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Are you interested in a unique holiday experience that offers the satisfaction of helping a remote community help themselves? Does the thought of getting an insider’s view of life and culture with a remote island community interest you? If so, we want to hear from you.
Our first Telling Stories Tour was a great success. We travelled to the remote villages of Rambutso to engage the leaders and community. Using the time honoured method of "telling stories" (sharing experiences), we strengthened community relationships, deepened our understanding of their way of life, their needs and environmental constraints.
Below an article written by Lynne on how PADI's free diving courses conducted by Brad Greentree during the Telling Stories Tour 2008 already saved a life. Watch the interview with local diver Nicky Holen on
Our first Telling Stories Tour was a great success. We travelled to the remote villages of Rambutso to engage the leaders and community. Using the time honoured method of "telling stories" (sharing experiences), we strengthened community relationships, deepened our understanding of their way of life, their needs and environmental constraints.

The motivation for setting up FOR was the death of my youngest brother Fred. Aged 24, Fred was a beche-de-mer (sea cucumber) diver. He died from shallow water black out, an occurrence that is sadly all too familiar in the Pacific.
To help address this FOR and friends helped 75 Rambutso divers complete the PADI “How to Free Dive Safely” course in March this year. In an incredible turn of events, we have just learned that one of these divers – and Fred’s best friend, Nicky Holen - was involved in a diving incident that resulted in him saving the life of his diving buddy. We interviewed Nicky and his story is translated below.
“We had been given training in how to dive and then we were out diving. We had a few days diving and everything was alright and then on the last day, something happened. One man didn't come up. He had dived down in the water to spear a white tooth (a type of beche-de-mer). He went down and speared the white tooth.“
Nicky stayed on the boat/canoe while his mate dived.
“After he speared a fish, he started to return to the surface but he ran out of breath. I saw that he was struggling to come up for air but then he did not have any strength left, he was water logged and started to sink. I dived in to save him but he was too heavy to be brought up to the surface so I signed for more help and another person came to help me. We each put one arm under his armpit and brought him up to the surface and then he started to breath and he cried.”
Nick said how happy he was being shown by FOR on how to dive safely. Recounting the story, Nicky said: “The dive training we did was a very important thing. This was the first time I had ever saved anyone like this. The training we did with Friends of Rambutso who came and showed us how to dive safely really helped me. It can help other divers in other areas in the future. What I think is that we must extend it to others so they can learn how to dive and help rescue others who can't make it to the top.”
Nicky’s story shows how your support is bringing positive change in meaningful ways to the people of Rambutso. This happy ending is also owed in no small way to our wonderful supporters including the folks at PADI who donated their training material and certificates, Project Aware who donated their coral reef health check tools, Tabata Australia who kitted the group out in great snorkel gear at discounted prices, and last of all to Master Instructor Brad Greentree of Pro Dive Drummoyne. Brad conducted the training sessions with side-kick Ruud Dautzenberg. The sessions were a trip highlight and in spite of language difficulties, the pair still managed to have the group sniggering at naughty underwater signals, proving some things truly are universal!
Below Brad's first hand account of our Telling Stories Tour 2008 and watch a shortened version of Rambutso - The Movie on

After a wonderful break and some great diving in Kavieng, I was looking forward to the trip to Manus then onto Rambutso. The Manus province is made up of a number of islands on the northern part of PNG. After spending the night in Lorengau, we got adjusted to the feeling of being in a developing country.
After breakfast we headed out to meet our transport to the Island of Rambutso. The trip can take between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the sea conditions. Today it was perfect. Two banana boats loaded up with luggage, fuel and the 7 of us set off across a very large ocean crossing. Our destination could just be made out in the distance or as our skipper put it so poetically ‘sleeping on the horizon’. We enjoyed a spectacular show of flying fish escorting us along the way as they fly over the deep blue tropical water, with one landing in the boat. The two boats with 40HP Yamaha outboards hummed as we thought about our expectations of the week ahead.
After about 2 hours we arrived at the stone wharf to the sound of beating drums and giggling children running to greet us. We were told to just take our essentials as the rest of the luggage would be taken to the village of Langot, where we would call home for the next 7 days. Drew, Lynne’s brother, grabbed what he deemed essential - his 4 pack of Sorbent toilet paper. Unbeknownst to him we were walking into a village welcoming unlike anything we expected or had seen before. As we made our way across the soccer field, we had men and women dancing around us to the beat of drums, and hundreds of eyes looking at these strange white skinned Aussies. We were the largest group of white people to visit the island in living memory; it must have been quite a sight especially with Drew clenching his essential Sorbent 4 pack!
The greeting was fantastic with food, dancing, and speeches followed by more food, more dancing and more speeches. We did not quite know how to react to the welcome; it was very overwhelming to say the least.
Our accommodation was the home of Fred, Lynne’s brother, who had died almost a year ago free-diving for sea cucumbers. It must have been strange for Ruud and Lynne as since their first visit 12 months ago, the family had been in mourning, meaning Lynne’s mother had not left the house, her other brothers and friends had not shaven and had cut off their hair, and the fishing grounds where he had died had been closed to fishing.
Our accommodation consisted of an elevated well-built building that had 3 rooms. The toilet was a short stroll and the shower was an outside canvas makeshift tent with a bucket that you filled from an upside down fridge with water. We purchased a water tank for the trip and on our arrival it was only about 1/3 full. A few serious showers had it full in the nick of time! Our beds had had a special touch – Papa Nick made them before our arrival. The kitchen was in another house made of sago leaves. This was where Papa Nick (Lynne’s stepdad) and mother slept and cooked.
We settled into our new home before making our way back to the soccer ground for a friendly game with the locals. Now you have no doubt heard of ‘island time’ however one thing was for sure, every afternoon the game would start at about 4pm with enough soccer boots for the team to wear one shoe each! I was feeling a little concerned about my form, considering the last time I played soccer was probably at school! Needless to say I assumed the full back position and let Drew and Ruud play up front with the serious fellas.
After the welcome, the eating and the game of soccer we needed some time to cool off so we went with Lynne’s sister Meleu to a freshwater spring. The cool water instantly rejuvenated us from the sweat and heat of the day. This was to be a sought after destination at the end of each day.
We had a few missions to complete on this trip. Geologist Luc Daigle was to complete a survey of the island; Dr Clare Richmond was to do doctor stuff, Claudette the marine scientist wanted to investigate the status of the local sea cucumber fishery. I was there to teach the PADI free diving course to the local free divers. Ruud was our organiser and helped with the free diving, along with his interest in the development of the soccer team. As it turns out the Rambutso teams are the regional champions in both the girls and men’s league, so I think Ruud is backing some winners! Lynne was interested in education and of course, catching up with family.
With our normal luggage we also took a solar panel and converter, 40 mask, snorkel and fin kits (thanks Tabata!), soccer balls (thanks Goodbuddy Sports!), rechargeable batteries, first aid kits (thanks First Aid Kits Austrlia!) and a number of other items. With some 25 items of luggage, it was a small miracle that it all arrived to our destination. All on taxis, planes, buses, boats, and even a tractor to the final destination!
We had a schedule set out for the week to balance free time with our visits and tasks. This was a very important document as it would take a day or two to inform anyone that we were coming as there is no communication on the island. So on the first day it was no surprise that everyone wanted a copy of our schedule so they knew where we would be and what we would be doing.
I completed 3 free diving courses with the locals. At first, I thought the PADI skin diving course was not going to be a course that would offer any value to the divers who are very capable of diving to 20+m with just a simple mask and snorkel, no weights, and in most cases no fins! I was very wrong. They lapped it up with the same enthusiasm we see people when the latest version of the Xbox comes out! Hand signals and buddy procedures were not things they had encountered, or simple techniques of equalising your ears and the effects of pressure at depth. Shallow water black out, what we believe killed Fred, was not understood, so it was pleasing to offer some valuable information.
With communication limited by their understanding of English and my poor pidgin, I had to crack a joke every 5min or so to see if I got a laugh to know they understood what I was saying. With my class room a picture perfect beach with coconut trees and white sandy beaches, blue 31 degree water, I was having a terrible time! By the end of the 3 days of training I had certified 75 divers in the PADI skin diver course and to my surprise they totally embraced the idea of PADI, Project Aware and the importance of the environment and looking after it. As part of the program we completed a reef health check. Thanks to Project Aware for the information kits. The guys got right into it. Considering they treat the reef with the same respect as we would a stone or rock, (the pidgin translation for coral is “stone”) it was a pleasant surprise to see a small education program have an immediate impact. At times it was just like the time machine movies you see; we had to be very careful how our impact can affect the future. For example, we asked if there were any crocodiles on the island. We were told yes they are on the island. The following morning we were presented with a dead crocodile. We had to be careful what we asked for!
Another example of having a positive impact was the introduction of a battery bin. It was very clear that the people of Rambutso do not have power or lighting so they have to use disposable batteries for lighting. A small survey found the following information:
Each person uses an average of 4 “D” cells per week at a cost of K8 ($4). Old batteries are tossed into the ocean, earthen pits or the bush. The impacts of cheap batteries leaching into the environment are obvious. So we introduced a battery bin as part of the solar battery recharger program. Within 48 hours we had 280 “D” cells, 22 “C” cells, and 21 “AA” cell batteries in the bin! So now we need to replace these with rechargeable batteries at a cost of about AUD $5 each!
With the other projects all going well we believe the trip was a great success and are very much looking forward to going back next year.
If you are interested in helping or seeing our pictures and the mini-documentary email us at ruud.dautzenberg@FriendsOfRambutso.org for all the details.

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