What will I see ?
The people of Papua New Guinea
We will spend our time with Papua New Guinea's most peaceful people. The people of Milne Bay. As the islands here are often very isolated from each other, over thousands of years widely varying cultures have evolved and you'll find every new location will have it's own cutoms and culture and often a completely new language. Even though some islands are not more than a mile or two apart, they often have their very own language. The official language of Papua New Guinea is Pigeon English. Its a broken and simplified version of english. For example the word 'youme' means 'we'. The secondary language is english and is spoken easily by about 3/4 of the adult population of Milne Bay. The children though speak less english as it is taught only later in school.
People here are genuinely friendly and very curious although often a little shy at first. The men are often well built from paddling canoes long distances, the women gracefull and the younger women very attractive. The children dance, run, laugh and play almost all day and very few tears are ever seen.
Getting to know some of the locals and making life long firm friendships is one of the goals of each adventure and we'll immerse you in their life and culture at every opportunity.
Milne bay has a chain of remote tropical islands extending south east for nearly 140nm. There are litteraly countless islands in this area, some inside lagoons formed by sheer coral walls rising from hundreds of meters below sea level and others in groups and individually adorned with coral reefs. The coral reefs here are perfectly healthy and vibrant with colours and teeming with life. Mostly the larger islands are inhabited with a few villages each, but many of the smaller islands are completely uninhabited and only visited infrequently for fishing.
Most islands have tropical rainforest canopies filling the centre and sandy beaches all around. Water is available on the larger islands, but on the smaller islands we either bring our own water, or use comunity wells usually dug in the centre of an island.
Carvings made from wood and very occasionaly, stone, are often found in Milne Bay. Truly beatiful masterpieces made from jet black ebony wood and polished to a crisp shine are often offered to our guests on a random basis. The prices vary widely depending on the seller, the carving and the likelyhood of selling it to another passing tourist in 12 months time. Basically you can get a very beautiful and unique piece of art here for very, very little. Many carvings take more than a month to make and are hand carved with simple tools. There are no 'workshops' here churning out the same design by uncaring workers. No. These works are lovingly made and very proudly displayed for you.
Also on offer here are traditional dress. Items such as grass skirts (And the items originating with a Trobriand Island design are particularly beautiful), arm bands, beaded necklace (Such as Baggi which is still a form of money in use today in the Milne Bay region) and axes, spears etc.. can be found from time to time. Sometimes you will find yourself invited to view some items at a villagers house.
Even though these items can be bargained down to ridiculous prices, we recommend you don't. We encourage you to consider the amount of effort gone into the production of your one off work of art and bargain accordingly. A simple matter of $10 makes little difference to you in the big scheme of things, but makes plenty of difference to a family that needs to raise money for school fees for their child. Be fair.
Island culture changes markedly in very short distances. The culture is still very strong even though some western influences have made their way into the peoples lives. Religion is probably the biggest change to the local culture made in the last 100 years or so. The region is strongly christian and people are either catholic or uniting church although there are a few fringing churches making 'missions' here. Nearly every middle to larger sized island has at least one church and often two or three. Going to church on a sunday morning is a very social and beautiful event. The singing is particularly astounding.
In most places a strong belief in magic goes along side their christian beliefs. Sorcerers are regularly consulted about daily matters and their opinion is respected during times of decision. There are many places where locals will not go and even islands where they will not go due to a strong belief in spirits or magic.
The Milne Bay people are renowned for their peacefull way of life and by simply showing respect and asking permission, you will find almost every door open for you. Any inadvertant mistakes you make will be quickly forgiven and seen for exactly what it is. Sometimes, if they have come to respect you by you respecting them, they will even tell you what you've done wrong. Most of the time though, they will let you carry on regardless out of respect for you and your culture and beliefs. The people here are very accommodating and always happy to help you.
As most islands have a rainforest centre, you'll often find yourself exploring these places. Huge ancient trees, ridiculously sized compared to the host island, have vines as thick as a mans thigh, twisting slowly to ground level. The sun penetrates in shafts to the mulched leaf floor through the impossible contrast of deep leaf green and sky blue. Colourful parrots and an entire eco system live in those canopies and make for a very peacefull afternoon sharing their space with them. As you approach the edges of the islands, the thick rainforest slowly gives way to smaller trees and countless coconut palms. Green ants scurry along the sandy forest floor busily collecting materials for nest building.
The coral reefs
If you have even a passing interest in what lies below the surface here, take the time to have a snorkel on the reef systems. One snorkel and your hooked ! These reefs are untouched, undamaged and in perfect shape. You can find every type of experience here.
For the beginners, you can meander your way along in shallow water close to the shore and become part of your own personal aquarium. Everything from tiny Clown Fish (Think Nemo), to giant clams and huge pelagic fish will pass you by.
For those with a bit of experience, there's always a drop off near by and you'll find super clear water and huge fish cruising along these edges. If your lucky, you may even see the odd turtle and reef shark. If you're into it, you might even join the locals for a bit of spear fishing and shell collecting for the nights meal.
If you're a real hardcore free diver, there are some places where the reefs drop off 40m+ into deep trenches full of every pealagic you can think of. Sharks cruise by paying little or no attention to you as Wahoo and Giant Trevally circle endlessly in the deep, dark blue.
Scuba diving is not an option for us at the moment due to the very remoteness of the adventures. We'd like to add it though !