7 – 9 July 2010

Imbu Rano Lodge

The only chance we had during this entire expedition to visit a forest was here in the Pacific. A forest, you might ask? What has that got to do with the Coral Triangle? With marine life?  Nature, from the highest forest to the deepest sea has deep links to each other.  There is an interconnectedness in nature that, if left alone, results in perfect harmony. Rains fall, sun shines, waters flow, birds fly, insects thrive, trees grow, rivers flow, corals spawn, fish swim and so on and on. BUT once the cycle, this interconnectivity is broken, when the forest is barren, mountains erode. Rains cause floods as no roots are there to suck in the water. Rivers silt up causing corals to suffocate. And where there are no coral reefs, there will be no fish as they will have no place to live.

And here in the equatorial region of the Coral Triangle where there is a lot of sunshine, warmth and rain, the reef and rainforest are at its most diverse. We visited a virgin forest in Mt. Rano staying in the new forest lodge called Imbu Rano. It is high up in the clouds (with Imbu meaning mist or fog) at 380 meters above sea level in Kolombangara, Western Province of the Solomon Islands.  Kolombangara, roughly meaning “Water Lord”, is a crater mountain that peaks at 1,770 meters with 80 rivers and streams running through it.

"Imbu" meaning mist or fog in Mt. Rano is what the lodge is named. Imbu Rano Lodge

“Imbu” meaning mist or fog in Mt. Rano

With many people passionate about preserving Kolombangara’s amazing biodiversity, a lodge was established in 2009 to become a scientific education centre and an idyllic place to stay for visitors interested in bird watching, hiking and mountain climbing.

A lodge in the clouds. Imbu Rano after sunset

A lodge in the clouds. Imbu Rano after sunset

We bought our food needs in Ringgi town and prepared our own meals in the lodge – very much reminding us of our camping activities in Australia! It was glorious. For two full days and nights, we felt like we were back home in the rainforest of Far North Queensland. It was so similar.

There is no electricity in the lodge. On our first night, we had a strong kerosine lamp along with the many hurricane lamps to light our gourmet meal of corned beef and rice. After dinner, we walked the dark forest to look for insects and frogs.  The frogs croaked and they were everywhere. I found four and they were tiny! Much tinier than how they sounded! But no photos as they jumped away as soon as our torches found them! After an hour’s walk and not much to show for it, we went back to the lodge and lo and behold, a swarm of moths surrounded the table. It was the classic “Don’t look into the light!” situation, as all the insects were attracted to the strong light of the pump lamp!  We immediately set up the tripod and coaxed each and every moth to get his portrait taken. There were so many different moths and all so intricate and beautiful!

Three beautiful moths on a forest fern

Three beautiful moths on a forest fern

The details of the wings, eyes, antennae of each moth were stunning. We could have done this the whole night and not get bored. Nature is simply perfect!

The details of the wings, eyes, antennae of each moth were mesmerising. We could have done this the whole night and not get bored. Perfect nature!

The next day, we trekked the supposed 3 hour walk down the river and up again to the lodge. It was the steepest walk I had ever done in my life! Going down was steep but the going up was even steeper!. We walked this 3 hour walk the whole day – a full 8 hours! We were stopping and setting up tripod and photographing with every massive tree that we passed. It was great but after a while, I had to tell Yogi to stop it already and move on.  When we reached the river, the sun came out. It was overcast most of the time but with the sun out, it was utterly magical. Then it was the task of going up. I asked our guide how many hours and he said with a poker face, three hours. With the way Yogi was shooting, five hours. I thought he was pulling my leg, but he wasn’t! It was quite a climb up that went on and on. Although we loved it, we know why we stick to the marine environment! Here are some pictures showing the wonderful world of a rainforest:

The one of many trees and plants we stopped and photographed. This one was beside our room outside the lodge

The one of many trees and plants we stopped and photographed. This one was beside our room outside the lodge

Roots sticking out of the tree trunk. It helped to cling on to anything along the steep walk way - vines, roots, tree trunk, anything! But I still fell on my butt a number of times!

Roots sticking out of the tree trunk. It helped to cling on to anything along the steep walk way – vines, roots, tree trunks, anything! But I still fell on my butt a number of times!

One monster tree

Monster trees! And the way out of there was behind those trees going up and up and up some more . . .

There were lots of ferns and epiphytes or air plants in the rainforest

There were lots of ferns and epiphytes or air plants in this tropical rainforest

Moss and lichens and fungus and all sorts of bugs covered the forest. Life was exploding in this untouched habitat!

Moss, lichens, fungus and all sorts of bugs covered the forest. Life was exploding in this untouched habitat!

A cryptic bug spider that didn't want his photo taken. It kept turning away!

A cryptic bug spider that didn’t want his photo taken. It kept turning away!

And the orchids! Oooh they were pretty pretty flowers . . .

And the orchids! Oooh they were pretty pretty flowers . . .

And the finale, the river!

And a river runs through it. Following this river somehow brings you to the Kolombangara crater. But it was too far away for us slow pokes.

And a river runs through it. Following this river somehow brings you to the Kolombangara crater. But it was way too far for us slow pokes.

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