One of the best kiteboarding and camping locations in Papua New Guinea is Gelebara Kite Club (it’s Gelebara as in get), otherwise known as Black Rock. The name Black Rock comes from the fact that there is a massive strip of black rocks about a kilometre off-shore from the campsite. Gelebara is the name of the site within the Gabone village and it is near Gabagaba and other villages.
It used to be managed by two Kiwi expats but they have since left and handed the reigns to Pako (pronounced Parko), a local who lives in a village near by. It has seen some deterioration under it’s new management but is still very much a viable option for a day/weekend/week of kiteboarding.
Windy season is from about May-October, blowing from South-East and usually better in the afternoon. It has a cross-onshore wind and is kiteable in almost all tides; best kiting is at high tide. During the non-windy season the wind will only blow after lunch until after dark. Any wind forecasting sites that give data for Port Moresby should be a fair indication of Gelebara as it is on the same coastline; data for Hula (another great spot) is the most accurate.
Before you get there
You will need a decent 4WD as part of the journey is off-road and on sand. The return trip usually takes up just over 1/4 tank of fuel in my 2.7L petrol Prado. I carry 4WD rescue gear as I have been stuck in mud once and helped rescue a friend from a beach crossing gone wrong.
SMS or call Pako on +675 7042 7676 and let him know you are coming, how long you want to stay for and how many cars are coming. Pako and his family don’t reside at the campsite and he needs to arrange to come down to help out with cleaning and anything else you may need. If you want lessons, tell Pako and he will get his brother, Cappa, to be there; more on this later.
Jason at Theodist is currently the only supplier of kiteboarding gear in PNG. He deals in Airush/Flying Objects and is currently looking for someone to take the reigns as 2017 will be his last year as a distributor. If he doesn’t have what you need, a trip to Australia is on the cards for you.
There are two ways to get there however both routes require you to get to this point: -9.795365, 147.551516. You can copy and paste into a mapping service to be shown the intersection of Magi Highway and an unnamed road; like Google Maps. I use maps.me for offline maps around PNG as it works reasonably well and doesn’t ever need the internet to navigate.
Dashcam footage of the full route from Port Moresby is here: link.
When you get to the Magi Hwy intersection mentioned above, go straight over the dog-leg (2:20 mark in the above video) and travel for another ~12km. There is a long straight and about 50m before a right curve there are 5 thin coconut trees in a row on the right; the last one has some pink marking on it (3 min mark). The GPS point is -9.885982, 147.575460 which is the point at which you turn off the main road onto a 4WD bush track.
Note: there is a confusing Y intersection on the way out about 200m before the main road; take the left option as that is the way you came in. It is very hidden and I have missed it even when looking for it. Coords are: -9.8920709, 147.5686538. If you miss it, you will end up in the village (not good)!
Follow the track until you get to -9.902188, 147.550529 which is the beach. If you are at a low tide and you are confident in sand 4WDing you can jump onto the beach and cruise to the campsite. There is a estuary crossing that is cross-able at a low tide and careful planning. Get out and walk out a planned route and cross safely, there can be soft sand, logs and hidden deep areas. If it is not low tide, don’t enter the beach, leave your cars under the palms and Pako will assist you to the campsite using his banana boat. The last time we went at high tide we left most of the camping gear in the cars, went over in the boat, had a kite session and ate lunch. When low tide eventually came, we walked back to the cars and drove them over and then set up the tents. Check detailed tide movements before your trip and plan accordingly.
Note: the sand at the mouth of the river constantly shift. Sometimes the river is very wide and shallow and easy to cross over a large time frame. Sometimes it’s narrow and deep and can only be crossed safely at a very low tide.
The actual coordinates for the Gelebara Kite Club are -9.898262, 147.541176.
This is an old route that was discouraged last year as landowners in the area were fighting. Black Rock regulars use this route when the tide is not favourable for route 1. This cannot be accessed at high tide but is a lot more forgiving as it is just beach driving, no estuary crossings.
Turn right at the Magi Hwy intersection and head east toward Gabagaba Village. When you get to the coords: -9.79905, 147.52876 turn left onto the 4WD track. Head in a general south direction, it gets very confusing through here and tracks stop and start depending on growth. About half way between the start of the track and Gelebara, just past Round Point, the track should be very close to the beach. At around -9.865122, 147.511805 you will enter the beach and cruise the rest of the way on sand. This track takes a while to get used to as sometimes the track is so overgrown you lose it, if it’s wet it gets much muddier or you can easily end up in someone’s backyard! Occasionally you will get locals between Gabagaba and Gelebara try and stop you to charge a fee for driving on “their land”. Most visitors wave at them and drive past or stop and tell them you are not paying them and to take it up with Pako. If you are comfortable saying no, say no; it’s better for everyone as there is no precedent created of people paying.
What’s on offer
There are 3 “cabins”, 1 small and 2 large, they are currently in ok shape and I would not recommend staying in them if you have a decent tent. There is plenty of space to set up tents and that is usually what we do when staying a night or two.
The camp kitchen is pretty good, has plenty of cutlery, crockery, BBQ tools, cups etc. It has a dual kitchen sink, large prep areas, a 2 burner gas stove and a 4 burner gas BBQ. Everything is clean and in good condition, for a campsite. BYO drinking water.
The best part about the kitchen is that anything that is dirty and left in there magically gets clean and put away within a few hours. The residents/staff of Gelebara are fantastic when it comes to keeping the place constantly clean! They have even hung up wet clothing I have carelessly taken off and left lying around.
Pako, Sandra and Marta are very friendly and are keen to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. Even though they are quiet and seem to just mill around, they are usually just waiting for a way to help out.
There is a large chillout area with lounges, beanbags and a dining table which is under a shelter and has a windbreak wall. My missus says the drop toilet is one of the cleanest and most pleasant camp toilets she has ever used (we camp a lot). There is a proper shower next to the toilet and a rinse shower in front of the chillout area.
There is an estuary which can be explored in kayaks. Apparently some good sea fishing (bring petrol for the banana boat), spear fishing, snorkelling and squid hunting at night too.
The entire area is usually cleaned daily, including leaves and seaweed and having all the sand raked!
Digicel and BMobile have EDGE reception in some parts of the camp. Telikom has no coverage after about an hour out of Port Moresby.
How much does it cost?
All prices are reasonable (for expats) and it’s best to ask Pako for them upfront. Whilst I am very much pro-transparency in pricing in PNG, unfortunately if people in the area find out how much Pako charges, the claims for compensation and profit-sharing come in thick and fast! I realise not too many villagers will read this site, however Pako has asked me not to publish them for that reason.
Pako will take you out at dawn or dusk to trawl for fish in his banana boat, not sure how much it costs as we paid in fuel last time we did it. There are plenty of fishermen about and Pako can organise some fresh fish, squid or maybe turtle if you doubt your skills.
Pako appreciates any supplies you can bring due to being so remote. Flour, sugar, rice, tea, coffee, cooking oil or tinned meat will go a long way in making a good friend. You could even bring clothes, books or other useful items if you have spare. This will not reduce your costs but it helps keep a good relationship going and that’s what PNG is all about. There are a few camp dogs that have mange, fleas and are severely under fed, they keep their distance due to many years of abuse from humans. Feel free to feed them but keep in mind camp staff would prefer to eat your leftovers if you cook too much food for yourself!