“The village people are extremely proud of Walindi. Generally, there’s a lot of respect for what we do… so they don’t trash the reefs..” ~ Cecile & Max Benjamin
Papua New Guinea is a special place for divers: Cecilie and Max Benjamin have been showing the spectacular diving of Kimbe Bay in the Coral Triangle in Papua New Guinea for 32 years. The couple are pioneers in PNG dive tourism, and step-by-step established Walindi Plantation Resort, MV Febrina Live-aboard, and Mahonia Na Dari conservation centre.
Max and Cecilie Benjamin have been long term residents of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Both originally from Australia, came to PNG in 1966 and 1972 respectively to work for the Department of Agriculture Stock and Fisheries as agricultural extension officers. Max purchased Walindi Plantation in 1969. The property included over a mile of beach fronting onto Kimbe Bay and the Bismark Sea one of the warmest oceans in the world.
Max & Cecilie learned scuba diving in 1976 and were virtually the first people to explore Kimbe Bay reefs with scuba in the late 1970’s. Scuba Instructor qualifications followed with FAUI (Federation of Australian Underwater Instructors). Breaking News: Cruise ship grounds on pristine coral reef in Raja Ampat National Marine Park causing severe damage, see full post here.
If there is Great Diving People Will come
A diving holiday to the Red Sea in late 1978 inspired an interest in the possibility of sharing the Kimbe Bay destination with fellow diving travelers. “There were two things that came out of that trip. One, we realized we had more species than the Red Sea had, and as time went by it turns out we have twice as much coral and fish and marine life than the Red Sea. The other thing was, that where there was great diving, people would come”. In 1983, Walindi Plantation Resort added 2 beach side bungalows and today the resort has 20 units and welcomes visitors from all corners of the globe.
“We realized that Kimbe Bay was special…the Nature Conservancy was convinced to come and have a look at Kimbe Bay, and they immediately realized that here was something special. They organized an ecological survey in 1994 …and it was from that survey that they realized that Kimbe Bay was very high in diverse marine life…that’s how Mahonia started.”
In the mid 1990’s Walindi Plantation enhanced their reputation for sustainable travel and set aside land for the Walindi Nature Centre. Today, Mahonia Na Dari (MND) Research and Conservation Centre has developed a specialized program called MEEP, Marine Environment Education Program, which teaches local youth ranging across Elementary, Primary and High School levels the value of marine education and marine conservation in their lives and futures. Over ten thousand students have passed through the program so far.
Richest Biodiversity on the Planet
The Mahonia Na Dari Reseach and Conservation Centre has been home to NGO’s such as TNC and James Cook University from Townsville in Queensland, Australia. In 2008, Professor Charles Veron, (Author of the 3 volumes “Corals of the World”), identified Kimbe Bay as having over half the world’s species of hard corals within its confines, 413 species out of approximately 800 total, along with over 900 species of fish. This is a truly remarkable statement of marine biodiversity for the planet.
“Here we are in the middle of the jungle and Walindi has become world famous as a dive resort.”
To learn more about Cecile and Max’s adventures in the jungles of Papua New Guinea running an eco-resort as a sustainable business join us and the Benjamins for their complete interview at Blue Ocean Summit 2015: Cecile & Max Benjamin. and see photos of Kimbe Bay and the Walindi Plantation Resort or find out more about the Mahonia Na Dari Research and Conservation Center. Learn about MEEP the Marine Environmental Education Program at Mahonia Na Dari or visit the Nature Conservancy and to see what they do.
Carving the Walindi Plantation Resort out of the jungles of PNG took years of hard work and passion on the part of the Benjamins and was similar to the devotion that Amy Slate poured into the creation of the Amoray Dive Resort. Although Amoray is a long way form Papua New Guinea, Amy’s passion for marine conservation in the Florida Keys and the educational programs she has introduced reflect the programs established by the Benjamins in PNG. For a preview of Amy Slate’s interview go here: Ocean Profiles: Amy Slate