Aaron's Stories from the Sea

Keep up to date with Wild Earth's GM Aaron as he leads a South Pacific cruise

Aaron's Stories from the Sea

14 December, 2016

Join Wild Earth Travel's General Manager, Aaron Russ as he leads a 50 berth expedition cruise around the remote islands of Papua New Guinea.

Day 1: Madang, Papua New Guinea
Today, an excited group of adventurous expeditioners met in Madang, all looking forward to joining the Spirit of Enderby tomorrow.

Day 2: The Sepik River

The second day of our expedition and the first day of zodiac landings began as the Spirit of Enderby arrived at the mouth of the Sepik River just as the first light of dawn was lighting the sky. After an early breakfast we were all in the zodiacs by 0630 ready to take advantage of the relative coolness of the early morning for our explorations along the mighty Sepik River. Navigating the river by zodiac the first thing to strike you is the power of the water headed downstream and almost immediately afterwards the amount of vegetation being carried along by the current. The zodiacs were forced to weave between submerged logs and "islands" of water hyacinth in the main channel but we then found a beautiful secondary channel that took us through the Sago forest. Inside this sago forest the palm fronds arched over the water and in places the zodiacs only just squeezed through between palm trees while following the channel. The birdlife was a ctive with parrots a pigeons regularly moving through the canopy above. After a couple of hours on the river we returned to the Spirit of Enderby for a break and a chance to refresh before reboarding the zodiacs and heading to Kopar Village where we were enthusiastically welcomed by the local community with dances including the renowned dragon dance to entertain us. Afterwards there was a chance to explore the village and numerous market stands featuring some of the internationally acclaimed art from the Sepik River. After what felt like a full days activities in just the morning we returned to the Spirit of Enderby and this afternoon have been sailing across a calm ocean northwards to Manus Island.

Bipi Island

After a restful night at sea sailing northwards we awoke to find that the Spirit of Enderby had made excellent speed and we had arrived earlier than expected at the Bipi Island anchorage. A short zodiac ride across the fringing reef and we were greated on the golden sand beach by hordes of excited school children in traditional atire. The first order or business was an island "christening" or blessing on the shoreline before we walked enmasss to the school grounds where there was a welcome speech. This was followed by Bipi Islands lively dancing set to the rhythmic beating of the great slit drums. Afterwards there was food tasting and a chance to visit the school and Catholic church - from there many from aboard the Spirit of Enderby explored with new found friends. An interesting and welcome development on the island is that Melanesian Megapodes have returned to the island and are actively nesting which offered some great views of the birds which were quite unafr iad and foraging in the back garden alongside the chickens. Just as our morning ashore was coming to an end the rain arrived...and it arrived in profusion, soon we couldn't see the ship for the rain. Suitably refreshed we returned to the ship just as the hour long shower started to ease. During the afternoon most of the group took the opportunity for a first snorkel experience along the shores of Bipi Island and were rewarded with clear waters, some beautiful corals and a good diversity of reef fish species. Others headed back to Bipi to continue their explorations with a walk around the island. By 1700 all were back aboard and we bid farewell to the flotilla of dugout canoes that had been standing by at the ship for the day, all skippered by eager young local navigators.

Manus Island

This morning dawn didn't so much break as appear slowly through the rain, there was heavy rain first thing as the birders headed ashore in search of the Pitta and other Manus Island endemics. By the time the rest of us headed ashore a little later the rain was starting to clear and by mid morning as we explored the main island and then Los Negros Island the rain cleared completely. Our tour of the island started with a drive through the compact center of downtown Lorengau and then proceeded to several view points across the island before heading to the airport on Los Negros Island. But our main destination for the morning was Lomiu village and we were the firsts tourists to visit this thriving village since PNG independence 41 years ago. The ladies had prepared a selection of traditional foods including taro, sago, fish and cuscus for us to try. Only the most game amongst us tried the Cucus which was very chewy by all accounts. Back in town we visited the recently constructed market which had been built with AusAid funds and was a thriving bustling market with a wide range of local produce available. After lunch we visited the charming small island of Hawei where there was th opportunity and or explore the island on foot. And you might be wondering how ther birders went - despite a wet morning in the hills most of the endemics were located including a glimpse or two of the Pitta!

Mussau Island

Today Mussau shone, it really showed us the best that it had to offer. Today happened to be ship day so the normally sleepy pier was a hive of activity with people and cargo coming and going from the island on the once a month shipping service. After the excitement of the hustle and bustle of the landing site it was a relief to make our way into the relative coolness and peacefulness of the forest. A wander from there brought us to the beautiful swimming hole beneath a tumbling waterfall surrounded by the lush forest. Most of the group ventured into the cool refreshing waters with a few brave souls even taking to the rope swing over the falls. The walk back took us along the edge of the river and past several other falls tumbling over layers of uplifted coral before we returned to the landing below the secondary school. This afternoon it was all about the beach and the snorkelling with the crystal clear waters and white sands of Little Mussau enthralling all aboar d. Of particular note during the snorkelling was the number of giant Giant clams that were to be seen. Many considered today a glimpse of paradise and more than one was tempted to up and move to Mussau!

This morning we had the earliest start of the voyage, for the birders at least with the zodiac heading ashore at 0320 for their morning visit to the Lelet Plateau a couple of hours drive to the south of Kavieng. For the rest of us the day began amongst the islands between New Ireland and New Hanover where a beautifully calm morning was spent on the beach and snorkelling along the abundant coral reef surrounding our small island in paradise. There were a number of new species for the trip spotted including lionfish and squid plus some excellent photographic opportunities with a profusion of both soft and hard corals. After a slightly early lunch we headed ashore at Kavieng town where we boarded our mini buses to visit several outlying communities plus Bulminoskiy's grave taking pride of place in the European cemetery. At one village the ladies had woven straw hats for each and everyone of us so we were a colourful looking bunch travelling back through town and returning to the ship by zodiac. As the sun set we cleared the last of the islands separating New Ireland from New Hanover and set course for Rabaul.

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