Mick Fogg, Director of Expeditions and Destination Development, Asia Pacific for Ponant, has led more than 300 expeditions through the Sub-Antarctic, South East Asia and Oceania regions in a 15-year career.

He speaks to New Wave about the process of creating a harmonious relationship between remote communities and Ponant’s guests.

How does Ponant consult with local communities before visiting remote destinations?

When considering visiting remote communities in the Asia Pacific region, it is important to have an understanding and respect for the customs and traditions of the people that we wish to visit. There can be certain times of the year, or even days of the week, that are not appropriate for ships to visit.

Once we’ve ascertained that the destination is suitable and can be visited at the right time, I will arrange to travel to the location many months in advance of the first ship visit. This allows me to meet with the local people and ensure there is a desire to have the ship visit and that the visit can be beneficial to the community.

How do you encourage interaction between guests and those who live in remote destinations?

Upon arrival to places in Indonesia and Melanesia it is important that we follow local protocol and be officially welcomed into the village. This is usually followed by traditional performances celebrating our visit. Once the formalities are complete, guest are encouraged to interact with the local people. These unstructured interactions are often the most rewarding, with guests gaining an insight into the traditional way of life.

Do you find passengers form bonds with these communities?

Guests certainly form bonds with individuals and communities. We encourage guests to bring things like school supplies and books that have practical value and can be in short supply in remote areas rather donating money to individuals.

Thinking about the Kimberley, how does Ponant connect with the indigenous population?

We have been working for several years with the major Aboriginal corporations along the Kimberley Coast to provide indigenous engagement for our guests. At present our guests are able to engage with First Nations Peoples at Wijingarra Bard Bard (Freshwater Cove).
Guests experience a welcome to country and are able to hear stories of the Lalai (creation Time) from a Traditional owner of the land.