The most recent major volcanic eruption was in September 1994 when Tavurvur and Vulcan covered much of Rabaul and surrounding villages with volcanic ash. This eruption saw the growth of the nearby coastal town of Kokopo which has now become the administrative and tourism centre for East New Britain, replacing Rabaul in that role. The area played a significant role in WWII and the Japanese occupation in 1942 saw the building of hundreds of kilometres of tunnels underneath the town and the Gazelle Peninsula as protection against constant Allied bombing raids. It is almost hard to miss the rusting relics left over by the retreating forces. In one tunnel are five huge barges that were pulled along rails to the shore and back by prisoners of war. Dozens of sunken aircraft and ships dot the harbour and to the north are sea caves used as a drop-off point by Japanese submarines.
As you depart, Orion will cruise right past the active volcano, Mt Tavurvur.
Wewak serves as our official port of exit from Papua New Guinea. Whilst officials clear the ship and her paperwork, you will have the opportunity to find out more about the provincial capital of East Sepik Province. The included expedition today will visit the site of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, a large Gothic-like cathedral that almost seems out of place in it's surroundings. Visit Cape Wom, the site of the Japanese surrender where Lieutenant General Adachi signed the surrender documents and handed his sword to Major General Robertson on 13th September 1945. A war memorial marks the site and the wartime airstrip is still in place. Another memorial in town has been erected at the site of the Japanese war graves and nearby is the Japanese/PNG Peace Park which will also visit. On top of one of the hills gives a great look over the top of Wewak and it's coastline, several Japanese anti-aircraft gun emplacements sit quietly rusting away, otherwise seemingly untouched since the end of the war. The main town food markets and another market focussing on artifacts will also be visited today.
You will be welcomed by enthusiastic dancers in traditional dress, initiating us in true local tradition with sago, gifts, and spices placed on an honoured ancestral tray. Today drive up to Gunung Ifar to view the WW II monument to General Mc Arthur with its spectacular view of Sentani Lake and Cyclope Mountain. Then drive to Sentani lake for an excursion by boat to a small island in the middle of the lake where you can visit the village of Assei. Walk into the village to learn of the local people lives and share in their daily activities. People of this village are mainly fishermen, but they still do some art works and plenty of painting on bark, which will be available for purchase from the village hall. In the afternoon the tour continue to Abepura to visit the Museum before returning to the ship. This tour includes lunch ashore.
The snorkelling from the beach today should be excellent. A diverse range of corals and fish await us just offshore. Easy snorkelling from the beach is available, as well for the more adventurous snorkelling from the Zodiacs further off shore will be possible. The expedition team will run guided snorkelling expeditions today. Relax in the shade on the beach and pretend to be Robinson Crusoe with your ship mates for the day.
Not a lot can be said about today other than you are just about as remote as you can get. Very few people get to step ashore, swim and snorkel in such a beautiful and remote location as this. Mapia Atoll will be yours for the day!
Today you will visit the village of Yanwabnor on Gam Island for an exciting welcome ceremony. The culture in the Raja Ampat group is significant and is noted in history as the link between the Malayan East Indies and Papuan New Guinea. After the formal welcome you will be able to explore the village. The rest of the day today will be spent at another location in the Raja Ampat area, it may be Pulau Jerief or another nearby island such as Kri. Either way enjoy an excellent destination to one more enjoy the superb snorkelling of this area.
Your day today will be split into two halves. In the morning visit Kokas Village in Fak Fak province. Kokas is a village of approximately 500 Muslim West Papuans, the beaches of Kokas contain the remains of wartime bunkers, attesting to the occupation of the Japanese forces in WWII. Disembark the Zodiacs at a long cement jetty, where friendly villagers will greet you and help you ashore and into the village for a cultural performance and welcome. A series of dances will be performed including the local version of the bamboo stick dance seen across Asia from Cambodia to the Philippines. Here the dance is called Gabagaba, a dance in which two women jump between clicking bamboo poles. After your time in the village relocate for an afternoon Zodiac cruise in search of ancient Papuan rock art. The exposed rockwalls in the bay display sprayed pigment from layers of stenciled hands with varying tones of red (from ochre), black (from ash), and white (from ground limestone). Predominant designs show hand stencils, fish, birds, angled boomerang-like objects, and depictions of mixed animal-human figures.
The remainder of the day after the visit to Sangliat Dol will be spent at Weluan Beach outside of Saumlaki town, the capital of Yamdena and the main administrative area for southern Maluku. Here a wide range of local artifacts including many carvings that almost resemble the style found slightly further east in New Guinea, can be found and purchased if desired.
Other products such as the local eucalyptus oil and a potent spirit distilled from the inflorescence of the sugar palm will also be on display. The brave may even sample this distilled liquor! Swimming and rides in local sailing canoes will be available and a giant Christ Statue, (not quite in the same league as Rio!), overlooks the beach giving spectacular views of the beach and nearby township.