Mysterious Papua New Guinea simply bursts with adventure and intriguing cultural traditions. Curious locals welcome visitors to explore their villages, join in their ceremonies and delight in their handcrafted artefacts. What’s not to love? P&O Cruises will visit this incredible country for the first time in 2013, departing from Brisbane on Pacific Dawn. Think tropical temperatures, lush rainforest and palm fringed beaches, perfect for snorkelling, as well as tribal rituals, ancient customs and wartime history.Snorkeling in PNG © Franco Banfi
World War II history is the main attraction at Milne Bay’s capital. Alotau’s bustling harbour was once a naval base for Australian troops and the surrounding area was where the Battle of Milne Bay was fought against the Japanese army for control of an airstrip. Take a trip to Wahuhuba Bay to see the site where the Japanese first landed and exchanged gunfire, then tour the local museums for extraordinary relics. Remnants of the battle are still being discovered so you will more than likely come across tanks, aircraft and other vehicles during your visit.
Cruises are timed to see the festivities of the annual Canoe and Kundu Festival. People from all over the province gather to participate in a canoe race using handcrafted log vessels that are decorated with designs that reflect each tribe’s ancestral heritage. While the beat of kundu drums (which are crafted from special timber under strict customs in order to appease the gods) rings out across the bay, passengers are encouraged to join in the dancing, singing and feet-stamping that continues well into the night.
Trobriand Islands – Kiriwina, Kaileuna, Kitava
For centuries Trobriand seafaring merchants have sailed vast distances in dugout canoes (in more modern times using sails made from PVC or hessian bags) to barter for essential produce and supplies as well as take part in the traditional custom of the Kula Ring (see above).
In this matrilineal society, women enjoy higher status than men and tribes highlight this custom in ceremonies by wearing grass skirts beaded with delicate shells and intricate body paint. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited into someone’s huge yam house to sit and chat as foreign visitors, called dim-dims thanks to our own rather odd customs, are still a novelty in these parts.
Trobriand cricket is a favourite pastime and island time has slowly warped the rules. There’s no limit to the number of players, it can take days for your turn to bat and there’s much singing, dancing and whistle-blowing!
If getting horizontal on a sun-soaked beach is more your thing, sleepy Doini Island is the place to be, although you might also want to dip below the water’s surface to see a busy marine world. Just grab a snorkel and off you go! Nearby, a visit to a skull cave provides an eerie insight into ancient clan customs. Locals believe their ancestors watch over them and the cave is lined with ancestors’ skulls, each placed in order of the deceased’s importance in society.
Don’t miss the chance to be onboard one of our first-ever Papua New Guinea cruises. Visit pocruises.com.au to book your cabin.