While some of you may think of Papua New Guinea as an unlikely tourism destination, I’d have to say that after living there for a spell in my younger days, it has all the makings of an incredible adventure, especially if you love diving and water sports. While my weekdays were spent at work in Port Moresby, my friends and I often escaped the city at weekends to head out onto the water and explore deserted islands, some with rusted bombshells scattered about on makeshift, overgrown runways used during World War II.
I have to say that there’s nothing quite like sitting on a deserted beach and watching the sun go down as sleek dolphins frolic in the blue waters and starfish slowly emerge from the wet sand beneath your toes in search of something to eat. Yes, it really was that magical!
We’d often head to one of our favourite places: Loloata Island, home to a small, down-to-earth resort that is easily accessible by a 10-minute boat ride from the mainland. Sometimes, we’d simply stay for the day, paying for a smorgasbord lunch and use of the resort’s facilities that would see us snorkelling the clear blue waters around nearby Lion Island, kayaking, hiking, swimming or just soaking up the sun. Other times, we’d book an overnight stay – and it was these weekends that we had the most fun. Loloata, which means “one hill” in Motu (one of the local dialects), has a dive centre that gives qualified guests access to The Papuan Barrier Reef, often described as an extension of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, while there’s numerous World War II shipwrecks and even a Boston Bomber shot down over the bay that can also be explored.
Without a doubt it would have to be Lion Island. Just a short boat ride away from Loloata, you simply organise your trip with the resort staff and set a time to be picked up. The snorkelling around this island is some of the best I’ve ever experienced, from playing hide and seek with clown fish hiding in their anemone homes, to the colourful whirl of schools of parrotfish flashing by and even sea snakes (stay clear of these!). But my most memorable experience would have to be the giant starfish resting on a ledge near a drop off. It was the biggest I’d ever seen – in fact, it was bigger than a grown man. Seriously!
Of course, the underwater activities are second to none. But if diving or snorkelling aren’t really your thing, there’s plenty of other options available. Kayaking is one of them, and you can explore the rocky outcrops and tiny beaches tucked away around the island. There’s also hiking up the hill that Loloata is named after for an incredible view of your surroundings or just simply dozing on a sun lounger as the slow-paced life of Loloata goes on around you.
There are safety issues in the city of Port Moresby, but Loloata is quite safe. Just take your normal precautions, such as keeping money, passports and other valuables safe, as you would anywhere else in the world. If you are a diver, the tropical wet and dry seasons can play havoc with visibility, so always check the best times to visit so you won’t leave disappointed.
Loloata has a small gift shop that sells a variety of locally made souvenirs, such as the country’s renowned bilum – a handwoven bag that comes in a variety of designs and colours depending on the region it was made in – as well as wood carvings, wooden masks and jewellery.
Loloata has 23 beachfront cabins that can accommodate up to three people, while they can organise extra beds for families. The cabins are not luxurious, but they are comfortable for a weekend trip away. But what they lack in the luxe factor is easily made up with the stunning views from the balconies. It should also be noted that the resort is undergoing upgrades over the next year and bookings will be limited.
1) Diving trips around Bootless Bay
2) Snorkelling on Lion Island
3) Kayaking around Loloata
4) Hiking around the island
5) Boat tours