PNG, By Sea, Paradise Vol. 14
Once the domain of fearless National Geographic photojournalists and intrepid explorers, PNG is re-emerging as the ideal adventure destination – this time by ship in five-star luxury. Roderick Eime reports.
Like fleeting shadows in the undergrowth, they move silently and stealthily, occasionally stopping, half-hidden, to check the progress of our canoes along the narrow, mangrove-lined creek. Our stalkers are smeared head-to-toe with the thick volcanic mud and just a tiara of mangrove leaves as camouflage. Are they looking for an opportunity to ambush us, or just satisfying their curiosity? My question will soon be answered.
Papua New Guinea has a wild reputation, but here we are on True North, one of the world’s acclaimed luxury expedition cruise ships. We’re on a “New Adventures in Paradise” cruise, beginning in the capital of New Ireland, Kavieng. The 11-day expedition, among the islands and along the coastal fringe of the Solomon Sea, visits volcanoravaged Rabaul, the uninhabited Lusancay Islands, stunning Tufi, the D’Entrecasteaux Group, the Louisiades and finally, Milne Bay and its port of Alotau.
All the time, we are feted by a handsome, fascinating people of warm, heart-felt generosity with a deep respect for custom and tradition. Shore visits from True North are conducted using its six aluminium runabouts. These hi-tech “tinnies” are more durable, faster more durable and versatile in tropical waters than the Zodiacs common on most of the world’s adventure cruises.
Landings are almost invariably wet on the many atolls and isolated beaches such as Nimoa and Kimuta; so don’t pack your best Florsheims. One of True North’s trump cards is the six-seat Eurocopter, piloted by full-time aviator Rainor Marshall. Used for the trickier landings and extra-special excursions, this asset really makes any expedition outstanding and sets North Star Cruises’ offering apart from rivals in this arena. You might think all this opulence is foreign out here in the wild, but a hot shower and crisp lager is just the ticket after a day on the baking sand or trekking in the steamy jungle.
Hardcore adventure purists and Kokoda trekkers may want to bunk down with all the jungle has to offer, but we have the opportunity to experience the impossible and unheard of while retreating to supreme comfort at day’s end.
Meals aboard True North are at least equal to the highest standards aboard boutique adventure yachts anywhere. With the enforced “barefoot” cruising aboard True North, where all staff and guests are shoeless inside, it’s hard to call this fine dining, but head chef, Nik Flack, knows all about “hats” due to his previous role. He turns out what he likes to call “sustainable, organic and very Australian cuisine”, using lots of locally sourced items, including seafood, greens and root crops.
As our barefoot staff serve delicate seafood, steak and poultry, there’s great Western Australian wine, too. Scuba diving is a big part of any True North expedition into these glorious tropical waters, and every opportunity is there for certified divers to explore the pristine reefs and corals that make PNG one of the world’s top diving spots.
Dr Andy Lewis, one of Australia’s foremost marine biologists, is there every step of the way, helping us unravel the mysteries of these remote waters, while dive master Oli Oldroyd keeps an eye on us underwater.
To read the full article please click here: PNG By Sea by Roderick Eime