Discover the war-time history and fabulous festivals of remote Papua New Guinea.

You've heard it here first: there's a lot more to Papua New Guinea than the Kokoda Trek. Not only is Australia's closest neighbour one of the world's most culturally diverse countries, it's one of its least explored and understood. A famously crabby geography is largely to thank for these distinctions. Rivers, valleys, gorges, mountains, volcanoes, lagoons and inlets carve up the country like its nobody's business, making for an environment where different cultures have been able to develop in virtual isolation from each other – not to mention the outside world. For the visitor, the most striking evocation of this comes in the form of a traditional ceremony. And this trip, designed to get you into the guts of PNG, takes in some of the best. Sign up for this trip and you'll catch the reenacted canoe landing that kicks off the Kinavai Ceremony, see the vibrant masks and costumes of the Rabaul Mask Festival on July departures and watch grown men dance through flames at the Baining Fire Dance. Encounter local village life in Matupit Island, visit war relics in Kokopo Town and take to boat for a cruise around the Duke of York Islands.

Start
Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
Finish
Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
Countries
Papua New Guinea
Themes
Explorer
Code
TESR
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Marvel at an active volcano, tuck into a shoreline barbeque and experience a traditional sing-sing in the Duke of York Islands
  • Discover how the World Wars played out in the Pacific. Visit the War Museum in Rabaul and head underground for a tour of the Japanese tunnels in Kokopo
  • Be mesmerised by the chants of the Kinavai ceremony as the canoes paddle across the magical dawn
  • There's nothing in the world like the Bainings fire dance. Watch as men engulf themselves in flames to the beat of the bamboo drum and escape unharmed
  • Gain an insight into small village industry on a day trip to the tiny Matupit Island
  • Relax and unwind at the plush Rapopo Plantation Resort when it's all over

Itinerary

Welcome to Papua New Guinea! Rabaul Airport (aka Tokua Airport) and be transferred to your hotel. Rabaul’s apt nickname 'Pearl of the Pacific' was replaced with 'Pompeii of the Pacific' after the Tarvurvur volcano erupted in 1994 and devasted the town. Despite this loss, Rabaul is still an alluring destination of beauty and depth. You will meet your group and leader for a welcome meeting at 6.30 pm in the reception area of the hotel. You will also learn a bit about the history of Rabaul from the hotel owner. Enjoy a welcome drink at the bar and an optional dinner tonight.
Special Information
ARRIVAL TRANSFER:
An arrival transfer is included on this trip. Please ensure you provide us with your flight arrival time no later than 7 days before your trip commences. If we do not receive this information we will not be able to meet you at the airport. Late night arrivals in particular will be difficult and daunting to make your way to our starting point on your own.

RABAUL MASK FESTIVAL:
Departures in July will include experiencing the Rabaul Mask Festival. The festival takes place on 12th & 13th July and these days will be spent at the festival site. All other destinations and activities will still be included, however in a different order. Your leader will advise on the daily itinerary for these departures at the group meeting.
Depart the hotel at 4.30 am. This morning you will experience the Kinavai ceremony, a re-enactment of the landing of the Tolai People into Rabaul. The canoes paddle across the water at the break of dawn and you can hear the canoes and the chants long before you see them. The stillness of the morning air coupled with the chanting makes this a riveting spectacle. After the Kinavai you will return to the hotel for breakfast.

The rest of the day will be spent touring the area and includes a trip to the Rabaul Markets. Make sure you have some small denominations of PNG Kina (5–10 kina notes) so you can pick up some trinkets here and try some local fruits or snacks. You will also visit Yamamoto’s Bunker to learn more about the genius behind Japan's early WWII naval successes. Then, across the street, check out the remains of the Old Nuigini Club and gain some insight into what Rabaul was like both pre- and post-eruption, and pre-independence. Continue to the Japanese Submarine Base, then make a stop at the Volcano Observatory for a look out over Old Rabaul – a great photo opportunity.
 Also see the Japanese tunnels and barge tunnels at Karavia Bay. Take a walk through this maze which goes around 20 metres underground and consists of three stories, a kitchen and many escape routes.
Located directly across the bay from the currently active Tavurvur volcano, Matupit Island boasts a population of 200–300, many of whom have resettled throughout the province following the 1994 eruptions. On arrival you will be greeted by the islanders with frangipani leis (garlands) and be taken through the village, stopping by the locals schools, church and craft market. You will have the opportunity to make purchases and participate in traditional crafts and activities. You'll get a sense of how the local inhabitants survive on a day-to-day basis by seeing how important fishing and the collection of Megapode eggs are to the local economy (another major revenue stream is the coconut). You might find your own megapode egg – or buy one from the local villagers – to take back to the hotel and have it cooked for your breakfast. Lunch today will be a traditional one, cooked right on the beach by your local friends. In the evening, return to the mainland.

Notes: The walk across the lava landscape today can be quite challenging, as the surface is uneven and slippery. Be sure to wear strong and sturdy footwear.
Marvel at the force of Mother Nature from the base of an active volcano. From here you will be picked up by your vessel and transported to Duke of York Islands. You'll need good walking shoes or waterproof sandals today, as there will be some uneven surfaces. While each island around East New Britain has its own personality and story, The Duke of York Islands is where you'll experience the real PNG. Cruise around the islands and hear some of the local history while taking in the wonderful array of colours in this small archipelago. Keep an eye out for dolphins, dugong (sea cows with forked tails) and local fishing canoes. The waters around here are crystal-clear blue lagoons, the beaches are white, and the vegetation is lush – it's a real slice of paradise. Your tour today includes a barbecue lunch cooked on the beach of one of the islands. Afterwards there will be plenty of time to relax, unwind and enjoy the hospitality of the local Duke of York Islanders. You will stop on Mioko Island and learn more about traditional weaving, cooking and fishing. Enjoy a traditional sing-sing (a gathering of tribes for cultural performance) and an overnight stay in the village.
Rise at 6am for an early morning walking tour of the village community. After breakfast, head out to witness village craft-making in action, such as basket and mat weaving. Return to Rabaul for lunch and transfer to Kokopo.
Today you will travel to see the sights around Kokopo. Your tour of the area will include a visit to the Bitapaka War Cemetery, where the first Australians who fought here during the first and second World Wars have been laid to rest. Hear about the 2nd/22nd Battalion and the interesting war history of Rabaul – namely the Battle of Rabaul, also known by the Japanese as Operation R. You will also visit the Blue Lagoon where you can see some Japanese barge tunnels. These tunnels were built by the Japanese to conceal their barges and to protect them from the bombing raids of the Allies in World War II. Finally you will check out the nearby volcano and hot springs. Here you can stand at the base of the volcano and marvel at the force of Mother Nature.
Spend the day out on the water swimming and snorkelling. Marvel at the dolphins frolicking in the turquoise seas. Stay in Kokopo again tonight.
Your tour of the area today includes a trip to the Kokopo Markets and the Kokopo War Museum where we will look over some of the cultural exhibits as well the left over war relics of the two wars in Rabaul. We will then retire back to the hotel for a late lunch and a rest before this evenings performances. Tonight we head up to Kainagunan or Gaulim Village in the Bainings area (approximately 50 minutes from the hotel). Watch as the men from the Bainings clans immerse themselves in flames and escape unscathed. The Bainings are one of few cultures in PNG that doesn't use the Kundu drum; they use bamboo instead. This exhilarating ritual is not performed anywhere else in the world. 
Your trip finishes this morning after breakfast.

For those wishing to stay in the area longer there are plenty of optional activities available. Keen scuba divers can take a half-day trip to explore the incredible coral reefs and underwater World War II wreckage. Deep-sea game fishing is also possible. Those looking to relax and unwind might like to indulge in an 'Island Massage', sure to reinvigorate you after your week of adventuring.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
8 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner
Transport
Private vehicle, Boat
Accommodation
Hotels (7 nights), Homestay (1 night)
Included activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Rabaul - Old Niugini Club
  • Rabaul - Japanese Submarine Base & Tunnels
  • Rabaul - Rabaul Markets
  • Rabaul - Yamamoto's Bunker
  • Rabaul - Karavai Ceremony
  • Matupit Island - Day trip
  • Duke of York Islands - Mioko Island tour & sing sing
  • Kokopo - Dolphin watching & snorkelling
  • Kokopo - Bitapaka War Cemetery
  • Kokopo - Blue Lagoon
  • Kokopo - Kokopo Markets
  • Complimentary Airport Departure Transfer

Dates

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Important notes

1. An arrival & departure transfer is included on this trip. Please provide us with your flight arrival & departure time no later than 7 days before your trip commences. If we do not receive this information we will not be able to meet you at the airport. Late night arrivals in particular will be difficult and daunting to make your way to our starting point on your own.
2. Due to including the Rabaul Mask Festival, the July departures will follow an amended itinerary to the one in these Trip Notes. Exact itinerary will be confirmed with your leader on Day 1 at the group meeting.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Papua New Guinea Adventure trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 8 reviews in the last year.

Expedition - Rabaul Mask Festival, Papua New Guinea , July 2016

Expedition - Rabaul Mask Festival, Papua New Guinea , July 2016