Papua New Guinea bucket list: Madang Resort


Sonja Heydeman discovers Madang Resort on the northern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea, as part of our series on the country’s most attractive tourist spots.

Madang_ResortSir Peter Barter, Managing Director of Melanesian Tourist Services (MTS) has long-term investments in Pacific real estate. His family has been an innovator in the region since the 1970s, establishing one of the first businesses responsible for opening up tourism in the Highlands, the Sepik River, the Islands and Madang.

Madang history is mirrored in two beautiful resort properties, the iconic Madang Resort with 110 rooms and neighbouring Kalibobo Village, featuring 70 rooms plus 20 cottages.

The Madang Hotel is the oldest on PNG’s mainland, first established in the German Colonial period. Sir Peter’s family took over the reigns in 1976 with a vision to create a tourist resort. Today, it stands as Madang’s premier destination.

Set on almost a kilometre of water frontage and with more than 15 acres of landscaped gardens featuring exquisite rare orchids, both Madang and Kalibobo Resorts are specifically designed to cater for the tourism and conference markets.

Corporate needs are met with four conference rooms, a business centre and the new Kalibobo Haus Kibung function rooms and Haus Win Restaurant.

Traditional culture

Sir Peter Barter

Sir Peter Barter

To glimpse neighbouring East Sepik culture, an authentic ‘Haus Tambaran’ or ‘spirit house’ has been built, where guests can see traditional carving, bilum (bag) making and other handicraft. For the more adventurous, there is trekking, canoeing, jet skiing, diving and even helicopter safaris on offer.

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‘In 2013, we received the Excellence Certificate from Trip Advisor,’ Sir Peter said, adding the resorts were constantly being upgraded and improved.

‘Most recently, we completed Sagen Aben (a park with a sandy beach), Haus Win, and areas for cultural performances to entertain guests and passengers from visiting cruise ships.’

MTS value adds as a quality tour operator and ship owner. The resort’s marina is the base for the Kalibobo Spirit, a 30-metre luxury motor yacht available for charter in PNG waters, in addition to a fleet of dive and harbour cruise boats.

‘The most common thing we hear from guests is: “if only people knew what was here”.’

Dive visitors tend to stay around a week, while conferences typically span three to four days.

Future growth

While the number of tourists has declined in recent years, Sir Peter says the long term is very bright.

Madang Resort2Regional growth is expected through the development of large projects in Madang Province, including the Ramu nickel mine, Marengo Mining’s Yandera project, and the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone being established at nearby Vidar, as well as palm oil, copra, cocoa, timber and fishing industries. Sir Peter also predicts the return of tourists from Europe, the US and Japan.

MTS embraces its status as a totally PNG-owned company, and boasts excellent community relationships. Its establishment of the Melanesian Foundation has resulted in the provision of desks, lighting and equipment for remote schools, and also health clinics.

A former PNG Cabinet minister, Sir Peter says his aim is to marry sustainable tourism with the standards of a luxury resort:

‘The most common thing we hear from guests is: “if only people knew what was here”.’

Sonja Heydeman is a freelance journalist with an interest in the Asia Pacific region.


  1. Thank you for publishing the story on Madang Resort, it wsa unexpected and very welcome.
    Tourism in PNG is really suffering, over the past decade tourism has declined. In the case of Madang Resort 65% of our guests had always been international tourists, today less than 10% are bona fide tourists – a day would not go past when we used to have 2 or 4 groups of American or European tourists staying 2 or 3 nights and at this time, the Melanesian Discoverer operated year round with 80% occupancy with expeditionary cruises to the Sepik, Madang, Milne Bay – today, we may see a group every few weeks if we are lucky.
    When I read of the improvement to the economy in PNG due to LNG and mining development I wonder if the Government is really aware of the ill effect directly and indirectly it has on the tourist industry. Going back in history, many of the resource developers would take local leave in PNG, most are not prohibited to take local leave in fear of safety?
    Rather than leave the matter, I believe it in the interest of PNG Business Advantage to go into the reason why tourism has declined, it certainly is not the potential PNG has to offer or for that matter the lack of infrastructure – it has more to do with cost of travel, disruptions of flights, lack of flights between the provinces in PNG and most of all our attitude towards tourism, somehow we have to get out of the box, take off the blinkers and look at the options to remove the impediments some of which are well articulated in the Aust/PNG Business Concept paper supported by Tradelinked in Cairns.
    I hope you take this seriously, a great deal depends on PNG developing industries other than gas, oil, timber – Tourism could support an amazing number of jobs which in turn would reduce crime!
    Peter Barter.

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