Andrew Wilkins travels to Loloata Island, near Port Moresby, where an international-standard resort is offering overwater villas, healthy food choices, spa treatments, diving and snorkelling.
Back in 2006, when I made my first visit to Loloata Island near Port Moresby, it was the site of an informal and lowkey dive resort – a handful of lodgings, palm trees and mangroves gathered around a small dive shop.
Returning to Loloata in late 2019, I am in for a big surprise. Port Moresby now has an international-standard resort, on its doorstep.
You still reach Loloata along the Magi Highway. In the intervening years, the road has been improved greatly, so allow 20–25 minutes for the drive, with pickups provided by the resort from any of the capital’s major hotels.
We depart the highway shortly after crossing from the National Capital District into Central Province, and head down to the small marine port at Tahira, where I am invited to check in at the resort’s smart new check-in centre before boarding the twinhulled ferry to the island.
‘You can now get out of Port Moresby without a flight and enter another world’.
After a short and picturesque cruise across the crystal clear waters of Bootless Bay, passing University of Papua New Guinea’s Motupore Island research station, we arrive at the resort’s signature long jetty. While the jetty is more robust than my last visit, it is the sight at the end of it that tells me Loloata has changed remarkably.
There, set to gaze across the bay to mainland, is a smart new 68-room resort, complete with two restaurants, a swimming pool, recreational beach, spa, a conference centre and 22 eye-catching and modern overwater villas.
The development has been financed by the 555,000 members of local superannuation group Nasfund and was built by PNG’s Lamana Group, which also constructed the Taumeasina Island Resort in Samoa, the Grand Pacific Hotel in Fiji and the HeritagePark Hotel in Honiara
While the new resort is much larger than the old one, it is still a sympathetic and appropriate development for a small island, not changing the island’s silhouette against the rising sun. Importantly, it is also a resort that is sensitive to its surrounding environment – a marine reserve.
The smoke-restricted resort produces its own water supply, the soaps and shampoos provided in its bathrooms are
organic, while refuse and laundry are taken off-island for processing.
According to acting general manager Jayesh Naduvil, the resort is aiming for three markets: conferences and events during the week, local and international divers, and short getaways and day trippers at the weekend. Its smart new conference centre has already hosted several events for up to 220 people, while the weekend sees the resort transform.
As Naduvil observes, ‘you can now get out of Port Moresby without a flight and enter another world’. And a relaxing world it is, full of options, depending on whether you want to flop and drop in the Beach Club pool with one of the resort’s signature cocktails or iced teas in your hand, or be more adventurous and
Loloata Island sits on the edge of the Papuan Barrier Reef and there are 29 dive sites around the island where experienced divers can explore its reefs, spectacular sealife, shipwrecks and even a World War 2 Boston bomber. There are also excellent snorkelling sites.
During my visit, Loloata’s PADI-certified dive and activities centre was just about to open, so learning to dive is also now an option.
If you’re not a diver, the resort offers boat trips to nearby Lion Island, where there are some remarkable snorkelling opportunities, while paddleboards and kayaks are provided to guests free of charge on the main beach adjacent to the Beach Club. Or you can just sit in the warm shallows and enjoy the relaxing waters of the Coral Sea.
The island itself is worth exploring. A footpath along part of its shoreline takes you to the smaller, more secluded West Beach, and then up steep steps onto the ‘mountain’ – the highest point of the island – where you can walk the remainder of the island.
This is an excerpt from the article ‘New island resort opens in PNG’, which was first published in the January-February edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini.
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