A cultural spectacle that awakens all the senses. With very limited departures per year, this is a niche trip. It’s perfect for those interested in tribal cultures, war history, village life or volcanic landscapes – or who simply love to take the path less travelled.
Travel deep into Papua New Guinea to experience local cultures, natural splendour and island life on a nine-day adventure culminating in the spectacular Baining Firedance Festival. Watch as local villagers invite you into their communities and perform a traditional dance around the fire – a culturally rich and awesome sight to see. Along with this festival, discover the wild beauty of the Duke of York Islands, learn of the fascinating military history of East New Britain, encounter resident spinner dolphins, and let local island life delight your senses. For those interested in a South Pacific adventure which is definitely one-of-a-kind, let Papua New Guinea’s islands capture your imagination.
- As a small group, be welcomed into a local village and watch as traditional Baining dancers circle a growing fire and perform dancing rituals – a insight into one of Papua New Guinea’s indigenous cultures.
- Spend time before and after the performance learning more about these traditional customs, sharing meals, stories and laughs with local community members.
- Jump straight into island life of the Duke of York Islands, marvelling at an active volcano, tucking into a beachside barbecue and experiencing a traditional sing-along with the villagers.
- Discover how the World Wars played out in the Pacific, by visiting the War Museum in Rabaul and heading underground for a tour of the Japanese tunnels in Kokopo.
- Head with your expert local leader to Matupit – an ‘island’ dwarfed in the shadow of Tavurvur Volcano looming overhead – to visit the local community, their markets and streets.
Day 1: Rabaul
Welcome to Rabaul and Papua New Guinea – a land of dense jungle, bright coral reefs and wartime secrets. There aren’t any activities planned for today until an important welcome meeting at 6.30 pm where you’ll meet your group leader and fellow travellers. Wherever you are, you’ll be sure to see the dominating Tarvurvur Volcano looming in the distance.
Day 2: Firedance Festival – Vunga Village
This morning, head into the highlands of the Gazelle Peninsula. It’s here that the Firedance Festival takes place, and tonight you’ll enjoy the first of your homestays. You’ll be welcomed to Vunga village with a traditional Melanesian welcome ceremony – a common practice to show the village residents that your group is welcomed. Afterwards, enjoy a traditional mumu lunch – where root vegetables are wrapped in leaves and cooked under hot stone. Settle into the local feel of the village, and then later in the evening, this is where all the festivities start. The traditional fire dancing ceremonies are a cultural spectacle for locals and visitors alike, and your expert local guides will be able to explain to you the historical importance of the dance, as well as the costumes and elements of the performance. As it goes on into the night, villagers add bundles of firewood to the bonfire and the fire-dancers will perform until their feet put out the last flames. Enjoy a barbecue dinner as you cherish this cultural moment. (B, L, D)
Day 3: Firedance Festival
This morning, make your way to the village food hut where a fresh continental breakfast with organic fruits and brewed coffee awaits. Afterwards, the festivities continue with a number of masked performances, as well as a closing party during which the village will farewell their guests. After saying goodbye, you’ll make your way back to the group’s hotel and settle in for lunch. The afternoon is free for you to relax and share photos with your group of last night’s performances. (B, L)
Day 4: Duke of York Islands
The neighbouring islands all have their own personality, customs and cultures, and today you’ll cruise around a few to explore and experience the ‘real’ Papua New Guinea. Your destination today is Duke of York Island, but on the way, be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife too, as dolphins and even dugongs are known to play in these crystal-clear waters of the Pacific. A local village will host you while you visit Duke of York and there’ll be opportunities to learn about traditional weaving, cooking and fishing. Head on a tour of the island with your group leader, and then have plenty of time to relax into island time. All that you’ve got to worry about this afternoon is sitting back and enjoying the warm hospitality and magical singing voices of the Duke of York islanders at your overnight homestay. (B, L, D)
Day 5: Rabaul
Island life is at its most peaceful in the morning, so take an opportunity wake up early and explore the sights and sounds at dawn. You could also go for a stroll through the village and chat further with the villagers who are so kindly hosting the group. Today, you’ll have the chance to check out some of the most vibrant reefs and azure waters in all of Papua New Guinea. Your leaders will decide on an appropriate reef for snorkelling, depending on the day’s weather conditions, and work with the boat’s skipper to determine when will be best to depart the island. Afterwards, and on returning to Rabaul, check into the hotel and enjoy a free afternoon to relax after an active day. (B, L)
Day 6: Rabaul
Set off on a historical tour of Rabaul town with your group. There’ll be some walking on uneven surfaces, so pack some good walking shoes. For lunch, you’ll visit a village called Baai Village, where you’ll be treated to a mini cultural show performed by six of the region’s tribes. Today’s tour will include stops at military sites including Yamamoto’s bunker, the Japanese submarine base and the Japanese tunnels, as well as the Rabaul markets and the New Guinea Club, where you’ll gain some insight into life in Rabaul before PNG’s independence and the 1994 devastating volcanic eruption. (B)
Day 7: Matupit Island
After breakfast, transfer to Matupit – a connected island that’s home to 200-300 people. It lies directly across the bay from the Tavurvur Volcano, which destroyed the town of Rabaul in 1994, but the island itself miraculously remained almost untouched. Meet some of the islanders and visit the church and the craft market. Here you’ll have an opportunity to do some shopping and contribute to the small community, and perhaps even join in on making some traditional handicrafts. Get a feel for how the islanders live their lives, and learn about what megapode eggs are! Enjoy a traditional lunch by the beach cooked by some of the locals and spend some time exploring the lava landscape before returning to the village for the evening. (B, L)
Day 8: Kokopo
Rise and shine early for a memorable expedition out to swim with the East New Britain’s resident spinner dolphins. Spend around an hour watching the dolphins’ acrobatic displays then head back for breakfast and to prepare for the day. Be sure to wear your walking shoes as you visit the Bitapaka War Cemetery – where soldiers from World War I and II have been laid to rest, as well as the island’s markets and the Blue Lagoon. Dinner this evening is at the Ralum Country Club in Kokopo – a ideal place to celebrate your time in Papua New Guinea reminiscing with your travel pals. (D)
Day 9: Rabaul
With no activities planned for today, you are free to depart at any time after breakfast. Please note that a transfer to Tokua (Rabaul) Airport is included.
- Meals: 6 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 3 dinners
- Transport: Private vehicle
- Accommodation: Hotel (6 nights), Multishare Homestay (2 nights)
Images courtesy of Intrepid Group