MV Pacific Aria - 14 Day “Papua New Guinea Experience,” from Brisbane February 10, 2017 - Part Three - Page Two

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MV Pacific Aria is seen at anchor at Kiriwina Island PNG on November 20, 2017

Page Three

The Papua New Guinea Experience


Part Two


Welcome to Part Two of “The Papua New Guinea Experience,” however if you have arrived at this page via a Search Engine, I suggest that you use the “Pacific Aria Cruise Review INDEX” at the bottom of the page to visit the relevant page!

On Part One of our fascinating PNG experience, we have looked at our visits to;

I trust that Part Two of our voyage to the PNG will encourage many more Australians and New Zealanders to undertake this amazing cruise of exploration, for believe me it has been an exciting experience for all onboard, let alone Eng Tan, who just desires to do it all again!

Reuben Goossens.

Maritime Historian, Author & Cruise ‘n’ Ship Reviewer.

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960.

Ports of Call:

Please Note: Photographs taken ashore are by & © Hun-Eng Tan

Including a number of views taken from the ship by & © Reuben Goossens,

Also some photographs by & © Terry Whitter.

Rabaul, PNG:

Saturday February 18. As the Pacific Aria slowly made is way towards the Port of Rabaul, around 6.30am we passed on our starboard side the volcanoes of Mount Tavurvur, which so violently erupted in 1937 and in 1994. Tovanumbatir one of eight active volcanic vents in the Rabaul caldera. The smoke could be clearly seen constantly rising from the latter and along its sides the scars of lava flows are clearly visible.

Here we see the very active volcano Mount Tavurvur as we were heading into the Port of Rabaul


Soon we were heading for port and would be docking

We arrived and docked at the Port of Rabaul at 7am, where a male College group in uniform awaited us on the wharf and sang beautiful local songs of welcome in wonderful tenor and baritone voices.


Above & below: The amazing voices of the Rabaul male College Choral Group awaited as and entertained us warmly dockside


Rabaul is located on PNG’s northeastern tip, and this province is certainly blessed with great natural beauty. However sadly, it is also a region that plagued with, what we can only call a very unlucky past, and the region has to continually rise from the ashes.

During the Second World War Rabaul was frequently attacked by American, Australia and New Zealand Navies and aircraft from 1942. But it was the Battle of Rabaul in November 1943 that sadly saw the town all but destroyed. With Rabaul having been rebuilt, it was destroyed again by a volcanic eruption in 1937. With Rabaul having been rebuilt, it was in 1994 when the next massive destruction came, when the nearby volcano, Mount Tavurvur erupted and wiped out the entire area. Therefore, that old and beautiful town of Rabaul that I remember so well from my last visit there, back in 1975 has tragically never recovered, and it was completely evacuated and relocated a good 20 kilometres away to the town of Kokopo, which has become the new commercial center.

However, around 2,000 residents have since then returned to Rabaul area, and the town has been partially rebuilt. Today, Eng decided not to participate on an organised tour as he just wished to go and mix with the locals and see the town. He soon found the “Rabaul Page Park Markets” that stood out as the focal gathering point in the heart of the town, with its vast undercover stall areas, as well as countless outdoor stalls most of which are located under large umbrellas. In addition the town also has a number of supermarkets and a variety of shops and other businesses.

Eng took a photograph of the ship as he headed into town


He soon discovered the “Page Park Markets”



Above & below: Two views of the market, the interior was closing, and most trading was outside


My shipboard friend Terry Whitter has booked on the “War and Colonial History Tour,” which is described below, and thankfully Terry has taken some great photographs for me, for everyone to enjoy, as they are a vital part of PNG, and thus, our history!

Photographs in the “War and Colonial History Tour” story are by & © Terry Whitter, unless stated otherwise

Tours available:

During the “War and Colonial History Tour” which will take passengers to the “East New Britain Historical & Cultural Centre Kokopo Museum” where countless memories of World War II are to be discovered.

The Japanese controlled this region and there are still many Japanese relics to be found. There are vehicles, weapons, and other artefacts related to Japan’s occupation of Rabaul. Besides a Japanese aircraft fuselage there are also the remains of a nosecone of an American B-17 bomber. A Japanese Tank as well as guns and 37mm field guns are to be found here.

A Japanese model 94 (1934) 37mm calibre Field Gun range 5000 yards – used as an anti-tank gun


A partial fuselage of a Japanese attack plane

Next came a visit to the remarkable “Japanese barge tunnels.” There is no doubt, that it was a remarkable feat to construct a 300 miles of underground tunnels and pathways designed to conceal munitions stores, a hospital, as well as a means of secret movement, and so much more. But the Barge tunnels were just amazing to view and to see an actual barge still mostly intact.

Here we see the entrance of the Japanese Barge Tunnel

Photograph was provided by Major, Jason Stenhouse-Lawrence


A close-up view of the Barge in the tunnel

This tour concludes with a visit to the “Bita Paka Memorial Cemetery” where more than a thousand Allied and Australian soldiers are buried. These men bravely fought and sadly died, whilst fighting to defend Rabaul from the Japanese occupation during WWII.


Above & below: Three views from the Bita Paka Memorial War Cemetery

Please Note: There will be further images on Page 5 from Terry’s tour!


An unknown Australian Soldier from World War Two


There is so much more to the tour as it will cover the history of this region and its culture.

The second tour is the “Rabaul Volcanic Tour” and the name says it all! Visit the Volcanological Observatory on Tovanumbatir, which monitors 14 active and 23 dormant Volcanoes. From these heights, expect amazing sights over the stunning Simpson Harbour and the Islands mountainous skyline. You will next head to the village of Tolai, which has amazingly adapted to live under an active Volcano, and some time will be spent here.

Villagers of Tolai in traditional dress - the headwear is a symbol of protection from volcanic fire from falling from above

Photographer is unknown - see photo notes at bottom of page

But then it is to that famed and violent Mount Tavurvur, the one that so violently erupted in 1937 and 1994. Here you can see the hot springs, which will reach boiling point. But of course due to the danger, no one can go up the Volcano as it is to dangerous, in fact it did not look very happy as the ship entered port with a massive cloud of smoke pouring from her vent! But you will be standing right on her foot, so to say and it is very, very hot indeed! You will see the old Rabaul Airport, which I flew in and out of in the 70s, but it was mostly destroyed by the 1994 eruption. You will also see Japanese warplanes half-buried in ash once again a testament to the power of this Volcano!

It is worthwhile to do the “War and Colonial tour,” or better still combine the two tours, which is an option available. By doing both tours, you will see everything that is worthwhile in this fascinating historic and volcanic region!

A photo taken by me from the balcony of the harbour side with a small cargo ship and an interesting looking rock

Kiriwina Island, Trobriand Islands: (Tender).

Sunday February 19. Even as we arrived, we could see that this was going to be a very different destination to any we have visited so far on the cruise. What makes this destination so very different from all others is that this rather remarkable island, somehow has escaped the rest of the world, for it is one of the worlds most intact Island cultures, as its natives resides on one of the most beautiful, untouched and natural Islands you will ever find! And what really touched me is that we on board the Pacific Aria are among the very few who are fortunate enough to experience this wondrous place today, but also its neighbouring Island Kitava tomorrow!

Kiriwina Island is located in Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay Province, and as we sailed towards our anchoring location, I noted that it looked much larger than what even I expected, and it I discovered that it is in fact the largest of the Trobriand Islands. Kiriwina Island has population of just over 12,000 people.

Early in the morning the tenders were being lowered and first supplies, such as ships water was taken to the jetty as well as large shade umbrellas, etc. Then passengers could head ashore, according to their tender ticket number.


Above & below: tenders seen lowered and made ready for Guests to be transferred, and a view of the Island and the jetty a little later in the day



The welcome arch at the end of the jetty as passengers step on land

From the ship it looked like paradise, and Eng headed ashore for an extensive walk around the most accessible part of the Island. And he discovered some of the wondrous delights of native life as well as some of the local culture! One of the most unusual things regarding the lives of the people on Kiriwina Island is that it operates on a “Matrilineal Society.” This means that the women enjoy a higher status than men and this is very strange in the overall region of the PNG or anywhere else for that matter! Of course, just as it is in most native communities, pigs are the main indicator of the wealth of a family, or a village!

Women villagers and some children sit in their gathering place, like our lounge back home!


A villager has two of her pet birds with her and amazingly, they are happy to just stay!

From what Eng could see, the lives of the people remained much of an ancient lifestyle, living in homes with walls made from woven flax or long leaves, and the roof was covered with palm leaves, or with other simple materials.

The Island had countless beauty spots, just like the one seen below. In addition Eng also took a good number of photographs of the Pacific Aria whilst he was on Kiriwina Island.

Two native children swimming amongst the rocks



Above & below: Two fine photographs of the Pacific Aria seen just off Kiriwina Island


Interestingly, on the beach, there were shallow caves, but there were some that seem to have a large hand made/cut beam across the top and a round column in the middle supporting it, whilst others seem just hewn into the rock wall. The consensus seems to be that these caves may have been used as burial caves in ancient times.


Above & below: Note the oblong cave with a support pillar in the center was it part of an ancient burial system?



 Here is yet another shallow cave

The people have their own language, called “Kilivila” as well as various dialects. The people are very polite and extremely friendly and delighted to see new visitors from far a field. The Island has very little external influence as the locals prefer to live their natural life style, thus occasionally a vessel will come and bring only the most necessary needs.


Above & below: A small group of children in one of the villages as well as two mothers


The people of Kiriwina Island are so welcoming and the men came out in their traditional costumes and performed and sang, it was amazing, the children were a joy to listen to, for their songs and their behaviour was simply wonderful, and Australian children could learn much from living such a simple life. They may not have the technology we have, but they do have food galore as well as fish and the finest lobsters, and crabs, etc, thus they do live the life!

A group of Kiriwina dancers continued the wonderful welcome we received at their Island home

Once Eng returned to the ship, he had many stories to tell of the sheer beauty of the Island and its beaches, the villages, the people’s friendliness, and lifestyle, etc. But later, he also found those interesting caves. As can be seen below I took some further photographs from the ship


Above & below: a wonderful scene as passengers go for an outrigger canoe ride and the caves located along the beach


All passengers I spoke with thoroughly enjoyed their visit to the wonderful and very friendly people of Kiriwina Island and felt it was the beautiful and “an untouched jewel” so far during our PNG cruise. Everyone is looking forward to tomorrow’s experience, for I know that Eng certainly is he has his camera battery fully charged and ready.

Kitava, Trobriand Islands: (Tender).

Monday February 20. Pacific Aria around 8 am of Kitava Island having travelled just 20 kilometres as well as being stationary overnight. However, I am sure that Kitava will also prove to be a perfect Island paradise and from what we have learned, it will be very similar in many ways to the lifestyle found on Kiriwina Island, considering the natives speak the same language, being “Kilivila.” Kitava Island has also escaped much of the maddening world, having a close and an intact Island culture, although they do have a good quality school that was built some time back complete with a compound of houses for its teachers. From the photographs taken from the ship, the Island is sublimely beautiful, and it looks very much untouched and natural!

An early arrival at Kitava Island and from the ship we can see the Island’s jetty and the first tender tied at the end



Above & below: Another view of the Island and a small boat is heading where?

It is heading for the exotic Naratu Island, just 300 metres offshore


This delightful Island is still located in Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay Province, and the jetty juts out from a stunning white beach, which is backed by an abundance of natural shady trees. Just 300 metres offshore from Novau beach is the stunning sand Atoll, “Naratu Island,” which is surrounded by picture perfect white beaches.

This is not all what is awaiting the guests on the Pacific Aria, beside magnificent beaches, pure waters, but also the most wonderful people

For the arrival of the Pacific Aria, local communities had a number of performances by children from the local school as well as a group of ladies and some other villagers.


Above & below: both children entertained guests with their songs, as did their parents with their local songs


Not far from the Jetty is the native Kumagea Village, which reveals the typical lifestyle that had abounded here ever since people came to these Islands. It is all so beautiful simple, as from huts, the eventually building the most basic of houses made from the trees around them, and the raised and open air and also roofed gathering platforms, being their form of our lounges at home.


Above & below: Here we see two very different styles of huts, from the most basic to the more protective style


However, there is a well-built school and surrounding teacher’s quarters, which are 1980s in style, and are the only signs of more recent times. And again, just like our Island visit yesterday, the Kitava locals prefer to live their traditional lifestyle.


Above & below: Here we see the Islands school, which celebrated its 50th.Anniversary in 2012, and its teacher’s compound of houses


A Note of Interest: Scientists have stated that the diet of Kitava Island is one of the last places on earth where dietary habits from the original (ancient) inhabitants are virtually unchanged. The diet consists of root vegetables, tropical fruits, fish, and coconuts. It is said that this is without doubt the healthiest diet on the planet!

Without a doubt today has been very much like yesterday, for visiting the sheer beauty of these two Islands, as well as spending time with the most wonderful and friendly people of the Kiriwina and Kitava Islands, it certainly seems like we have been to Paradise!

Panasesa Island - Conflict Islands, PNG: (Tender).

Tuesday February 21. We have sadly come to our final destination, whilst on our wonderful P&O Cruises MV Pacific Aria “Papua New Guinea Experience!” Once again we arrived at 8 am at Panasesa Island in the Conflict Islands. Panasesa Island is located 11 degrees from the Equator. The ships notice advises us in regard to the Conflict Islands; “The Conflict Islands provide the quintessential tropical Island experience, with white sandy beaches, palm trees, warm breezes (32 degrees) and sparkling seas.” Until June 2016, no ship had ever visited the Conflict Islands, for the Pacific Jewel was the very first ship to call at this privately owned Island. In a landmark partnership for the region, P&O Cruises worked closely with Mr. Ian Gowrie-Smith to bring cruise ships to his Islands, being one of only a few parcels of land owned completely Freehold in Papua New Guinea. The Conflict Islands is a Coral Atoll 152 kilometres or 94 miles off the tip of Mainland Papua New Guinea, comprising of some 21 Islands. The Atoll has a deep channel which has allowed the Pacific Aria to reach its destination and anchor safely in the Atoll’s Lagoon.

A map of all the Islands in the “Conflict” Group, Panasesa is shown underlined!

As the Pacific Aria headed towards the Island we were visiting today, I noted that the sea was a deep blue, with a mixture of a very pale blue to aqua blue. I quickly assumed that this must be a sand bank close to sea level. Obviously we sailed past it to a suitable location where the ship would be located and tenders were rapidly lowered.

Looking towards Panasesa with deep blue seas as well as that lighter coloured streak in between

Although the island itself technically has no resident population, but the Island does have a small PNG staff based on the Island, both male and female and they are there to assist guests, as well as to man several of the Island services based on the Island.

As guests arrive at the Panasesa Island jetty, the first place they will locate is the Welcome Centre which will provide an Island map and information, and it is possible to hire diving and snorkelling gear, for the reef is a spectacular in the crystal waters surrounding this beautiful Island!


Above & below: The Welcome & Information centre at the Jetty, and the large Map located next to the Centre


Love walking? There are a good number of well-marked walking tracks, circling the entire island, across the Island, or other shorter tracks, although none is too long! But the good news is the Island is relatively flat! But, one of the most popular attractions on Panasesa Island will be the never-ending pure white sand beaches, all backed by tall, and graceful palm and other trees, and passengers will be swimming to their hearts contents, and keeping cool under the shade of the abundant trees. For those that may have a small or other accident, be it walking on the reef, when one should not, there is a very efficient P&O Medical Center located on the Island. Go and discover the Turtle Hatcheries, which are carefully protected by low fences.


Above & below: One of the well-maintained pathways and one of the Turtle Hatchery’s on the Island


In due course you may get a little hungry and suddenly you may smell the waft of a BBQ nearby, for that will be Joe’s Kitchen that offers BBQ-style food as well as alcohol and soft drinks.

Joe’s Kitchen

Then there is the Coconut Bar as well as the Souvenir Shop, and nearby is one of the two well-built and spotless toilet blocks on the Island.


Above & below: The Coconut Bar and the male & female toilets


Also close by, is the grass landing strip as aircraft do land here, today helicopter flights around this and another island were available for A$135, being the same fare than a shorter flight that at Sea World on the Gold Coast.


Above & below: Yes, it is the ‘Terminal’ as flights do arrive here from the PNG mainland as guests do stay here in the Luxury Resorts cabins

On the airstrip we se the Helicopter with its Pilot and our beautiful cruise ship, the Pacific Aria!


When it comes to the resort on this Island, it is very exclusive, and guests book all inclusive packages in just a small number of beautifully decorated Chalets, all located right on the beach. Although, when the ship is in port there were no guests on the Island.

Here we see two of the Chalets



Above & below: The Resort Chalets are located on beaches and pristine waters just like this

Both photographs taken by & © Terry Whitter


Historically speaking; these Islands were first chartered back in 1886 and are named after HMS Conflict, a British Naval vessel that was built and based in Sydney Australia.

Passengers returning from their day ashore were nothing short from excited with the Island and found it picture perfect, although there were just a few who felt it was a little too commercialised, but after having been in such cultural and ancient style villages, it is a shock to suddenly see something that resembles civilisation, but those who were not happy were sadly a certain group of people who had not even paid their cruise fares, as they were part of some Casino Club and it seemed that they hated everything outside the casino!

For the majority of passengers, it was wonderful farewell to Papua New Guinea, a day of activity in the sublimely clear waters, or just soaking up the Island’s beauty and discovering the various turtle nests or other special sites on the Island. It was certainly a day most told me they will remember and it was a delightful conclusion to their Papua New Guinea adventure, and they were looking forward to the two sea days before reaching Brisbane and heading home again.

In Conclusion:

Having departed Papua New Guinea with some regret, but filled with wonderful memories of such an amazing and colourful country. We discovered that the people of PNG were a people with such a diverse culture that would make your head spin for quite a while just to comprehend it all! Therefore, we obviously, as I said before, departed Papua New Guinea with some regret and with a desire to return to these wonderful gentle people we have met.

Here is my very last photograph as we were heading homeward to Brisbane

What amazed us all, there was never a single man, woman or child who ever asked us for money, nor would they even accept any if you wished to give any. As you will have seen on these two special pages, and the “PNG Photo Album,” the colour of Papua New Guinea is just staggering, and visiting this wonderful country on the Pacific Aria, or another P&O ship for that matter, is without a doubt a very special way to do it. I certainly recommend that you do partake at least on the excursions I have clearly mentioned, being the “Alotau Cultural Festival” tour, and the “Madang Resort Festival” tour, for these two tours are simply spectacular. There are others, but I do have to leave something up to your own ideas and needs!

Eng and other passengers have countless memories, including meeting this native from the Alotua coastal region

There is no doubt that at the Village Festival you will discover the real PNG! Remember that P&O has exclusive arrangements, for these festivals and dances cannot be seen anywhere else, as it is only available to P&O guests on the said excursion, as the entire area is private land and it is gated. In addition the dancers and all performers are not professionals, who do this at hotels, they are genuine villagers who are either locals, or come from far a field, be it from the various Islands, Coastline regions, as well as the Central Highlands, etc.

We had arrived at Wewak, and besides stunning views and unbelievable colour of the water,

some three boys paddled towards our ship on their tiny canoe after we had dropped anchor

I will conclude by saying that our cruise on the Pacific Aria was a complete success, the best of service, we dined on the very best of food, be it in the Waterfront Restaurant or at the amazing Angelo’s Italian Restaurant, as well as the more casual, yet wonderful The Pantry, and all was included in your fare.

I trust you have enjoyed this two part; “Papua New Guinea Experience,” however, there is still one further page, being “The PNG Photo Experience” located on Page Five.

I highly recommend that you book and cruise a Papua New Guinea experience on the Pacific Aria, for I will certainly do it again soon and who knows we might meet onboard one day!

Reuben Goossens.

Maritime Historian, Author & Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer.

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960.


The Pacific Aria seen berthed at Rabaul, PNG



MV Pacific Aria Cruise Reviews Index - 2017:

Page One         Cruise Review, Public Venues, & Dinning Experiences.

Page Two         Shows, Sports, Fitness Centre, P&O EDGE, & Suites-Cabins & Deck Plan.

Page Three-1   The Papua New Guinea Experience. (Based on Feb 2017 Cruise).

Page Three-2   The Papua New Guinea Experience.                                                              

Page Three-3   The Papua New Guinea Photo Experience.                                           



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