Cruising Destination of the Month: Papua New Guinea
The South Pacific is seeing increasing attention as a luxury yacht charter destination but there are still some places few have explored - Papua New Guinea being one natural paradise unique in its offerings. Take a closer look at the potential of this superyacht charter ground.
An ideal luxury yacht charter for guests that want to avoid the most popular - and therefore busiest - superyacht destinations, Papua New Guinea offers a holiday amongst the natural tour-de-force in the the up-and-coming South Pacific charter grounds.
Over 200 tribes live among the islands and their languages and culture have remained mainly unchanged by globalisation, while there are still plenty of cities to reach by port or by tender where you can spend the day perusing local shops, art galleries and museums. From wildlife sanctuaries and pristine far-flung lagoons to Orchid gardens in Port Moresby, the tropical climate is a haven for exotic flora and fauna.
"To go to PNG is to embark on a journey which will forever mark you," explained Angela Pennefather of Melanesian Luxury Yacht Services, a native to Papua New Guinea with a real passion for her country of birth, and an EOS Expeditions guide. "In a modern World reshaped by human interests, teeming cities with millions of inhabitants, reams of motorways, pollution, congestion and stress, there is nothing like standing at the base of a volcano, seeing molten rock being hurled in to the air or silently canoeing an ancient cliff-walled gorge. Inspire means 'to breathe life in to': Papua New Guinea will do that. It is the antidote, the tool to shift perspective."
Water sports enthusiasts in particular will be spoiled for destinations to pull out the jet skis and towable toys, or the more languid but no less desirable kayaks and paddleboards, watching the shoals of fish, manta rays and reef sharks from above. Snorkelers and Scuba divers have a whole other world to take in among the vibrant reefs and WWII wrecks slowly being reclaimed by nature.
Photos: ©Angela Pennefather I Melanesian Luxury Yacht Services
"To the spectacular terrain marked by volcanic plugs and lagoons, the Kokoda trail, birdwatching and sea life - add yet another layer. The human history. Ancient people live on these lands, 5,000 different clans, speaking over 850 distinct languages forming the most culturally diverse nation on Earth. Their customs endure the centuries with little disruption from the outside world. It is a privilege to witness mass gatherings for cultural events such as the Kutubu Kundo and Digaso festival or the acclaimed Frangipani Festival celebrating the rebirth of Rabaul after the 1994 eruption. It is quite something else to come in to the fold of day to day life in isolated villages. The art, the songs, the initiation rituals and rites of passage meld in a fascinating way.” Adds Angela.
One of the reasons this area is so underpopulated with superyachts - or any boats in general - is the lack of built-up marine infrastructure throughout the country: Anchoring in a quiet bay without any human presence in sight will be a typical feature of your nights in Papua New Guinea, and this scenario is one that fuel-guzzling motor yacht will struggle to achieve, but will see fully-autonomous sailing yachts and expedition yachts come into their element.
"This country is well off the beaten path. It is a well-known fact that infrastructure is limited and thus it takes effort to plan your cruise here. That being said, for those adventurous enough to take the plunge, the reward will outweigh the effort.”
Destination Highlights and Itinerary Suggestions by Captain Jimmy Blee (Asia Pacific Superyachts)
This stunning small town and a natural harbour is centrally located along the northern coast of PNG and represents the perfect starting point for a Papua New Guinea charter itinerary.
The Madang Resort was built out of a historic colonial resort by Sir Peter Barter, an Australian expat who contributed in a multitude of ways to PNG’s emergence into the modern world. A former Governor of Madang Province, he served in the first Independent PNG government for many years and close government aide.
There is a beautiful anchorage behind the small island, north west of the harbour where waters are clear and the snorkelling is just amazing. At sunset giant bats (or flying foxes) take to the sky. With a wingspan of almost 2m, it is like a scene from “Jurassic Park” and truly awesome against the blood-red sky.
Goroka is an attractive town situated 1600 metres up in the highlands. This volcanic land is fertile and inhabited by the Asaro people, famous for their mask dancing.
Mt Hagen is set in the large Waghi Valley, with its near villages, gardens, coffee plantations and groves of casuarinas, this busy town has a wild-west feel. The colourful Moge tribespeople showed amazing dance and traditional living, including a beginner’s course in archery with handmade bows. Plan on a return as the sun sets behind the huge Mount Giluwe (4368m).
While the trade winds blow from the south east at this time of year, the lea side is nicely protected. There are fish everywhere and they are as easy to catch as to buy. White sand beaches in the shade of the central volcano make for perfect beach barbecues for guests after fabulous time spent exploring the magnificent reefs around the island.
This bay represents the most idealistic 'tropical island’ on the aptly named Bagabag Island. Boats can anchor 30m off the beach on sand bottom, surrounded by palm fringed beach with a couple of houses built on stilts at the back of the beach. This area is idyllic for a lazy day, simply relaxing and enjoying the natural beauty.
Boisa Islands is for the adventurous ones and a great place for an overnight run north for diving, although not a good area for anchorage. Here you also have to pay the local tribe for the dive, however, they will also provide a lot help and directions. Some groups can be heavily armed with boxes full of stones ready to hurl if you step out of line, which can be very intimidating in places but if you follow the rules, no rocks should be thrown. A thrilling experience, if your guests would like to include something exciting of sorts in their itinerary.
Here the anchorage is very likely to be in mud 100 meters south of the river outfall to avoid the current, tree trunks and other flotsam coming down at 5 knots. Guests might be transported with a tender up the river. At the first village, locals are carving shields and masks and guests can visit the crocodile / alligator farm.
Around 20 miles south there is an 'uncharted' area with a three-mile-wide bay with sandy bottom and usually, good holding. A coral and sand island in the middle of the bay offers some shelter from the predominant south east trade winds. Landing is usually possible thanks to a passage through the reef off the beach. Here the diving is sensational with many Japanese wrecks in less than 10 metres of water. Near Bogia, there is a 6000 ton ‘Shishi Maru’ in just 6 meters of water, complete with two fire engines in her hold which were being unloaded the day she was sunk.
This area on the south side has a very good anchorage, around 50 meters off the beach on a sand/ coral spit of 30 meters of depth - a nice laid-back end to a very good trip.
Crewed luxury yacht charter is Papua New Guinea was best summed up by Captain, Jimmy Blee when he said, ‘What we pulled off was nothing short of remarkable from start to finish. What we did in 8 days you could spend a month doing and not get bored. And this represents only about 1% of what Papua New Guinea has to offer. Imagine what else is out there!’
Photos: ©Asia Pacific Superyachts
Photos: ©Dr Andy Lewis I Coral Sea Foundation
Angela Pennefather I Melanesian Luxury Yacht Services
Linda Cartlidge, Jimmy Blee I Asia Pacific Superyachts
Rachael Steele I Writer for CharterWorld.com - World Luxury Yacht Charter Specialist
Madang Resort: Accommodation, dock facilities, arrangement of local clearances - www.madangresort.com
Niugini Eco Tourism: Inland trips to Highlands - www.png-tourism.com
Edited by Eva Belanyiova I CharterWorld.com