Day #6 New Guinea Adventure

Kitava, The Trobriands

There’s a lot of peer pressure on this ship, what with all the great photographers and such but the pressure is the greatest to be up there on the the deck 6, at the bow of the ship for sunrise.

At 06:00 there’s Nick, Mike Moore from the Expedition Team, Peter, and several other guests all set up tripods mounted waiting for the sunrise. Woe betide anyone who doesn’t get up! This morning I’m there and I have the sunrise to prove it.


Overnight we have travelled north from Samarai Island to an area known as The Trobriands and Kitava Island.

Map of the region showing our headingGoogle map link

The Trobiand Islands are a 170 mi2 archipelago of coral atolls off the eastern coast of New Guinea. They are situated in Milne Bay Province and the majority of the population of 12,000 indigenous inhabitants live on the main island of Kiriwana. Other major islands in the group are Kaileuna, Vakuta and Kitava. The social structure is based on matrilineal clans who control land and resources.

We prepare to disembark for Kitava Island at 08:15 however local custom requires that all guest arrive together and stay together until all welcoming ceremonies are complete. This means that those guests in the first zodiac will have to wait by the ship until the last guests board their zodiac. So rather than sit bobbing in a zodiac in the hot morning sun we hang back for the last one. Once we are aboard all the zodiacs head for the island.

As we approach the island we can see that the villagers have created an arena on the beach where we will be entertained by their dancers and performers. We land in a lagoon, formed by the tiny coral cay of Nuratu Island just off the main beach of Kitava Island, and are greeted with garlands of orchids and welcomed onto the island. As we are in the last zodiac all the best seating has gone but we get to sit on rush mats close to the action.

After a welcome by the chief and other representatives of the villagers the entertainment begins. First out a troupe of young men who even though the want to appear intimidating and maybe a little threatening are actually having a great time and hopefully enjoying it as much as we are.
The performance begins

The look on their faces tells it all, a mix of terror at having to perform in front of strangers and remember all the moves but also great joy that we have come to watch them perform.
The young men of the island

Next up it’s the turn of the girls and they are beautifully dressed and decorated with ribbons, feathers and painted symbols.
The young girls

After the girls there is a foot-stomping performance by the young men who use bamboo sticks to beat out the time. These young men seem to be really enjoying it and there is one cheeky young man in particular who throws himself into the performance.
Cheeky Kid

All the while this is going on those who have finished performing join those villagers who have come to watch and sit around the edge of the arena taking in the entertainment.
Helene [Orion Expedition Team Member]

At one stage a group of older women enter the arena to perform and they gesture to the audience requesting we join them in the dance. As we are sitting right on the edge of the arena Kelly and I hop up to join them along with another of the Orion guests. Nick happened to be shooting some video at the time and captured the event. Needless to say there was a lot of hollering and laughter from the villagers as we attempted to match their style and grace!

Video of Kelly and I dancing

After the performance was over we had a chance to walk around and look at all of the beautiful artefacts and crafts they had arranged for sale.
Group of women and children selling woven bags and hats

I think it was all too much for this dog who just slept in the middle of the path where they were selling all their goods.
Sleeping Dog

So after having a look around the market, Justin called us together and we started the trek up the hill to the village. It was incredibly hot and we were told it would take about 40 minutes to reach it.
All ready to hike up the hill with my camera gear

Along the way there were lots of villagers walking with us, some just sitting watching us others still dressed in their symbolic costumes, others carrying their chickens.  We pass local gardens growing crops of taro, yam, banana and breadfruit, the staples of the islanders.
Young boy in feather headdress
Young man with chicken

Just before we got to the main village we came to a flat area where the local primary school is located.
Primary school sign

Close to the primary school is a Yam storehouse. The islanders are famous for their culture and huge yam gardens, yams are more than just the staple diet, and have cultural significance in tribal rituals. Yams are proudly displayed after harvesting and then kept in elaborate storehouses.
Yam Storehouse

We passed the school and kept heading up the hill. At one spot we came to a memorial grave (I think it was someone that Justin knew, I'll try and get the name) that was decorated with a beautiful replica of a traditional canoe bow with splashboard and wavesplitter.  These two are the most distinctive features of the Kula (local) canoes. The splashboards enclose the ends of the canoe and provide a greater overhang on the outrigger and give protection from spray and water surging into the hull and the wavesplitter holds the splashboard in place.
Memorial with canoe bow

A few minutes after passing the memorial we finally reached the village. Seeing it took my breath away, ahead of me was a long  wide path with huts down either side, and villagers either working or just sitting watching us. As we walked down the path everyone was incredibly friendly waving when we waved and happy to let us take their photographs, once I had politely asked them if I could. I was taken by one elderly man who seemed quietly amused at all these white folk walking through his village.
Elderly villager

Early in the day I’d been talking with a few of the friends we’d made on the ship and musing about what sort of view and understanding the villagers would have had of the world outside their village, from what seemed to me to be one of the remotest places on earth. Imagine my surprise when I saw the decorations that many of the villagers had put up on the walls of their huts.
Newspaper & magazine clippings
State of Origin Poster!

At one of the huts there was a woman with an hand operated sewing machine making clothes. She told me they bought the material from a store on the mainland and she made the clothes that, once finished, were given out to the other villagers.
Woman sewing

Just walking through the village was such a visual treat there was so much going on, Kelly spotted this beautiful parrot …

… and I spotted Justin taking a well deserved break.

We finished up our visit with a refreshing drink from recently picked coconuts and headed back down the hill to the beach and into a zodiac that was waiting to whisk us back to the Orion.
Approaching the Orion in zodiac

Back on board we wasted no time in getting changed and collecting our snorkelling gear as we were off to the island of Naratu, just opposite to Kitava for some more great snorkelling.

We caught the last zodiac back to Orion at around 14:30 and headed up to deck 6 to wash out our gear and spend a bit of time in the Jacuzzi. The water is cool and refreshing just the perfect thing to relax before our next event at 17:00 a lecture by Nick Rains on ‘Essence of Landscape Photography’. Once again another great insight into how Nick goes about composing his landscape photography and how he achieves the perfect blend of balance and drama.

At 18:30 on each day of the cruise the Expedition crew do a recap of the day’s events illustrated with pictures they have taken during the day. You have to watch out because they are always trying to get at least one shot of a guest in a not so flattering pose!

As soon as tonight’s briefing finished I dashed up to deck 6 to get a quick shot of the sunset as we sailed away from the the Trobriands and toward Tufi.

This evening we have the Captains reception in the Leda Lounge. This is where we get formally introduced to our Captain and enjoy some cocktails with the other passengers before heading down to the Constellation Restaurant for the Captains dinner.
Hanging out with Captain Frank