Thursday, 7 August 2008

Happy Coconut Day!

I've been celebrating Coconut Day today. In the midst of cold, dark mid-winter Melbourne, you might think there were few coconuts to be spotted. And you'd be right.

But there are plenty of them hanging off palm trees in the Solomon Islands, and a delegation from that Pacific nation was keen to draw the attention of Australia's travel writers to them today.

Once a month the Melbourne members of the Australian Society of Travel Writers meet over lunch to hear the latest developments in the world of travel, and to network just a little.

This month's shebang was amid the grandeur of the Victorian Parliament, in the sinisterly named 'Room K' (is that like 'Room 101'?).

I realised I only knew a few random things about the Melanesian nation: the capital was Honiara, they'd had some civil conflict in recent years, and there was a big battle there in World War II. So I, like many in the room, was a fairly empty vessel into which info about the islands could be poured.

Turns out the Solomons are an interesting place, with some fascinating remnants of war history (including all manner of abandoned military vessels to be snorkelled through or marvelled at in museum compounds, according to the writer next to me). It also, of course, has the scenic beauty you associate with Pacific islands.

In conversation, some were quick to mention that the tourism infrastructure was still in development, and the resorts etc were small and simple - not big and flash like those in Fiji. But as we all immediately realised, that could be a huge plus for many travellers.

Sometimes it's good to have the "tourism infrastructure" just high enough for comfort, but low enough to ensure a genuine experience of the place and its people. And if the Solomon Islanders were anything like their Fijian cousins, they'd be pretty relaxed and friendly.

The slideshow certainly made it look attractive. And I liked their slogan, "Discover Somewhere Different". Straightforward, unpretentious, honest. I'll have to get there sometime. If you'd like a peek at what's on offer, here's a link to the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau's official website.

Coconut Day, by the way, was created to honour that versatile fruit, every part of which is customarily used by the islanders for some useful purpose.

And there's a great story we were told involving the Solomon Islands, a coconut and JFK; but I'll leave it to you to Google that one...