Leslie Kim is a representative from Stanford Travel/Study, one of our travel partners, and kindly offered to write a blog post about our time in Santa Ana Island.
We finally awoke to sunshine and blue skies in this idyllic pearl of the Solomon Islands. As occurred in Utupua, each Zodiac that arrived at the beach landing was greeted by a fierce “welcoming committee” composed of local men dressed in warrior costumes and brandishing spears and machetes (although today’s adult warriors were not nearly as cute as the children at Utupua). A highlight of the day was certainly watching the beautifully dressed local men and women perform their traditional dances. While the people of Owa Raha are Melanesian, their dress and many of their customs and even language have Polynesian origins.
Following the dances we broke off into several groups, some going to look for birds, others on nature walks, including a short but fast-paced hike to a nearby freshwater lake where several travelers went for a swim.
But, probably the most exciting event of the day happened to one of our intrepid travelers, Bill Crawford, who decided that today was the day he wanted to try chewing betel nut. For those who don’t know, betel nut grows in the tropical climates of South East Asia and is popular in the South Pacific Islands; it is chewed as part of social occasions and everyday life. Betel nut has a mild stimulant effect and, in addition to reasons of tradition, local people chew it for stress reduction, heightened awareness, and suppression of hunger. It is also the culprit of the brilliant red-stained teeth and lips of the local men and women in Papa New Guinea. Not to be intimidated by its reputed narcotic effects (and with the assistance of our cultural expert, Suzanne Noakes), Bill did indeed chew the local betel nut. After nearly passing out and being surrounded by about a hundred villagers who bathed his feet and head and brought local plants to revive him, he happily survived to tell the tale.