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Australian ex-pat, Dave Ryan was working in Port Moresby when he fell under the spell of Papua New Guinea’s waves, people and culture. Dave’s passion for Australia’s northern neighbour inspired him to help Andy Abel establish the Surfing Association of PNG (SAPNG). SAPNG’s unique model aims to ensure that surf tourism in P.N.G remains a sustainable industry that benefits local communities whilst delivering memorable experiences to travelling surfers.
For the last twelve years Dave has run the Vanimo Surf Lodge. Blessed with an abundance of swell and quality waves, Vanimo is located on the north shore of mainland PNG, approx’ 1 hour drive from the western border. It boasts its own international standard airport and is only a short, connecting flight away from the capital, Port Moresby.
Below, Dave discusses everything you need to know about a trip to Vanimo, including why you will be guaranteed uncrowded waves.
Note: If Vanimo piques your curiosity find their website here or send any queries to email@example.com
What time of year is the optimal surf season?
November to March although April has fired as well due to changing seasons.
Can you surf all year round?
No, basically there is a 6-month window from November to April
Where is Vanimo located in Papua New Guinea?
Vanimo is located on the north shore of mainland PNG approx’ 1 hour drive from the western border and has its own international standard airport.
How many breaks are in close proximity to the lodge?
There are eight breaks within a 15-minute drive from the lodge with two excellent breaks within a short stroll, both a long right and a long left.
What are the surf breaks like? Are they beach, reef or points?
Surf breaks are predominantly limestone rock bottoms with sand and seaweed growing over them. There is no coral to be concerned about. There is a sand bottom break near town for beginners.
Is there something for surfers at all levels?
Yes, surfers at all levels can surf different parts of these long waves. The main break, a very long right-hander accommodates all levels with a deep channel to paddle back out. There is also a super easy beachbreak near town and at the other end of the scale there is a dredging shelf barrel for experienced surfers only.
Can surfers expect reasonably uncrowded conditions?
The lodge is capped by a sustainable surf management plan agreement, which limits the number of visiting surfers at 16 maximum and we average approx’ 4-6 surfers at the lodge. There are no boats allowed in which really differentiates Vanimo from a lot of other locations.
What are the local surfers like? Do they welcome you?
Local surfers are few and as part of the surf area management plan they are required to welcome guests and give wave priority to visitors so that they have a pleasant experience. We collect AUD$15 per day which goes to the local villagers to maintain the surfing areas.
What size waves do you get in Vanimo?
We get waves generated from monsoons in the northwest and large north east Pacific swells coming all the way from Hawaii. Size varies from 2-10ft but even on the larger days if you are after a smaller wave you can just sit further down the line.
What is the Surf Area Management Plan and how does it work?
The Vanimo Surf Area Management Plan (VSAMP) is part of a national initiative from founder Andy Abel, to manage surf locations as sustainable tourism giving PNG its uniqueness and guaranteed uncrowded breaks. We collect AUD$15 per day per surfer and these funds are distributed at the end of the season to all parties of the local agreement which in turn can be used for local village projects.
How do you get to Vanimo Surf Lodge from Sydney? (Do you need to overnight in Port Moresby?)
There are a number of options available to travel to Vanimo from Australia. Just recently Air Niugini has introduced some same day connects from Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. Otherwise an overnight in Port Moresby allows a comfortable stopover at on of the various high-end hotels available.
What airlines fly to Papua New Guinea?
Air Niugini, Qantas and sometimes Jetstar and Virgin.
What can you do in Port Moresby when overnighting?
When in Port Moresby you can hire a hotel bus OR reputable cab and tour the Bomana War Memorial, Botanic Gardens, PNG artefacts gallery, have a sunset meal and drinks at the Royal Papuan Yacht Club OR just relax by the pool at your hotel and enjoy a meal there. For the more adventurous, there are nightclubs but care should be taken selecting which ones.
Where else in Australia can you fly into Papua New Guinea from?
Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns.
How long is the flights from Australia to Port Moresby then onto Vanimo?
Sydney to Port Moresby is approx’ 4 hours and Port Moresby to Vanimo can vary from 1.5 hours direct OR 3.5 hours with scenic stops at Lae, Wewak and Madang
How far are you from the airport in Vanimo?
10 minute drive
What type of menu can surfers expect at the surf lodge? Any local delicacies or dishes you recommend?
The food served caters for all tastes and dietary requirements. Local fresh fruit and vegetables are sourced daily along with protein such as eggs, meat, chicken and locally caught fish. We have plunger coffees and the occasional fresh baked cake in the afternoon.
What about the local beer or beers available?
Local beer is South Pacific Lager and South Pacific Export Lager, both are thirst-quenching beers.
Can you purchase locally made artefacts and goods and bring them back to Australia?
Yes, you can purchase local artefacts but you need to declare them when entering Australia if they contain wood products.
Is it difficult to bring alcohol in?
No, duty free alcohol is allowed within travel limits.
Is surf hardware available in Vanimo – fins and wax etc ?
The surf lodge carries a few spare items but you are best advised to bring your own gear. We do have hire boards and hire SUPs.
What health services are in Vanimo?
Vanimo Base Hospital is quite good and only a 10 minute drive away. We have a team of Australian doctors that frequently assist in voluntary training at the hospital. All surfers must have some form of travel insurance.
Does the Vanimo Surf Lodge support the community? How? Employment? Health? Medical? Hospital?
YES, we employ local staff, buy local produce, sponsor local sport and have voluntary medical training at the hospital.
Apart from surfing, what else can you do in Vanimo?
Fishing is a popular alternative as is snorkelling in the shallows. Guided waterfall bushwalks are also available. A trip to town to buy artefacts etc is also popular as is watching the local play football and they are always up for a friendly chat.
Do you have a Vanimo Surf Lodge website or Facebook or Instagram presence?
Yes, you can check out volumes of information on our website vanimosurflodge.com , photos, online booking etc. There are also plenty of videos and photos on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
How would someone make a booking for Vanimo Surf Lodge?
Most bookings come through travel agents e.g. World Surfaris, The Perfect Wave etc. but we do offer an online Booking facility and you can check availability under the Bookings tab calendar.
Who should anyone contact if they have any questions regarding the Vanimo Surf Lodge?
Send any queries to firstname.lastname@example.org or find their website here.
Has COVID affected the lodge and do you need to quarantine on arrival?
We have been shut from April 2020 until now. We are taking bookings for this coming season from November 2022 to April 2023. Any bookings cancelled due to COVID pandemic travel restrictions are fully refundable.
How long do surfers typically stay for on a trip? One week or two? A month?
It varies we have anything from 7 to 28 day bookings and groups of 10 or more can have an exclusive lodge use booking which proves to be quite popular.