Vanimo, like a number of other Papua New Guinean locations, has remained a relative secret. Today, it still 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 local surfers can always be seen having a fun time with smiles from ear to ear. It's a real contrast to some other '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. It is a little like what you might imagine or remember 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.
The accommodation at Vanimo Surf Lodge is traditional beachfront huts with stylish finishes. The traditional huts blend in with the village surrounds and give the traveller a cultural experience leaving the big city behind. Huts are cleaned regularly and are fitted with mosquito nets, lighting and ceiling fans. They sleep 3-4 people and have ample room for board and gear storage. Vanimo Surf Lodge currently has 3 huts and is co-owned by Papua New Guinean and Australian proprietors. The lodge currently accommodates 12 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 Moore / “Moorey” 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, banks, a hospital, a supermarket and a pharmacy in town.
PNG surf season officially runs from November to April when surf conditions are at their best, but it's not uncommon to score waves during the fringe season of October through to May. Typically, regardless of which direction the wind is blowing, at least half the breaks are offshore.
Vanimo Surf Lodge faces Lido Point, a peeling right hander that can break up to 150 metres and handles up to 8ft and is super consistent during the summer months. Lido point is a friendly wakable right hander that will probably become your new favourite. The racing Lido Left is a 500m walk. Waromo is a drive or boat ride 3km to the west and a further kilometre there is Yako, while Log Point is three kilometres to the east by boat or drive. Further to the east is Town Beach and Narimo Island’s right and left. The Town Beach break is ideally suited to anyone who fancies an easy small sand bottom wave and learning here is a great alternative for the family.
But wait there’s more.. Vanimo is also in close proximity to up to 20 other breaks offering an amazing wave banquet that will satisfy any surfer type. Long board, short board or fish, you’ll find a wave here that’ll be perfect for you.
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. Or just 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. 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. Vanimo Surf Lodge makes for a holiday atmosphere which 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 early May.