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Untouched Papua New Guinea

Thursday, September 10, 2009
In Sorrel Wilby's vast travel experience, she reckons Papua New Guinea is the most exotic place on earth. Right on Australia's doorstep but many people are reluctant to visit, mainly because of negative media. Over the next two weeks, Sorrel would like to show you how to best discover the country while minimising risks and maximising adventure.

Papua New Guinea's rugged terrain and lack of infrastructure makes travel to most areas possible only by sea or air. Aurora Expeditions, cruising out of Cairns, Queensland, or Rabaul, PNG, are the ideal way to go.

Marina Svetaeva is a small, sturdy ship, built in 1989, in Poland. Originally an ice-strengthened passenger vessel, it spent many years plying through the frozen waters of the Arctic.

Refurbished four years ago, it provides comfortable accommodation for 100 passengers. A heli-deck was added for two helicopters to assist the ship in remote corners. Inflatable zodiacs with outboard motors are also onboard for shore excursions.

The ship doesn't sell itself as a five-star vessel but the food, service and comfort are all more than acceptable. Most long-distance travelling is done overnight, so every morning you wake to a brand-new vista.

Sorrel joined the 13-day voyage for the final six days from Tufi to the Admiralty Islands. The ship anchored at the little village of Lababia, where guests and crew were welcomed by locals in exquisite woven sail canoes. Passengers were invited to explore the sandy cove, and everyone boarded the zodiacs to enjoy the hospitality.

The home is a very private space for villagers and not many people are invited in, but the locals seem happy to show their women preparing coconut milk and sago, fish, sweet potato, potato and bananas.

Villages are totally self-sufficient with all the food they need around them — in the sea, from their gardens and from copious coconut palms.

Next stop was the Tami Islands, a group of four pristine coral atolls, one barely more than a white sandy beach, isolated from the mainland. There are two main villages, facing each other across the cove on the two large islands. Drumming and dancing welcome visitors, who are invited to look at intricate carvings and native produce gardens. Snorkelling and swimming above colourful corals is a great adventure.

The Tami people migrated from the mountains, West New Britain, along the main coastline. They live as one — one language, one culture. They create beautiful wooden bowls and carvings from kwila, a local timber.

Heading towards the equator, Marina Svetaeva reached Karkar Island in the Bismarck Sea. The oval-shaped island is about 30km off the north coast of PNG. In its centre is an active volcano with two nested caldera. Its latest eruptions were in the 1970s. The first produced lava which covered 70 percent of the inner caldera floor — the 1979 eruption produced no lava flow at all.

The landscape of coconut plantations and black sand makes it distinct. Karkar has a thriving copra industry — volcanic powder created fertile land. Cocoa is also grown and is enjoying an expanding export market.

Sorrel was amazed at the diversity of her journey. From huge volcanic islands to a tiny coral atoll, each place has its own charm — no roads, no airstrips and very little contact with the outside world. Every day's adventure depends upon the weather and that makes it more exciting.

She would recommend the once-in-a-lifetime trip for people of all ages — and there's more to come next week!


A cruise around Papua New Guinea.


Aurora Expeditions has 13-day cruises from Cairns and Rabaul. All meals, shore excursions and port taxes and charges are included. Cruises cost $8650 per person twin-share and will leave Cairns on November 3, 2010, and Rabaul on November 15, 2010.

Pacific Blue, international airline of Virgin Blue, has fares to Port Moresby.

Fares from:

  • Canberra and Sydney $319
  • Brisbane $239
  • Melbourne $399
  • Adelaide $609
  • Perth $639

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at September 10, 2009, and are subject to change.

Prices correct at September 10, 2009.

For further information

Virgin Blue
Ph: 136 789

Aurora Expeditions
Ph: 1800 637 688

Visas: Sixty-day tourist visas are applied for on arrival. Passports must be valid for at least six months after entry.

Electricity: 240V at 50Hz using flat-pronged plugs in inverted V shape.

Time zone: GMT +10.

Currency: Kina.

Telephone: +675.

It is recommended travellers to Papua New Guinea see their doctor at least six weeks before departure, as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit or

User comments
i have lived in that country for five and half years, as a teenager. my experince up there was so different. as an ex expat that was there 20% of the national are not nice and the 80% are lovely. there is other place to see in that country besides the villages and the reef.

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