Tubo Eco-tourism Lodge, Lake Kutubu, Southern Highlands: Doug Robbins
Lake Kutubu has become well known for the Oil Fields and more recently the Gas Project. In 2009, I spent eight weeks there for a different reason. The village owners and operators of Tubo Eco-Tourism Lodge, towards the other end of the nineteen kilometre long lake, requested a volunteer to assist in Management, Guest Services and Tour Guides. This was my first of what will hopefully be more PNG Assignments with Australian Business Volunteers.
Perched high on a peninsula forming a fork in the lake, the views from the Lodge of the lake and surrounding forested mountains in all directions are breathtaking. The whole area is of high natural and cultural significance. A search on the internet will reveal the unique natural features too numerous to list here, such as twelve fish found nowhere else in the world and over twenty newly discovered orchids, most not yet named. Birds of Paradise were seen regularly in the trees outside my house as were birdwing butterflies and fireflies at night.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has a permanent base at Moro at the northern end of the lake, next to the airport and Oil Search base. WWF is closely involved in monitoring activities in the area and ensuring funding, largely from the oil company, is put to the very best use for the communities. Their work extends all the way to the coast at Kikori, the whole of the Kutubu-Kikori Catchment and Wetlands Areas. Tubo Lodge is out of sight of all this other activity and far removed: about an hour in all by a sometimes rough road then on the lake by dugout canoe, probably passing through one of the very localized showers of rain which almost daily fall somewhere on the lake.
Unlike the rest of the Highlands, Lake Kutubu’s climate is less predictable: rainy or sunny any time. Yet, it is perfect. While at the Lodge, guests are taken on a tour of the Lake to hear the legends and see the traditional Men’s Longhouse at Yo’obo and Burial Caves on the cliffs beside the lake. Canoe-making combined with garden planting is an everyday activity in the jungle as is Sago processing and Tigaso Oil extraction, traditionally traded to outside areas and used in ceremonies.
I was honoured to be invited as an official guest at the Elementary School end-of-year Graduation and Prize Day with the young boys and girls outfitted in their respective traditional clothing. It was a beautiful occasion to mark my last few days at Kutubu. Then again, the people and everything about Lake Kutubu and Tubo Lodge is absolutely beautiful. My genuine thanks go to the very good friends I made from the villages of Tugiri and Yo’obo and others who I hope to see again one day soon.