the ultimate village experience.
The delicious meals prepared by local hosts included the local staple diet of saksak (sago), greens, cassava, kaukau, taro, banana and yams. A mumu can be arranged for those who want to witness how local food is prepared traditionally in earth ovens.

There's so much to see in the Basin's collection of fascinating natural beauty and cultural lifestyles barely touched by Western influence. Those culturally oriented will witness the unique cultures of the four distinct language groups, their traditional dances and hi/as (decorations), elaborate artifacts and legends or take guided tours to sacred sites.


Local people from the basinincrease their income by small scale alluvial minig.
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Old 14-11-2002, 12:23 AM
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The conservation project has a research station at Ivimka, which is situated approximately four hours walk north from Kakoro. Constructed in 1996, it is used as a base for field training of natural history students and facilitates new field research and long term small monitoring programmes. It is well equipped with a reference library, comfortable lodging, work area and a guesthouse.

In terms of tourism development in the Basin, excellent opportunities are in store for bird watching, trekking, caving, orchid viewing, white water rafting and butterfly watching.

The local people are working very closely with FPCD to identify eco- enterprises that could be developed to benefit them. What is important is how the local people have been involved right from the start and the opportunities the project man~gers have given them to be part of all decision-making processes.

Like the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Project in Eastern Highlands, the aim is to educate the local people about the importance of their forests and wildlife and the use of forest resources in a sustainable manner. Along with this objective are efforts to involve local people in socio-economic activities that would generate
income to supplement their livelihood.

Early morning market at Kakoro Village :
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