Kumul Lodge, a tourist accommodation and birdwatching haven, is nestled in the Highlands in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea. When Kim Arut and her husband started the business in 1999, they listed him as the sole company director; she intended to retain her job at Telekom. But when his health began to fail in 2006, doctors advised that he move back to their Mount Hagen home, at a lower altitude than the lodge and away from the thin mountain air. Left with little choice, Ms Arut has been running the business ever since.
Registering a business in Papua New Guinea is a laborious and costly process, taking an average of eight weeks. Ms Arut and her husband were assisted with a grant of 70,000 Papua New Guinean kina (PGK), or about $27,000, from the provincial government, which went towards building the initial six rooms and establishing their business. They now have 23 rooms, catering for up to 69 people during their August peak.
"In 2004 we had a couple of visitors from Lonely Planet who stayed with us and commented on the amazing birdlife. They added Kumul Lodge to their guidebook," Ms Arut says, That's when business really began, Since then, visitors have been contacting them through the Government's tourism office in Port Moresby. The office had so many enquiries that it eventually helped Kumul Lodge set up its own website,
Kumul Lodge (which means bird of paradise lodge) is the second most visited accommodation spot for birdwatching in Papua New Guinea, It's a quiet place, popular with international tourists interested in relaxing, trekking the highlands and taking in nature. Birdwatchers will often name the new birds they see at Kumul Lodge, update the list of species in the area and send it back to Ms Arut to pass on to new visitors.
There is some competition coming up, one hour from Kumul Lodge. But Ms Arut is confident that her business offers a unique experience. "The visitors that come to Kumul Lodge don't want a television. We don't allow drinking of alcohol either ... we don't want to scare the birds away as they are bringing our international visitors."
"The business would fall apart if I wasn't there," she admits. Her husband often remarks at her success, asking her, "What are you doing? I don't know but whatever it is, it gets us a big name." Ms Arut says he wouldn't know how she runs the business at all.
Ms Arut took over operations in 2006, at a time when group travellers started visiting. Most of her guests are from Austria, Finland, France, Germany, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, in groups of 10, 12 or 15 people. There are also many visitors from Australia, although they tend to be individual travellers. …