BY BEN BILUA
Forgot your mirror? don’t worry, we have a natural mirror; the glassy sea in the lagoon can help you fix your hair.
Want to spend a romantic time on a hideaway in total privacy, not a problem, you can have the whole island to your own.
Or, if you are recently engaged and want to strengthen your friendship, visit Oravae and its magic will do the trick.
Oravae Cottage is the taste of the island way of life in the Western Province.
Oravae Cottage is less than 15 minutes’ boat drive west of Gizo, the capital of Western Province and for first timers, 15 minutes will be like 300 seconds, your mind will play you up seeing the beautiful shorelines while cruising to Oravae.
The homestay is equipped with two bungalows suitable for both couples and single travelers; a bar to cool off in the evenings and a beautiful view.
Guests can sit on the balconies and wave to boats cruising past the lagoon or sit on the jetties enjoying their cool beer while watching different colored fish dancing below.
Guests cannot miss boats filled with passengers every morning and evening as market vendors so as people from Vella normally cruise pass the lagoon.
Delicious prepared local seafood for lunch, while enjoying a slide in to the sea on an outdoor slide, water-skiing and swimming are the best giveaway guests will never regret.
Glamorous as you can imagine, but what has been happening to Oravae Cottage in the past years are heart breaking.
I met the owners of Oravae Cottage, Patteson Baea and his wife Naomi Baea during the closing of the Western Solomons Surfing Competition.
They are lovely, polite and generous at all levels. They are resilient and hardworking.
I sat down with Mr Baea and half way through our conversation, I know Baea and his wife are hardworking. They put meaning to the word “resilience”.
Baea recalled that he started the business in 1997.
Three years into the operation the tensions broke out and the family was forced to go and live in Australia.
“When tension broke out in late 1999 to 2000, we decided to leave the country. We went to Australia, which is my wife’s country of origin and stayed there.
“We told our relatives to look after the island for us.
“It was heartbreaking to leave Oravae behind. It’s like leaving a child behind with the care of a nun,” Baea said.
He said his family returned in 2005 and rebuilt what were left after the tension.
This time the homestay is fully furnished with brand new buildings and the setting is beautiful.
As Baea and his wife predict life will return to normal, then the 2007 Tsunami brought the resort to chaos with severe damage to its properties.
“This was another blow to our business. We lost everything, like everything was gone in a matter of minute.
“It was another heart-breaking situation for me and my wife but we stay put and focused on the best response plan,” he said.
Two years later, in 2009 Baea and his hardworking wife picked up the pieces and rebuild from the damages caused by the Tsunami but this time the homestay was nowhere near to where it was after the refurbishment in 2005.
“We built this bungalow first, then we built another one over there, he points to the other bungalow sitting above the sea.
“Before that building, we built the bar and here we are,” he said.
Like every tourism operators, Baea said COVID-19 is another major blow to Oravae.
“Most of our guests came from outside of the country and the travel restrictions as borders close has been a difficult challenge.
“I think the “Umi tugeda Holiday” initiative had given us a little breathing space to do what we loved to do,” he said.
Baea said the local travel bubble gave local tourism operators, especially Oravae a leverage to continue with operation though the devastating impact of COVID-19 to the economy.
As resilient as they are, Baea and his wife are slowly walking hand in hand together to stay afloat.
“Oravae Cottage welcomes local guests to enjoy their time here. “We sell the Island to our guests not rooms. Our markets strategy is; Island of your own. We want our guest to feel free while spending their holidays here,” Baea said.
Reach out to Oravae management for more information.