As they say, one man’s dream is another’s reality. Warran Dipole is one man who has made his dream a reality. Nestling amongst the treetops, literally, is this retreat away from the hustle and bustle of Alotau.
How to get there
The Ulumani Treetops Lodge is about 1hr’s flying time from Port Moresby, about 15 minutes drive by PMV to Alotau, about 20 minutes by speedboat to Wagawaga and about 10 minutes drive up the mountain and voila! you’re there. There are regular flights from Port Moresby to Gurney Airport during the week. Take any bus or taxi from the airport to any hotel in Alotau from which you can hire a speedboat to take you over to Wagawaga Village on the south side of the bay area. You could make arrangements with Warren who will arrange for transportation from Alotau to the Lodge.
Built and operational in 2001, this little known retreat in the hills of Ealeba is a the way of the future in visitor accommodation in villages in PNG. The Ulumani Treetops Lodge (UTL) is a home away from home. The stunning and picturesque views of the bay area – the Tawala side – are worth the steep climb through the bush trek to the 1st bungalow situated at the top of the hill at the edge of a small plateau. Mind you there is a road up to the 1st bungalow for the 4WD but we walked up instead. Well, after huffing and puffing through the roughly marked bush trek we reached the 1st bungalow and boy, was it a relief to feel the mountain breeze on my face as I stood on the verandah taking in the breathtaking views of the north side of the bay area. Magical indeed.
I guess on a fine day one can actually see Alotau town quite clearly from here. Despite it been so late in the day the Lodge was worth visiting anytime I reckon. The spectacular and fantastic views are worth it. But I reckon it is not only that. It is the feeling of serenity and freedom that really got to me. What a place! What a haven for any weary traveller. The Lodge receives mostly holiday makers from Europe throughout the year.
I can confidently say that this type of accommodation is the way to go for tourist accommodation in future especially owned and operated by local landowners like Warren Dipole. For food, you can bring your own especially snacks and other favourites. One could also arrange to have cooked local dishes provided by the local community. The local cuisine will be made up of a variety of root vegetables, fish, fruits and other local staples and delicacies.
Going up to Ulumani Treetops Lodge was an experience in itself. I did not know what to expect. I just kept an open mind and that is perhaps one of the most rewarding things. Do yourself a great favour by keeping an open mind when visiting a new place for the first time. We went up the hill in the air-conditioned 4WD. We left the car on the front lawn of the backpackers bungalow and trekked up the hill to the 1st bungalow which is situated up on the hill on a small plateau.
The owner and custodian of the UTL personally gave us a tour of the Lodge and surrounds and I am so grateful I got to see the Lodge since I’ve heard so much about it. The road was fine in most places but some parts were so rough we had to weave our way very carefully through the passable bits. At one part of the road we had to navigate between two halves of a fallen tree! We did it though.
As we zig-zagged our way downhill, I realized that one of the top selling points of PNG as a tourist destination is the adventure. One has to be adventurous to enjoy PNG. You have to be prepared to rough it part of the way towards the best views of the sea, the ocean, the reefs, the valleys, waterfalls etc and of course learn about the sites of cultural significance such as skull caves and the lot from local tour guides. The Lodge offers local tours of the area and avid bushwalkers and bookworms alike will find this place a real gem in the jungle of PNG’s natural beauty.
I also realized that because the spectacular aspects of this tourist destination are everywhere around us, one doesn’t have to look far to find the reason to visit this country. When we live here we tend to take our beautiful environment for granted, naturally. We make the perhaps immature assumption that huge numbers of visitors are going to come pouring in here because of the natural beauty of this country. But that is not always the case especially this country. We have to step up hospitality and places such as this Lodge are the whole package…yes the whole enchilada! Oui mes amies.
However, having been to 2Island Resort, Manus and the Ulumani Treetops Lodge, Milne Bay, I realize that we have to do a little bit more to complete the tourism experience. The key therefore to this great product – natural beauty – is to provide accommodation and an atmosphere that makes the visitor feel that it is a home away from home. I am sure we are slowly getting there as more and more Papua New Guineans involved in providing guesthouse or hotel accommodation are exposed to the types of tourist accommodation that are both affordable, comfortable and clean within a safe community environment. The bedrooms, the bathrooms and the kitchen areas have to be spotless with clean linen daily for guests and fixtures that actually work!
Most of the visitors to the UTL are holiday makers specifically from abroad. Some come from Port Moresby but these are people who live and work in Port Moresby. We need more of these type of visitor – the holiday maker. The more, the better. This statistic from Warren I must say was sweet music to my ears. We want tourists to come to Papua New Guinea because they want to! It is places like Milne Bay and am sure there are similar places elsewhere in the country which offer a complete package! Yes, products that are irresistible to any visitor looking for a place to enjoy the beauty of this country.
No sooner had we made ourselves comfortable in this wonderful place then it was time to go back to the seafront and back to Alotau on this Sunday evening. I couldn’t help thinking how it would be just wonderful to take a few weeks off to come here and chill out – reading, resting, song writing and blogging. Not a bad thought, you know.
You can find more information on the Ulumani Treetops Lodge here.