Vanimo Surf Lodge
Vanimo Surf Lodge has a range of surf breaks on the north coast of Papua New Guinea neighbouring Indonesia’s territory of Jayapura. The concept of the Vanimo Surf Lodge was born from friendly conversations between Andy Abel and David Ryan after a few early expeditions in the early 1990’s.
Intrepid surfers have been coming from all over the world to Vanimo since the 1980s as it appeals to the surf traveller with a sense of adventure and exploration.
Vanimo, like a number of other Papua New Guinean locations has remained a relative secret and still today enjoys a low profile as thousands of surfers fly overhead to other locations around the globe overlooking what is basically a wave mecca on Australia’s doorstep. The waves on offer in Vanimo make it an idyllic location for surfers who are looking to surf without a couple of hundred “mates” in the water. On most days you would be lucky to have in excess of 6 surfers at any break and more likely 3-4.
Foresight and planning is the secret to low numbers here as the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea has introduced a global first to maintain and limit the crowds for the benefit of all. The various locations around Papua New Guinea have a limit on the number of visiting surfers and at Vanimo the current limit is 20 visiting surfers spread over 8 breaks.
The ability to travel to the different local breaks by foot, land and sea provides great variety. All breaks are easily accessible and don't require any marathon paddling efforts in distance or through board smashing shore breaks. In saying that the range of waves varies from the easy Town Beach to the freight trains at the right at Log Point and Lido’s Left. Immediately out the front of the Vanimo Surf Lodge within easy view from the restaurant deck area is Lido’s right which peels endlessly over a mostly sand covered rock bottom with enticing backdoor sections similar to Australia’s famous Angourie Point. The size and direction of the surf means that Vanimo’s breaks mostly all turn on at the same time providing plenty of selection. The swell charges in from any northerly direction with nothing to block its path so it breaks from 2-10ft all season.
The local surfers can always be seen to be having a fun time with smiles from ear to ear a real contrast to other countries big name surf destinations. The local surfers are made up of all ages and both boys and girls and it’s encouraging to see that the girls are on equal footing for once in our surfing world. It is a little like what you could imagine or remember what surfing was like in the early days when you looked for someone to go for a wave with to share the good times and witness each other’s barrels.
Vanimo’s surf area offers a total backdrop of tropical wilderness with a view back to shore only occasionally dotted with a village hut amongst the thousands of coconut palms and beautiful tropical jungle.
Visiting surfers often wonder what it “was like 20-30 years ago” and the answer is “not much different at all” apart from a few extra locals who've taken up the sport and often “hoot” you into waves. Another great feature of the surf area management plan is that the small surf fee goes into local community projects and the local surfers are encouraged to ensure all the visitors have an enjoyable experience. So it’s a win/win model for the locals and visitors.
The Vanimo Surf Lodge facing the Lido Right point, opened with 3 huts in November 2011. Co-owned by Papua New Guinean and Australian proprietors, the lodge currently accommodates 10 guests with plans to expand to only 20. It is located on the beachfront adjacent to the small Lido village. The lodge employs a local workforce and ex-pat manager Peter “Moorey” Moore to train the staff in all manner of skills from carpentry to food service and management. There are no surf shops but there are local doctors, hospital, banks, supermarket and pharmacy in town.
Local villagers gather each day in the Vanimo town centre to sell their crafts made from all natural materials. An item worth picking up at the market is a traditional PNG string carry bag called a “bilum”. It is an excellent carry bag for the beach as it is exceptionally strong and allows all the sand to drop out from your beach gear.
Fishing, Snorkling & Diving
Vanimo Surf Lodge has contacts with local villages to facilitate tours around the area and a favourite is the Waterfall tour where you meet with a team of guides who walk you along the cool mountain stream for approximately 2 kms upstream to a series of waterfalls where the water is so refreshing, crystal clear and cool.
The lodge can also arrange snorkelling and game fishing tours on request. The sea abounds with life as you can imagine in this idyllic blue water location without the threat of fishing trawlers attacking it on a daily basis. Local fishing is mostly enjoyed using a handline in a single person dugout canoe. For those looking for some adventure a little further afield the lodge can arrange a day tour into Indonesia’s thriving township of Jayapura approximately 2 hours’ drive to the west but you’ll need to arrange an Indonesian visa either before you leave home or at the Indonesian consulate in Vanimo town.
The lodge clientele ranges from those looking for adventure in waves surrounded by a jungle shoreline in uncrowded waves where smiling and waving dominates any aggression in the line-up which is reserved for the wave faces to those simply wanting to relax by the beach sipping a cool drink such as an iced coconut and mixer of your choice or coffee. Papua New Guinea grows some of the world’s finest Arabica coffee so you can be sure it is as fresh as you can get.
It makes for a holiday atmosphere where you can totally relax in and out of the water, time is not a problem because not many people bother with a watch and nothing much runs on time in Papua New Guinea. Consistent swell is about the only thing that runs on time and most times the season runs early in October and finishes late in May.
Enjoying a meal at the restaurant with a couple of ice cold local South Pacific lagers to wash it down is not a bad way to end the day as the sun sets to the west in a very similar scene to that of Hawaii’s North Shore except there’s hardly anyone around to get in that sunset photo snap. Meals at the lodge are made from locally sourced seafood, meat, chicken, farmed crocodile and vegetables so it’s always fresh and cooked in the traditional way for another cultural experience. If you like fruit there is certainly no shortage as the lodge grows its own red paw paws and there are a wide selection of other locally grown fruits including bananas, mangoes, star fruit, mangosteens, pineapple and even local vanilla beans. On special occasions and also by special request a traditional earth oven cooking feast may be arranged for groups of 8 or more with a day’s notice. The locals are always up for a bit of a chat and you’ll get the chance to learn some “pidgin” English at the same time.