VANIMO SURF LODGE
For a long time, Vanimo Surf Lodge (“VSL”) seems to have received the “poor cousin” treatment. It takes an overnight stay each way to get there and back, the runway at the airport has been under repair for ages, which often meant lots of annoying schedule changes or even cancellations, board lengths were limited to 8’ due to plane size and it didn’t have the gourmet buffet food delights of Nusa Island Retreat. The good news is that we can put all that behind us now…..
Set just a few kilometres from the Indonesian border, Vanimo is a magnificent gem that provides everything that we love about PNG. The waves are good – diverse and uncrowded. There are rights, there are lefts, there are hollow barrels and there are long, mellow walls. At VSL, there is something for short boarders, long boarders & SUPers – I surfed all 3 craft-styles at different times during my stay. The airport renovations have been completed and the runway is in great shape. The food at Vanimo is tasty and plentiful (but you do need to like fish and chicken).
VSL itself is situated overlooking the reef break known as Lido Right. From your cabin, it’s a few steps to the beach and then you paddle straight out. In one of those great setups by Mother Nature, when the wind blows onshore at Lido Right, you walk 500 metres through the Lido village to the other side of the headland to Lido Left – where the wind will be blowing offshore. And the Lido Left usually picks up more swell. Again, it’s an easy paddle out from the beach across the lagoon and out to the punchy reef break.
Where it hasn’t been cleared for habitation or a road, rainforest runs right to the ocean edge. Tidy, neat (for PNG) villages overlook the sea and the numerous breaks that dot the area. “Walie what your name?” is the standard greeting, even from the youngest locals (Walie White Man). And then they roar laughing.
The overnight stay in Port Moresby each way doesn’t put you much behind the 8-ball timewise. When you travel to the other PNG camps, you do arrive the same day but almost always after dark, and it can have been a big day out. With the early morning flight from Moresby to Vanimo (via Madang or Wewak), you are in the VSL by late morning and in the surf shortly thereafter. Staying in Moresby helps you slide into “Island Time” – have a massage, enjoy a few beers and maybe a feed with the ex-pats at the Yacht Club.
We surfed several times every day but if the weather does happen to skunk you, or you are just looking for a laugh, there is always fun to be had on the “golf course” at VSL. Comprising 5 holes, each one is a par 3, with the longest fairway being about 30 metres. Only two clubs are required – a wedge and a putter. You must chip from the tee but after that, it’s your call whether you continue to chip or putt. With the course being a combination of coarse cooch grass and sand and there being no difference between the fairway and the “green”, the course record is 14. Consequently, I was pretty pleased with the 15 I shot once. Much better than my usual 20 or 22 for a round.
And I caught the biggest fish of my life. OK, it was “only” a 4-5kg trevally but I thought it put up a decent fight. I was very pleased that I didn’t have to reel in the 15kg Giant Trevally that Andy bagged. Feed the entire camp twice over. We all liked fish.