Papua New Guinea; just three words that conjure up a myriad of thoughts - wild adventure, spectacular wilderness and peculiar wildlife to name a few. Occupying the eastern half of New Guinea - the largest tropical island in the world - Papua New Guinea is one of the most diverse countries on the planet. With nearly one thousand different colourful cultures and the largest expanse of virgin rainforest outside the Amazon, the country sets the stage for the most thrilling adventures on Earth.
Between mainland Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands scattered across the sea further east, is a group of little known and rarely visited islands - the Bismarck Archipelago. A place the indigenous Tolai and Baining people have called home for at least forty thousand years and the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the Pacific during the second world war, this region is steeped in history, culture and tradition and it's at your fingertips. A place where some people buy food at the shop with modern currency while others trade with shells; where twisted aircraft wreckage from WW2 remains where it fell in the jungle, and where some people hunt cassowary and wild pig and live entirely off the land, deep in the forest.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many areas in New Guinea over the years but my favorite has to be this corner of it, and particularly East New Britain, so it is with great pleasure that I invite you to join me on the ultimate trip into tropical wilderness. This is truly a unique expedition which I’ve tailored especially to provide a blend of experiences - ancient indigenous culture, modern history, remarkable wildlife, staggering landscapes and traditional jungle survival skills. This combination creates an awe-inspiring twelve-day adventure that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Settle in to your comfortable accommodation before we get together for a hearty evening meal. The hotel is the very best place to stay in East New Britain and has remained in the same family since the 1950's. It’s a quiet and charming place with clean and comfortable rooms and an on site restaurant which serves delicious, freshly made meals. Settle in, have dinner and a good night's rest.
After breakfast, we'll discuss how to take care of yourself in this environment before heading out with a local Tolai guide to explore the area which is littered with incredible relics from WW2. After lunch, we'll venture to a pleasant beach for a swim among the fish and coral.
A remarkable bird has adapted its egg-laying behaviour to make use of the warm soil at the base of Mount Tavurvur, digging down into the ground to lay the eggs and let the warmth of the volcano incubate them. Tolai people have sustainably collected these eggs for thousands of years... and this morning we will see how they do it, then cook some for breakfast. After lunch we will take a boat to the most vibrant coral reef in the region for some snorkelling - and maybe spot some dolphins or killer whales on the way.
Today will mark the beginning of the jungle survival skills phase. On the edge of the virgin rainforest lies the start of the Baining tribe's territory. They've agreed to guide us through the bush for three days, sharing their knowledge along the way. After dark, we'll be privileged to witness the hair-raising fire dance - an occassion that will stay with you the rest of your life.
With our packs, we will hike through stunning rainforest, spotting many of the wild animals such as dogs, bandicoot, cuscus and cassowary. At this point I will teach you how to make yourself at home, how to use a machete, string up a hammock and tarp, collect and purify water and how to make fire including by friction. Our Baining guides will teach you their crafts including cooking, making cloth from bark, setting traps, and utilising medicinal plants. We will then slowly make our way back to Rabaul Hotel to freshen up before dining and discussing all our experiences at the historical New Guinea club.
Today we sail twenty miles to the Duke of York Islands - the stronghold of Tumbuan culture, full of secret rituals. It's truly a tropical paradise. After exploring these equally spectacular coral reefs, we will see how the Tolai weave mats and baskets from coconut leaves, make and use shell money, and perhaps even be treated to a fire eating ritual.
An early boat ride back to the mainland will lead us into a spot of lunch at the charismatic Ralam Club before we visit the historical and cultural centre next door. The friendly owner will happily share his wealth of knowledge, and maybe even show off his pet salt-water crocodiles out the back! We can then visit the bustling market to browse and have the opportunity to purchase some souvenirs.
The two-day Frangipani festival begins today, where thousands of locals flock to Rabaul to celebrate the re-birth of the town following the 1994 eruption that devastated it. Excitement is everywhere, from mysterious Tumbuan landing on the beach in canoes at sunrise, float processions through the streets, live music, canoe races, and the shocking Tolai whip dance.
The Frangipani festival continues, with more excitement and activities. We'll then have our final evening together. A perfect way to celebrate the end of our trip.
Transfer back to Rabaul Airport for departure.
An expedition folder explaining the trip in more detail, including the place and time to meet and your own personal and equipment preparations will be sent to you six months before the trip commences. Not only will this provide everything you need to know about the trip, but it will be a wonderful momento to keep.