PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S FIRE DANCERS AND VOLCANOES
COST: US $3,950 per person
START POINT: Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
END POINT: Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
DATES: Sunday November 20th – Thursday December 1st, 2022
GROUP SIZE: 6–12 (on double/twin room basis – single room supplement available).
BESPOKE TOUR: If you do not wish to join a group tour, we can customise a private trip to suit your dates and interests. Please email us for details.
Visit Papua New Guinea’s most interesting islands
AN INCREDIBLY RICH ITINERARY!
Throughout this trip, there will be many opportunities to snorkel or dive in the coral triangle on some of the richest reefs in the Bismarck and Solomon Seas (we recommend that you bring your own snorkel, mask and flippers!). Optional diving trips (at extra cost) can be booked direct from local operators.
Optional pre- expedition extensions:we will start and finish this trip with accommodation at the luxurious Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort (near Rabaul) on New Britain.
There are countless excellent dive and snorkelling sites for coral reefs, WW2 wrecks, night dives and even dugongs near to the resort. If you wish to relax before or after this trip (or do a Padi diving course), a convenient option is to spend a few extra days at the Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort. We can introduce you to the management team to negotiate special rates and package options.
Getting there: Many international airlines offer flights to Port Moresby (search www.skyscanner.net ). From Port Moresby, regular flights connect to Rabaul, New Britain, see Air Niugini (visit www.airniugini.com.pg ) and PNG Air (visit www.pngair.com.pg ). The Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort offers a pick up service from Rabaul airport for easy transfer on arrival.
Day 1 (November 20th):
We meet in the town of Rabaul on New Britain (pick up from airport) and are transferred to the luxurious Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort where we overnight and have dinner. At 7 pm we have a detailed briefing meeting to discuss the itinerary of our expedition. Note: there are multiple flights each day from Port Moresby to/from Rabaul with Air Nuigini and PNG Airlines. We will put forward a recommended flight so that expedition members may book onto the same flight to travel together from Port Moresby.
We have the option of booking snorkelling and diving trips for this afternoon at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort (the coral reefs are excellent, and a nearby site has a sunken Japanese WW2 zero fighter plane), or a night dive this evening (often with spectacular bioluminescence).
Day 2 (November 21st):
You may choose from two options for today.
Option 1: we start at 5 am start to climb Mount Tavurvur, an active volcano which turned the city of Rabaul into the “Pompei of the Pacific” during a 1994 eruption. An easy, 40 minute climb takes us to the crater where we see steaming sulphur vents at sunrise (incredible views!). We descent the volcano and pass through ash fields strewn with volcanic bombs.
We then visit geothermal hot springs (where locals cook megapode eggs that they collect from the ash fields – see day 11), and we visit artefact sellers and can purchase Tambu shell money (rings of cowrie shells which the Tolai people still use as currency across New Britain)! We visit the wrecks of two crashed World War 2 planes, the New Britain Club (a fascinating museum filled with WW2 relics and tribal artefacts), Admiral Yamamoto bunker and secret WW2 Japanese barge tunnels. We then visit the Kokopo Museum (with an impressive collection of natural history and cultural artefacts, as well as WW2 vehicles left behind by both sides).
Option 2: for a supplement of approx 750 kina, you can undertake a day of diving with Kokopo Beach Bungalow. This day package includes dives at reefs, WW2 wreck sites and coral gardens.
We reunite in the evening at Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort for dinner. We have another opportunity to book a night dive for this evening.
Days 3, 4 and 5 (November 22nd, 23rd and 24th):
After breakfast, we drive into the spectacular Baining Mountains to the Gaulib Valley for the fire dancers’ ceremony. Over these three days, we will witness fire dancers congregate to perform elaborate rituals.
The ceremony will involve visits to secret places where the Kavat masks are made, communes with snakes and spirits which the dancers believe allow them to dance through the fire (immune to flames and embers) and daytime singing and dancing in unique day masks. During the evenings, we watch spectacular dances as newly initiated and experienced men jump through the fires in dramatic masks to the sound of bamboo drums and tribal singing.
The tribe will prepare a mumu feast (with pork, taro and fern leaves). We can witness the cooking process (heating stones in a fire, building an earth oven, and cooking food in banana leaves), and have the option of joining the tribe in pig shopping.
During down time over days 3, 4 and 5, we can go for walks through the surrounding jungle-clad hills, go bird watching, look for orchids, undertake village visits nearby, swim in a river nearby and interact with the local community!
During the afternoon of day 5, we return to Rabaul, and en-route have a BBQ lunch and (optional) snorkel and swim on shallow (and very beautiful) coral reefs close to a Japanese WW2 submarine base (with tunnels and fortifications which we can explore). Dinner and overnight at Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort.
Accommodation during our stay in the fire dancers’ village is a simple guest house in the village with mattresses. Note: for anyone who does not wish to sleep in simple conditions in the village during days 3-5, we can organise (at cost price) rooms and transfers to/from Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort each evening and morning.
Day 6 (November 25th):
We undertake a morning dolphin safari trip from the Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort to see schools of spinner dolphins up close and personal (included as part of this trip’s itinerary). We then transfer into a “banana boat” and motor to the base of Mount Tavurvur where we observe locals digging in lunar landscape of holes made by megapode birds. The egg hunters show us the secrets of their trade and we can buy some eggs to cook and taste tonight.
We continue to the beautiful Duke of York Islands and check into a basic lodge on Kabakon Island that stands metres away from azure waters and a small coral sand beach. During the afternoon, we observe a fish mumu feast cooked in an earth oven (although very differently to the pork mumu we observed in the Baining Mountains). Towards sunset, we then witness a traditional Tubuan Ceremony (unique to the Duke of York Islands) with dancing Duk Duks (spirits of the forest) and dramatic rhythmic music.
Day 7 (November 26th):
We have a leisurely start to today (allowing snorkelling in the waters close to our lodge). Anyone interested can join locals on outrigger canoes heading out to go fishing. Around 10 am, we transfer by banana boat to New Ireland. We sleep and dine at a basic but comfortable lodge.
Days 8, 9 and 10 (November 27th, 28th and 29th):
Over these three days, we travel between villages along New Ireland’s coast to experience life in Tolai villages, meet artefact traders and carvers, explore pristine beaches and snorkel when possible, New Ireland is extremely traditional, and we glimpse a side of Papua New Guinea little changed by modernity and still dependant largely on fishing for survival. We have the option to join locals on outrigger canoes to go fishing, and our local friends will take us to a pool to hand-feed sacred, tame eels!
The climax of our visit to New Ireland is attending a Malagan Ceremony in which we observe dramatic death rites masks, spectacular dancing and chanting, traditional music and singing. We take part in a feast to try a wide range of local foods.
Each night, we sleep and dine in basic but comfortable accommodation in villages along New Ireland’s coast. Where possible, we can organise beachside BBQs with fresh fish caught by locals, allowing us to dine on coral sand beaches around bonfires under the stars, listening to the crash of waves along the shore.
Day 11 (November 30th):
After breakfast, we catch a banana boat back to New Britain. We have the option of visiting a beautiful waterfall, orchid and birding sites, or several viewpoints overlooking the volcanoes close to Rabaul. We have a final chance for booking dive trips (and/or a night dive) at the Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort. We will aim to arrive back at the resort during the afternoon to allow time to pack any artefacts we have purchased, ready to fly home tomorrow. We have a final beach-side BBQ and overnight at the Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort.
Day 12 (December 1st):
We enjoy a final breakfast together, then transfer to Rabaul airport for departing flights back home!