Back to basics in Papua New Guinea’s Nuli Sapi


The little Papua New Guinea retreat of Nuli Sapi once came to the attention of global travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet as one of  the world’s best eco-stays. Olga Fontanellaz falls in love with the place too.

Overwater bungalows connected by boardwalks. Credit: Olga Fontanellaz

It’s early morning. We are sitting in bed, watching soaring birds and the fishermen paddling by in their small outrigger canoes. The waves are gently lapping in the mangroves, the sky is blue and the tropical air is still and fresh. Below the porch of our bungalow are the pristine waters of the Solomon Sea.

We are at Nuli Sapi on Logea Island, a 90-minute boat ride from Alotau.

The small retreat has a rustic charm, with just four simple bungalows on stilts above water. Set at the edge of a small mangrove forest, the bungalows are connected by boardwalks. Built entirely from bush materials, they come with a queen bed, a verandah with sweeping views of the China Strait, and a shower with refreshingly cool water. Mosquito nets and cold SP beer are the only mod cons.

‘The evenings are spent in the haus win eating locally grown vegetables, including unique young aigaru leaves, freshly caught fish and chilli mud crabs, all washed down with cold SP lager.’

Logea Island is one of the Milne Bay Province’s 160 named islands, and Lonely Planet nominated Nuli Sapi as one of the world’s top 10 eco-stays in 2014.

Energetic Australian Kayleigh Colbran and her US partner, Joe Boucher, have been running it since 2012. While sailing the world, the couple arrived at this remote corner, got stranded near the neighbouring Samarai Island and never left. In collaboration with the local community, landowners and cousins, Isiah Mwado and Manian, they opened the tiny retreat.

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Nights are spectacular, with skies full of bright stars. The evenings are spent in the haus win (a Tok Pisin word for an open-air gazebo) eating locally grown vegetables, including unique young aigaru leaves (delicious when cooked in coconut), freshly caught fish and chilli mud crabs, all washed down with cold SP lager.

Lazy days

During the days, we swim, sometimes straight off a boardwalk over soft and hard corals, trying to find the dugongs that come here to graze on the sea grass. The dugongs were once hunted, but the practice stopped a long time ago and they are now making  a comeback.

We also snorkel over the coral of Deka Deka Island and take a boat ride to Doini Island where we visit Doini Island Plantation Resort.

We snorkel in the warm water near Gona Bara Bara Island where, suddenly, a dozen gigantic manta rays glide toward us, huge and elegant. They seem light and weightless. With their huge wings, they swim against a strong current, gills flashing open and shut and enormous mouths wide open, scooping up plankton.

It seems as if they are going to swallow us, too, but at the last minute the magnificent creatures turn and disappear into the depths.

But there is more to Milne Bay than colourful corals and fish.

What you need to know

Staying there: An overwater bungalow at Nuli Sapi is K500 for two, including all meals.

Getting there: Catch a public dinghy from Alotau to Samarai Island (about K50, 90 minutes) and ask to be dropped off at Nuli Sapi. You can also arrange a private boat pickup from Alotau with Nuli Sapi (about K350).

More information:

This is an edited version of the article ‘Back to Basics’, which was first published in the July-August edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini. 

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