Kate in Bougainville

By Kate Logan

Our initial arrival into Bougainville’s Buka town was a buzz with the excited trill of circling speedboats and curious locals all pleased to see us. After clearing customs we sailed down to Tinputz where we were lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins en route.

Uto in Tinputz

The Uto in Tinputz

The welcome ceremony at Tinputz was mind blowing – and not just from the beetle nut. Our crew received a traditional welcome with sing sing and dancing, as well as a foot bathing ritual for safe passage on arrival. To reciprocate, members of our Fijian crew performed a kava ceremony for the chiefs of the village as well as an energetic Bole that was enjoyed greatly by all the locals.

There were many speeches made by local cocoa growers and members of the community about the importance of sustainable agriculture in Bougainville. Gabe Davidson from the Wellington Chocolate Factory spoke about the purpose of our voyage in transporting locally sourced cocoa beans back to Wellington, and how he hopes it will be the first of many future transactions to take place with cocoa growers in the region.

Our stay in Tinputz was very enjoyable and we were most grateful for the kind hospitality of the locals, especially Ursula Rakova, who provided us with an onshore space to cook and hangout in and was always so helpful. Myself and Lambert (the best cook ever) took art supplies to the preschool that exists at Ursula’s place and did some art projects with the kids there. They were quite shy to start off with but they soon got into the swing of things and enjoyed experimenting with all the different materials provided. Thanks heaps to The Learning Connexion for gifting these great art supplies. I’m sure they will be well utilized!

Tinputz child

The Wellington Chocolate Factory team went and visited James Rutana at his cocoa farm and were able to see first hand the drying machine for which this project had raised money for. It was especially great for Mandie, one of our NZ voyagers, to be able to see this as she was one of the main sponsors towards this project.

Eventually the tonne of cocoa beans purchased from James’s farm were brought down to the wharf in Tinputz and with much sweat and gusto 16 sacks were loaded into both hulls of the Vaka. The local kids and adults who had been curiously watching the Vaka from shore were invited on board for a tour by Skipper Angelo. All in all it was a great spectacle and an enjoyable occasion for all involved.

Robert and Rochelle

Robert Critchley and Sankamap Exports with Rochelle

Getting ready to go again

The Uto crew and locals after loading the cocoa onto the Vaka

Sadly for me now my time on this voyage has come to an end, as I have to get back to my land bound reality in Aotearoa. It has been an adventure of a life time and one I will cherish forever. It was a pleasure getting to know and document such and lovely bunch of individuals and I feel honoured to have been accepted in as part of the crew – vinaka vakalevu!

The Uto ni Yalo has now set sail for Honiara where they will stop briefly before continuing on into the wintery south pacific. I look forward to meeting them in Wellington and jumping back on board to document the arrival. Safe sailing till then crew. It’s been a blast. Moce.



Kate and local dudes

Voyage progress

By Sera Price

The team have made it to Bougainville!! They could not believe their eyes or ears with the warm welcome from hundreds of people at Tinputz District. The singing as they sailed into the bay was amazing!!

bigger team

Our bigger team

They were hosted by the lovely and inspirational Ursula Rakova of Tulele Peisa, a local NGO “striving for strength and action” for the people of the Carteret Islands whose land is badly affected by climate change and subduction. Have a look at their website here. Ursula has been doing all kinds of good things for the people of the Carteret Islands. Thank you so much Ursula for your warmth, kindness and generosity.

The team spent time with James on his plantation, seeing and learning how he does things and hearing about the positive changes the upgraded dryer has made. The work is easier and the quality of the beans has improved remarkably, fantastic! Rochelle’s done herself a deal to come back and help out with a harvest, she’s truly bean to bar.

rochelle gabe and james

Gabe, Rochelle and James

Since Bougainville is quite a big place (in island terms) with significant diversity and history the team had a bit of a look around. They visited the Panguna Mine to get a better understanding of the Bougainville Crisis and stayed over in a village. Thank you Bosco of Bougainville Tours for orgnising that, it was an unforgettable experience, they loved it.

The team met up with Robert Critchley of Sankamap Exports who did an excellent job getting the beans export ready. The beans were well taken care of, they were in excellent condition and expertly packaged ready for the journey. He even made special smaller sacks so they could be carried and maneuvered around the boat easier. Excellent service!

Rochelle and Gabe carrying cocoa

Digging deep (half the weight of a normal bag of cocoa)

marlon carrying cocoa

The oh-so-photogenic Marlon

putting cocoa on the boat

Everyone’s helping out

The trip wasn’t without its challenges but we had great local support. These people truly made the trip, thank you for your support and assistance! In particular, Raymond Moworu of the Division of Commerce, ABG and Paul Bedggood who organsised this warm and spectacular visit. James and Gary for growing excellent cocoa and sharing your passion with us. Robert for your professionalism, advice, and patience. Ursula for your warmth and generosity in hosting our team and organising a truly spectacular welcome. Gabe is still lost for words.

I have taken the initiative to make a start on the thank you’s, no doubt there will be many many more when the team return. They have just left Bougainville and are on route to Wellington via Honiara, Solomon Islands. Watch this space.


Meet Robert and Sankamap Exports

By Sera

The word sankamap is Pidgin English for sunrise, sun-come-up. Brilliant. It’s also the local name for Bougainville as Bougainville is the first region to see the sun rise in Papua New Guinea.

Sankamap Exports is a locally owned and run cocoa export company, the brainchild of Robert Critchley a young and driven Bougainvillean. Robert was working for PNG’s main cocoa exporter but had become frustrated that Bougainville cocoa was being lumped in with the rest of PNG’s cocoa when it was exported to various places around the world. Bougainville cocoa didn’t really exist.

Robert wanted to change this, plus some. He moved back to Bougainville in 2011 and started up Sankamap Exports, with the tagline: “Putting Bougainville Back on the Map”. Brilliant.


Bougainville cocoa was once known internationally for its fine flavour and good quality but like most things was adversely impacted by the Crisis. Robert wants to put Bougainville cocoa back on the map. His operation has set the bar high for the quality of cocoa he buys and exports, so high in fact that he had to begin exporting copra (dried coconut) because he was rejecting too many bags of cocoa. He understands there is a way to go and that farmers need the tools and support to get back to the quality standards pre crisis. His plans include working with growers to improve their fermentation and drying processes, getting a better price for cocoa and starting to build a Bougainville Cocoa brand.

Meet Robert (far left) and his team:

the boys 1

Sankamap Exports have exported direct to the USA and soon good ol NZ! Robert and the team are going to get the Wellington Chocolate Voyage beans export ready which will include: putting the beans through his winnower (the only one in Bougainville!) to remove any flats and doubles, a bit of hand sorting just to be sure only the best beans end up in the bag, fumigation and phytosanatary requirements, careful packaging, branding, and all the necessary paperwork. Robert and his team are the go-to-guys to get cocoa beans from Bougainville for sure! Email Robert at sankamapenterprise@global.net.pg for more information.

Here are a few photos of Roberts operation, along with a great series of his guys getting a sample ready for us…


Roberts winnower. It does a great job.

carrying sack

Casually carrying a 62.5kg sack of cocoa

the boys

Loading up the truck.


making sack 1

Making a little sack with a very big knife

sorting the beans 1

Hand sorting the best beans


Result. Sankamap cocoa beans, from Bougainville!