Need to reduce work related stress? An unforgettable two days on Nyapio island can do the trick

Suppose you have been working for a number of years and your now routine life activities are beginning to eat at your happiness. Or maybe you just want a little bit of adventure or even something different for a few days. Do you feel you should take a few days off your normal routine and repeated activities? Then Nyapio Island Getaway Resort is surely the best therapy for you. Just a few days on this island oasis would have you feeling good all over. Since I regularly write about community initiatives in Manus for my blog lopoki.com, the Nyapio community invited me to visit their new village style Resort initative and, along with their guests, experience what the Resort had to offer. So on 16th September, I made the trip from Lorengau to their island. All I can say is that it is truly one of the best places you will ever set foot on in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea.

Nyapio Island Getaway Resort is located on the south coast of Manus Province. Nyapio and other surrounding smaller islands are most widely known as the Johnston islands and are a rural and remote group of islands in the Pobuma Local Level Government (LLG) area. It is roughly two hours by outboard motor from the provincial capital, Lorengau. You have to travel north over the sea from Lorengau town, go through the Loniu waterway passage, then under the famous Loniu bridge, hit the open seas past Lawes village and then set the course straight past N’dropwa island and after a few minutes further south, Nyapio island emerges from the edge of the sea. We took this route on the 16th of September from Lorengau around 4.30pm and arrived in the afternoon at roughly around 6pm.

Passing through the Loniu passage onto the south coast of Manus
Arriving at Nyapio after the two hour boat ride from Lorengau town
First time ever to touch down on Nyapio island aka Johnston Island.

We were welcomed by the sound of a lone wooden garamut as we neared the shoreline. When we landed, the community came to welcome us. We quickly sorted our baggage and moved them to the bungalow accommodation just a few meters from the seashore. We then took a bath with fresh water to rinse sea salt from our body and clothes. Then dinner came in hot and hearty. There were multiple varieties of fish, mashed cassava, sago infused with sea shell meat, greens, bananas and sweet potatoes. We topped it off with tea while the local clan leaders spoke and welcomed us as guests to the Resort.

Dinner is served!
Some of the yummy island delicacies! The sliver tray in front is sago immersed with meat from seashells! Just too good!

We then moved to the bungalow, sorted our clothes and things. There are two bungalows with one fully complete. The next one was under construction and had iron roofing. The completed bungalow is made from traditional house materials of wood, sago leaves and cane thatched blinds. The flooring has a mat and the windows have flywire screens. It is spacious around 3 meters by 3 meters and the interior roofing is high forming an apex in the middle of the house. One bungalow has two rooms and each room had two single beds, each with comfortable mattresses, clean sheets and pillows. The cool evening breeze lulled us into submission and by 9pm or 10pm we were already sound asleep.

Our bungalows. This bungalow has two rooms and each room as two beds.

 In the morning, we had breakfast, similar to what we had the night before, but this time we had baked buns, fried bananas and pawpaw slices too. The plan was that we would go fishing and then visit one of the islands nearby. With a boat skipper, two crew and us, the guests, we set off onto the open sea on a 40 horse powered engine. Since I lived in the hinterlands of Manus, this was an opportunity for me to fish. Alas, my inexperienced hands only landed one small fish but I was too proud nonetheless.

Richard with his catch!
Its a tiny fish but I’m over the moon!
Island hopping after the trawling session. This is Kalopa island
Majestic views from the top! Standing on the hill of Kalopa island and looking west back to Nyapio island. M’buke island is further back of Nyapio
Standing at the top of Kalopa and looking towards the east where Lou island stands proud in the distance.
The waters surrounding Kalopa are just amazing!
Skillful Master: As we near Nyapio, one of the islanders is fishing in the deep sea, straddling his legs aside the canoe to balance himself while pulling in the fish.

We then circled back and approached one of the island just next to Nyapio – Kalopa. The waters leading towards the island are just as clean as a whistle in the rays of the midday sunlight. We landed at the beach and then decided to climb the hard rocks to reach the summit roughly 20 meters above sea level. We sat down for a few minutes and looked back to the main island Nyapio. M’buke island was further to the west while at our back, in the distant sea, were the islands of Baluan and Lou. Many of the islands on the south coast of Manus are very far from mainland Manus in comparison to the islands on the north coast of Manus which are very close to the mainland Manus. So for the Johnston islanders, travelling to the mainland of Manus is too far so their main trading partners are the two islands on the east. When in need, they usually catch a bountiful of fish and exchange these for baskets of fruits and vegetables from the Lou and Baluan islanders. It must be also noted that Nypio island is one of the last islands of Manus where human population reside before you travel across provincial maritime borders on the high open seas to Madang or Wewak, if you happen to make that trip. After our climb, we came back down, washed in the cool waters of Kalopa, had lunch on the beach and took photos. We then went on the boat to the next island Keyoni where we picked up some ‘aleleu’ fresh off the tree. The ‘aleleu’, as a typical greens would be used together with our village raised chicken in our afternoon meal. We then left Keyoni, went past the back of Nyopio and arrived back to the front of the island where our accommodation was.  

A lovely parrot rests on my head
Two of the guests Mr. Richard Mark from Abus na Kumu and Mr. Richard Dellman from Advantage (PNG) share tips on the use of automatic SRL cameras

In the afternoon, one of the other guests Mr. Richard Mark, who is the founder of the business called Abus na Kumu, decided to run a practical workshop for the women involved in the Resort on how to prepare and cook the famous East New Britain province delicacy – the Aigir. He used local chickens and fish including vegetables and showed them every step of the process. It was the first time anyone had cooked Aigir on the small island and so the women were eager participants. He also prepared the two small fish we had caught using his signature sauce and lemon fish tray. The aroma of great food filled the kitchen area. In the evening, it was a really good meal! I practically swallowed the lemon slices together with the fish! After the day long adventure, we were so tried that we hit the sack early.

Richard prepares to heat the stones for the Aigir
The women of Nyapio chip in with the work
The team from Abus na Kumu show the finer points of preparing the Aigir while the women of Nyapio look on.
Putting all the ingredients, sweet potato, bananas, greens and chicken into the pot and putting the coconut milk in as well before covering it up.
Along with the Aigir dishes, Abus na Kumu also prepared a delicious fish receipe
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUaP9-UDi6M&t=169s
A short video about what Abus na Kumu did on the island.

The next day after breakfast, we loaded up three outboard boats and headed to Al island, around 15 minutes from the main island. This time, many of the children of Nyapio came with us to go to Al island. Al island is truly a magnificent island. It is just a meter or so above the sea level and has the finest sand and clear crystal waters. The white soft sand cuts across the sea creating a sand bank that stretches almost a kilometer. It is just hard to describe its beauty and the natural calmness of this tiny strip of an island. One should visit it to understand its tranquility and majestic natural environment. There are no large trees and it seems to be in the middle of nowhere! While the others headed to see the other interesting spots on the trip such as the sea bubbles and dolphins further out to the sea, I stayed on the island to take it all in.

Absolutely beautiful sand and sea on Al
Too perfect!
The children of Nyapio place the PNG flag on the sand as we all take in the natural beauty of the island.
One could walk along the sand and be just lost in the moment!

We all arrived back at Nyapio in the afternoon and Richard Mark went to prepare roast pork for dinner. The Resort also had some of its members go diving so we would have some reef fish to eat in the evening dinner. The dinner also marked our last night on the island as we would be departing the next day. The local community was invited to share a meal with the guests. There was lots of food and during dinner, each of the guests were given an opportunity to address the men, women and children at the Resort dining area. We all talked about the wonderful place the Resort was and urged the community to support and grow the Resort into something that would assist them in the long run.

Richard Mark of Abus na Kumu preparing the pork for our last meal.
The women of Nyapio take stock of the pork and are shown how to marinate the meat
Some of the Nyapio men have gone fishing and have brought back fish to be prepared for our last meal.
My plate is just awesome! Roast pork, mashed cassava, cream rich boiled rice in coconut leaves and sago immersed with meat from sea shells.
The leaders of the community, men, women and children all gather to say ‘word of thanks’ and we respond then we all have our last meal together.
The villagers present Manus baskets to us.

After dinner, we all marched 10 minutes westwards to the edge of the Resort where there was sandbank. There, the Resort had set up and built a bonfire using logs collected on the sandbank plus coconut leaves, dried bamboo and small sticks. It was already past 7pm and we took out candy and soft drinks for the children. Then the community set the stack of wood and debris alight. Oh what a sight it was!!! The orange flames lit up the night sky and the crackling sound of dry bamboos popping filled the warm night. We all sat around the warmth of the fire and told stories with the locals until 10pm before we retired back to our rooms.

The Bonfire! Young kids all around as we all sat around the magnificent fire to tell stories late into the night.

The next morning, we took the two hour ride back to town along the route closer to the mainland of south coast Manus past Pere and M’bunai to Pamachau, Waratalai and Lawes before hitting the Loniu passage into Lorengau town where we ended our two-day trip to the newest community resort in Manus. I came here curious, with an open mind as a Manusian myself but was totally blown away about how the people of Nyapio have began this community resort project to build on their reputation as a resilient people. My next post will be about explaining the background of the Resort and what it stands to accomplish for the people of that island.

One thing to take away from this trip? One thing I believe that will make your trip more interesting would be for you, the guest, to think about something you would like to give back to the locals in terms of your passion, career or education. You can do an hour or 30-minute program or session to the local islanders in the afternoons or evenings. Abus na Kumu showed the way though its cooking sessions. You can do the same too. This is because it is a community based Resort so feel free to give back as much as you get from the experience from the island. It is a win-win situation and a greater cultural learning takes place between you and the locals of Nyapio.  

If you want to visit Nyapio and see its natural wonder, the friendly locals and experience the Mwanus way, see the website for the resort at https://nyapioislandgetawayresort.com/ and book your trip today!