The Story of How Kosrae Village Happened
How did you get here?
This is one of the most common questions we hear.
So this is the LONG story of “Who we are and how we got here”
In 1991 a chance encounter lead to the culmination of a dream. Actually several dreams. Bruce, Madison and Katrina were on a collision path in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that lead to Kosrae Village.
In the late 80s, with the children growing up and moving out we (Bruce and Katrina) decided that a lifestyle change would be a good move. Although we both had successful careers in the San Francisco area, something was missing.
We were involved in marine conservation activities on the California coast and were frustrated that it seemed to be impossible for individual voices to be heard.
So we decided that a smaller place, where people shared our interests would be a better place to live.
After some thought we decided that since diving and the ocean was our passion, the time was right to become professionally involved.
The plan called for a full diving operation in a tropical location where we would have an opportunity to contribute to the sustainable development of a remote location, with special emphasis on marine conservation.
The relocation criteria – US friendly, politically and seismically stable, English spoken, in the early stages of development with easy air access and an accessible coral reef in a tropical location – seemed to be met when Bruce read an article about Kosrae Island in Micronesia, one of the former US Trust Territories.
We decided to take an extended vacation exploring the former Trust Territories, now the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of Palau, Guam and the Northern Marianas (Saipan, Tinian and Rota) with an eye to relocation.
Kosrae Island was the first stop in the FSM and a truly spectacular find. Coming in on the plane we were greeted by dramatic emerald mountains rising from the deep blue sea, surrounded on all sides by stunning coral reefs.
We found that the people were just as magical as the land and ocean, warm, friendly and welcoming. Like many others have said since, when it was time to leave for the next island, we found ourselves saying, “we should have planned more time *here*”.
It was during this first exploratory trip that we met Madison Nena, then the Kosrae State Tourism Officer.
Over the course of our first visit we became friends with Madison and his family and discovered that he had dreams as well.
Preservation of Kosrae’s unique cultural heritage and conservation of the Island’s ecosystems were twin passions that Madison hoped to fulfill via sustainable ecotourism.
After several trips, we decided that the rewards were worth the risks and that the three of us would make a good working team. As we began to discuss the physical layout, we discovered that Madison’s dream called for an old pre contact village (with some modern amenities), using traditional construction skills and materials.
It sounded perfect to us, the design and physical layout of Kosrae Village was born.
This was followed by several years of planning, paperwork and a search for land. Since the business is partially owned by non FSM citizens, we are not allowed to purchase land, but leasing has been a good alternative for us.
Kosrae and the rest of Micronesia have a very strong tradition of the land belonging to and remaining in a family, not a single individual.
To support this tradition and to protect the islands from becoming entirely owned by non Micronesians, the Micronesian founding fathers wisely made Micronesian citizenship criteria for owning land. We are very fortunate in finding a family willing to lease their entire land parcel to us.
In November of 1994 construction finally began. It was generally assumed that we would build a construction road across the channel and bring in heavy equipment to level, fill and bring down the big trees. However we had two major goals, to emphasize traditional skills and to protect the fragile soils as well as the surrounding water ways.
So we did it the traditional way, felling two coconut trees created a foot bridge across the channel and became our “construction road”.
We used people power, rather than power fueled by petroleum burning engines, protected the land, the reef from siltation and other noxious run off, brought down only those trees that were dangerous and helped develop pride in local traditional skills.
By September 1995 we were ready for a “soft” opening, meaning the restaurant and dive shop were ready for business and one cottage was ready for guests.
It may seem like it took a very long time for the first 3 buildings to be complete, but there is a huge amount of “unseen” work that goes on in construction projects. Miles (at least it felt like miles!) of leach lines, plumbing lines and electrical lines to be buried, all the septic tanks to be built, etc. etc.
Of course it did take us a little longer since all of the construction was done by hand. We knew that the use of heavy equipment would mean compacting the soils and require that many of the huge trees would have to come down. Using the traditional techniques conserved the building site as well as preserving the traditional skills.
Very soon after our September opening, two more cottages were ready and the next three followed quickly.
Very soon after our September opening, two more cottages were ready and the next three followed quickly. The ongoing development of Kosrae Village was (and continues today) to be in full swing, with suggestions and recommendations from guests, staff and other friends being incorporated at every step. And, yes, like the rest of Kosrae, at Kosrae Village we have maintained the warm, friendly and welcoming tradition.