Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kitava and Nivani

Monday we visited the island of Kitava one of the Trobriand Islands which is an archipelago of several low-lying coral islands situated to the northeast of New Guinea. As usual we had a warm welcome from the locals and once again delivered aid in the form of clothing, shoes, first-aid supplies, fishing gear, and school supplies. In return we were treated to an elaborate cultural dance presentation.

Some guests joined an hour long uphill walk to the village to see the famous Trobriand yam houses.

Next we went by Zodiac to the adjacent small island of Nuratu for a beach barbeque and snorkeling. It rained a very little but for the most part our weather has been fantastic for this entire trip, albeit a little warm. In the afternoon we began our cruise to the next destination, Nivani, which is part of Deboyne Lagoon in the Louisiade Archipelago. At Panapompom, an adjacent island, we visit a small village of just about 20 or so people and we get a glimpse of what the simple life is like in Papua New Guinea. There is a garden consisting of mostly yams and taro. For food they grow their own and fish. For cash to send the kids to school and receive medical care, they collect and dry copra (dried coconut to make coconut oil) and fish for sea cucumbers to sell to the Asian market. When we arrive Robin Tauck gives all the children knapsacks. The usual aid supplies are also given.

Later we swim and snorkel. There is a intact sunken Japanese Zero in only 6-10 ft. of water.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tufi Village

Today we visited Tufi Village. We were transported by local ship to the end of a fjord and then into a mangrove by outrigger canoe to the village where we were greeted by angry villagers who would not let us pass without knowing why we had come. When we informed them that we were only here to see the making of Sago we were allowed to enter the village where we were greeted with fragrant floral necklaces. Of course the challenge to our entering was just symbolic. We were shown demonstrations of the various stages of Sago making from the chopping of the tree core into sawdust like substance on to the filtering and finally the cooking of the paste. We then got to taste the finished product. Sago is a staple of the local diet. Also demonstrated were facial tattooing and the traditional making of fire. Later we were transferred again by canoe to another village where we saw dancing and singing by the school children as a thank you for the support the village had received from the Orion.

In the afternoon we headed for the beach for some swimming and snorkeling.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Madang-Bilbil Village and a Day at Sea

Yesterday we visited the town of Madang. Our first stop was the village of Bilbil where they are well known for their clay pots. We were first treated to a demonstration of how the pots are made, entirely by hand, no wheels are used and the pots are fired over an open flame. Afterwards we are privileged to witness a traditional sing-sing which is a dance that is used to celebrate various occasions.
We spend the afternoon touring around Madang. First we visit the local market where produce of all types is sold as well as some handicrafts. It is one of Papua New Guineas larger markets as Madang is accessible by road to the rural areas so goods can be transported from a distance. Next we move on to a museum of artifacts where all manner of arts, crafts, tools, and musical instruments are displayed. The museum is followed by a look at the coast watchers memorial which commemorates the Australian coast watchers who were pseudo spies against the Japanese during World War II. It was a coast watcher who helped rescue JFK during the war.

After dinner we were treated to a photo slide presentation by one of our guests who is an award winning photographer, and who has had work published by National Geographic.

Today was spent at sea. We were very busy however, attending a series of lectures and talks. First was an orientation to snorkeling and the fitting of gear. This was followed by a slide show lecture on Indo Pacific coral reef biology. After a buffet lunch, Robin Tauck presented a preview of 2008 and 2009 Tauck programs throughout the world. Following was a presentation on Papua New Guinea history and culture, one on Douglas McArthur’s campaigns in Papua and New Guinea, and finally a briefing on tomorrow’s activities and a short talk on the Bird of Paradise. Some of the guests commented that it felt like being back in school, going to so many classes in one day.
Bats hanging out in Madang

More Madang market

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Watam Village

This morning we visited Watam, a village near the mouth of the Sepik River. Watam is a village of 300 people consisting of 7 clans each with its own leader and one chieftain. The villagers give us a royal welcome right from the start. As our Zodiacs approach, a boat of villagers decked out in full ceremonial garb comes out to greet us. Dancers are waiting on shore as well. After we make a procession led by a dragon costume, we witness a flag raising ceremony with the local children reciting the Lords Prayer and singing the Papua New Guinea National Anthem. There is then an exchange of gifts. Tauck home office employees and Orion passengers have all donated clothing and school supplies to be given to the village of Watam. Robin Tauck presents the goods and is given some bilum bags and necklaces in return. Costumed dancing goes on for the entire time of our visit. Representatives from other villages have come to Watam and brought their handicrafts for sale. Based on all the carvings, bags and necklaces brought back to the ship it appears the Orion passengers have made a significant contribution to the local economy today. We sadly have to leave Watam feeling as though we have made some new friends.
In the afternoon we again embark the Zodiacs to enter the mouth of the Sepik River. The Sepik is one of the worlds great rivers running more than 800 miles from its origin in the mountain highlands. The Sepik has no delta and stains the sea brown for up to 30 miles. We can clearly see where the river water meets the sea. We spot several species of birds of prey along the river banks and in the trees. Also along the river banks grow the Sago Palm which is a food staple for the natives. The pulpy center of the tree is ground up and sifted through water to extract the starchy foodstuff.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The Orion is a magnificent ship. She is 318ft. long and accommodates a maximum of 106 guests. Those guests are served by 75 crew members which is a very high guest to crew ratio. For this Tauck voyage we have 79 passengers aboard. Orion is considered an expedition ship with an Ice Class Hull and 10 Zodiacs to get passengers to and from remote shore destinations. She draws only 12 ft. so can maneuver in shallow water. The Orion has a cruising speed of 15.5 knots.
Today we spent the day at sea on our way to Watam Village and the Sepik River. After breakfast we had a lengthy briefing on tomorrows destination followed by a presentation by Robin Tauck about Taucks World of Giving philanthropic program to enhance the people and places they visit. In the afternoon is a presentation by our onboard historian about the Pacific Campaign of World War II and how it affected Papua New Guinea.
Yesterday there was a hike to one of the active volcano areas that also is the nesting ground for birds known as Megapodes. They dig deep into the ground to bury their eggs. Local villagers then dig up the nest sites to get the eggs to sell in the markets. Pictured here are a group of villagers displaying their find.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More Photos From Papua New Guinea

The First Week in Papua New Guinea

Here is my first report since being inside Papua New Guinea (PNG). I first visited Loloata Resort on a small private island outside of Port Moresby the current capitol of PNG. I was there primarily for scuba diving and I was not disappointed. The diving in this area is known for it’s unique small sea life. It is especially known for sightings of Scorpin Fish and the Pygmy Seahorse. Food was excellent and was served in a buffet and dining was at community tables where you could catch up with everyone’s day. The island is inhabited with wallabies that were originally brought in by the owners and have subsequently multiplied. Our host was Dik Knight and he is knowledgeable about diving throughout PNG. Yoshi is the divemaster and is well known amongst dive operators in PNG. The snorkeling is also quite good here.

My next stop was in Madang a short flight from Port Moresby. I stayed at the Jais Aben Resort where we were hosted by Heather and Ted Hamilton. Our diving was under the care of Lesley and Tim the owners of Aquaventures, the resident dive operation at the resort. Diving was once again excellent. The resort is located in a protected bay area so conditions are quite calm and clear. The reefs here are abundant with larger sea life. We saw large schools of Jacks and Barracudas. In addition to divers, the resort handles conferences and has many missionaries from the Highlands come down to the sea for a holiday. The restaurant here has daily specials and is very reasonably priced.

My last stop is in Rabaul where I will meet the Orion our cruise ship home for the next 12 days. I am staying at the Rabaul Hotel (formerly Hamamas) hosted by Bruce and Susie Alexander. The hotel and town have a storied history. The Hotel is the oldest in the New Guinea Islands dating back to the 1950’s but existing in its current state since the late 80’s when it was re-built from a fire that burned it down. It was almost lost again in the twin eruptions of 1994 but the owners stayed behind and shoveled ash from the roofs saving it from collapsing. It’s restaurant is aptly named Phoenix. It’s specialty is Chinese cuisine. My first day here I am invited to an Octoberfest at the local Yacht Club.

I boarded the Orion on Monday afternoon, and in the evening we were treated to a fire dance by local villagers. The ship is under charter to Tauck World Discoveries and we have the privilege of having Robin Tauck on board with us. This morning we stayed in Rabaul and had a town tour that took us to a WWII Japanese barge tunnel, a volcano monitoring station and some WWII airplane wreckage. Rabaul is rich with history, it was occupied by the Japanese in WWII and was the base of operations for their Pacific fleet. We also visited Admiral Yamamotos main bunker site. Rabaul is surrounded by volcanos and one of them is very active. This afternoon we visited a local market. More about the Orion tomorrow when we will spend the day at sea on our way toWatam Village at the mouth of the Sepik River.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Scott is finally in PNG

Unfortunately the internet is not working in the isolated resort where he is located these first couple of days. You can read about the resort here http://www.loloata.com/

The diving he says is good.

He will post as soon as he can.

Editor, SmallShipCruises.com

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finally Made It to Cairns

It took 21 total hours in the air but I finally made it from Chicago to Cairns, my jumping off point for Papua New Guinea (PNG). On the taxi ride to the Shangri-La, where I will spend the night, the driver and I decided that Cairns was like Hawaii, it is very tropical and laid back. This is also the main city adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef so there are lots of dive shops and dive tour operators. I bought some Aussie $, New Zealand $, and PNG Kina so I'm set for currency for the trip. I have to be at the airport again at 5:00 AM to check in for the flight to Port Moresby my first stop in PNG. I walked along the Esplanade which is a kind of boulevard with parks and shops and lots of people relaxing on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Cairns Harbor is also here and there are lots of tour boats headed in for the day. My next mission is to find an inexpensive seafood restaurant so I'll sign off for now. Hopefully I'll have the first report from PNG tomorrow.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Off To Papua New Guinea

It's six days until my departure for Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the excitement is starting to build. The itinerary for the first week is still not finalized. My host for the trip has assured me that everything will fall into place, asking for my patience he points out that PNG works on island time -- "It's like manana but without the sense of urgency". It appears I might be staying at either of two dive resorts, Loloata near Port Moresby and/or Walindi in New Britain. I plan on doing some scuba diving--PNG is well known for it's unspoiled reefs.
New Guinea is the 2nd largest island in the world with only Greenland being bigger. It is home to 8 million people living mostly in small tribal villages. Over 700 languages are spoken approximately 1/3 of the worlds total. Western civilization has only relatively recently begun to affect the lifestlyles of the indigenous peoples.
I am not looking forward to the journey from Chicago to PNG. It will take over 30 hours and 3 flights just to reach Cairns, well worth the trip, where I will overnight to catch the flight to Port Moresby the capitol city of PNG.
I hope you will be able to join me on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure over the next month. . .
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Friday, October 5, 2007


This blog will chronicle my upcoming adventures in Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. I will be traveling for a month, encompassing a week on the ground in Papua New Guinea (PNG) exploring indigenous cultures, flora and fauna, and doing some SCUBA diving, followed by 11 nights cruising aboard the Orion. The last week will be spent in New Zealand aboard the Island Passage.

I'll make posts whenever and wherever possible based on availability of an Internet connection, which might be spotty at best. I don't know exactly what form or what tone this blog will take as I have no idea what this journey will bring. I am starting travel on October 12 and will not arrive in Australia until the 14th due to the length of the flights and crossing the International Date Line. I will overnight in Cairns, then take a flight into PNG on the 15th. Hope to see you on the journey.

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