A million different journeys.
Milne Bay Province takes in the land at the extreme eastern end of Papua New Guinea together with seven groups of islands, the Trobriand, Woodlark, Laughlan, Louisiade Archipelago, the Conflict Group, the Samarai Group and the D'Entrecasteaux Group. The names come from a variety of explorers from as early as 1660 when D'Entrecasteaux sailed through and left his name behind.
Over the years, Milne Bay Province has been visited by missionaries, miners, traders in pearls, scientists and Japanese and American warships. During the war Milne Bay became a huge naval base through which hundreds of thousands of servicemen passed.
Today thousands of tourists arrive to enjoy diving around the wreckage left behind from the war. There are 160 named islands and 500 cays and atolls scattered over 250,000 square kilometres of ocean. In many parts of Milne Bay, the reefs are characterised by dramatic drop-offs, clefts and overhangs.
The most comfortable way to enjoy Milne Bay diving is aboard one of the live-aboard dive boats based out of Alotau, the provincial headquarters. The 60 foot MV Chertan can comfortably accommodate up to 14 divers. Built in 1992, it is equipped with the latest electronic equipment, video and stereo systems. The MV Telita was Papua New Guinea's first live-aboard dive boat and was designed specifically as a live-aboard diving vessel. It has five twin-berth cabins, sophisticated electronic equipment, a bar, video, stereo, a well-equipped library and a charging console for photographers.
Alotau town and its busy harbour are spectacularly sited on the edge of Milne Bay. For good views climb the hill behind the town. Handcrafts, mostly from the Trobriand Islands, are available at the Masurina Business Centre and Masurina Lodge.
The 24ha Samarai Island was the provincial government headquarters until 1968. There are guesthouses here or you can stay on other nearby islands. All have good beaches and reefs and some have walking trails.
The largest in the group is Fergusson Island which reaches 2073m and has thermal areas with hot springs and bubbling mud pools. Salamo has guesthouses and there is one at Nadi, 45 mins by boat along the coast, and others inland near the mountains. There are plenty of good walking options.
The district headquarters is at Esa'ala on Normanby Island, at the entrance to the spectacular Dobu Passage. There are guesthouses in town to base yourself for exploring. Reefs close to town are good for snorkelling.
At 26km across and 2566m high, Goodenough Island is spectacularly rugged above a flat coastal plain. The largest settlement, Bolubolu, has accommodation or you can stay at Vaiava village. The peaks can be climbed from Lokulokuya Village in two days but get permission and take a guide. Snorkelling anywhere around the coast is rewarding.
In contrast to other island groups, the Trobes are low lying. The islanders are famous for their culture and huge yam gardens, which have cultural significance in tribal rituals. Yams are kept in tall storehouses set above the ground and the harvest season is celebrated with the Milamala festival in late July/August. Beautifully carved bowls, walking sticks and fish are another hallmark of these islands.
Losuia, on the biggest island Kiriwina, has accommodation but there are few other facilities. Village stays and visits to numerous freshwater holes or burial caves can be arranged. The best beach for swimming is at Wawela, which also has a lagoon and reef for snorkelling.
This easternmost point of the mainland can be visited in a day or you can stay at Oima Guesthouse, the last village. Snorkelling and diving are fantastic here and beaches and scenery en route to the cape are beautiful
Places to dive are innumerable in Milne Bay and around the islands and are best enjoyed from a live-aboard dive boat. The local experts Milne Bay Marine Charters also do day trips.
The comfortable way to see the islands is aboard the luxury Melanesian Discoverer which cruises between Alotau and Madang via the Trobriands. Otherwise small boats can be chartered.
Airlines PNG does a regular ‘milk run’ around the islands and is a good way to see some remote places in a short time.
The Weddau area on the north coast offers walks and for great views you can hike to the top of Mount Pasipasi (600m), behind Dogura, in a long hot day. Walking from Weddau to Alotau takes three to four days, following the north coast then crossing the hills. The Cape Vogel area also has bush trails and waterfalls to explore from the Bogaboga Guesthouse.
Locally organised tours can show the highlights around Alotau.
The Alotau area is good for birds. Contact the Milne Bay Tourist Visitors Bureau (675) 641 1503, at the Masurina Business Centre in town, or organise a guide through your hotel.
Alotau, spectacularly sited on the edge of Milne Bay is a good base for visiting the outlying islands. Fergusson Island has an active thermal region, hot springs, bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and volcanoes. Misima Island was the scene of a 1930 gold rush from which a major mine has now been developed. Woodlark Island is populated by people of Melanesian ancestry. The islanders are renowned for their expertly crafted wood carvings.
One of the best locations to enjoy the charms of the friendly and peace loving Milne Bay people is the Trobriand Islands. Their unique social system is dominated by hereditary chieftains who continue to wield tremendous power and influence, although inheritances and lines of power are passed through the female side of the family. From June - August the Milamala yam harvest festival is held. The Milamala starts with a procession of men carrying the newly harvested yams from the garden storage hut to the village yam houses while the women ahead sing and dance. During the festival time, traditional rites are observed. It was from Malinowski's anthropological studies of the customs and sexual practices during this time that The Trobriands became known as The Islands of Love.
Fresh water caves are found all over Kiriwina island. Near Matawa Village there are several deep limestone caves housing burial antiquities and skeletal remains. At Wawela there is a beautiful curving beach on a cool, deep lagoon. The village children fishing from their outrigger canoes are happy to give visitors a ride out to the reef to enjoy snorkelling. Visitors should bring their own snorkel or dive gear to Kiriwina as availability at the lodges is not constant.
Air Niugini and other third level airlines provide flights to Gurney Airport from Port Moresby. They also provide connections to Gurney from other centres in PNG
For more information about the East New Britain Province, visit the East New Britain Tourism Bureau website: www.milnebaytourism.gov.pg