Papua New Guinea may not be in Asia, but this South Pacific nation shares a border with our continent and resides in the Coral Triangle, so charter guests can enjoy the same tropical marine waters as neighbouring Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia plus the Solomon Islands to its east.
Sometimes called PNG, the country occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, with the west side occupied by the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, the latter home to Raja Ampat and other world-famous dive and yachting destinations.
Papua New Guinea’s waters and marine life are among the best in the world, but for yacht charter the country remains somewhat of a hidden gem – and has even been described as having more languages than any other country.
Despite its size of almost 500,000sqkm, just smaller than Thailand and 50 per cent bigger than Malaysia, Papua New Guinea has a population of just 8.2 million, less than New York and a little more than Hong Kong.
Fortunately, its small population and limited tourism have helped ensure the pristine nature of its assets above and below the water, where visibility typically ranges from 80-130ft.
However, these factors also mean that visiting charter yachts can become somewhat of a major curiosity for locals, especially when that visitor is the 35m charter yacht Spirit, usually based in the Australian city of Cairns, just 525 miles south of the PNG capital of Port Moresby.
GETTING IN THE SPIRIT
With its striking wave-piercing design, the New Zealand-built powercat not only turns heads but also delivers outstanding stability underway and has a particularly spacious interior due in large to her 10.8m beam.
Her striking, sleek appearance is the work of Ken Freivokh, designer of the world’s largest sailing yacht, the 106m Black Pearl, and the 88m Maltese Falcon, although charter guests will be more focused on Spirit’s interior, featuring European furnishings and the latest in audio-visual entertainment systems.
On the main deck, a spacious saloon features a comfortable lounge and a formal dining table with a bar counter, while on the aft deck is further seating and a large dining table so charter guests can enjoy the Cordon Bleu chef’s culinary delights al fresco.
Spirit can accommodate up to 12 guests in five staterooms, including four VIP double cabins forward on the main deck, two of which can be converted into twins with an optional third bunk.
The master suite dominates the upper deck and benefits from its own private deck area with sun loungers, large windows, a king-size bed and an office area with a coffee table and chairs, while forward is a jacuzzi surrounded by cushioned seating. On the top deck, stools surround a central bar and this partially shaded space is ideal for refreshments or a breakfast with an incredible view.
Based in Cairns, Spirit’s cruising locations include the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsundays, the Solomons and Papua New Guinea, where she offers a 10-day charter starting from Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay province on the country’s southeast peninsula and just an hour’s flight from Port Moresby.
MILNE BAY TO TUFI FJORDS
After being met at Gurney Airport, guests are transferred to Spirit, which is anchored off Alotau in the calm sheltered waters of Milne Bay. Depending on time available, the yacht may relocate to a nearby anchorage where you’ll be free to enjoy the yacht’s facilities and toys at your leisure. Alternatively, a shore excursion to a local village will be on offer.
The first passage is out of Milne Bay and then south to Samarai Island, home for days two and three, and somewhat of a living museum. Given its tiny size, you can explore the island and its colonial architecture easily on foot. Diving and snorkelling opportunities abound in the area, which has a thriving reef system and pristine, uninhabited white beaches.
On the third day, Spirit cruises east to the Deboyne Islands where friendly villagers sail canoes around the lagoon, fishing and trading between villages. Panaeati is the northernmost of the islands, while others include Panapompom and Nivani, and there are lots of opportunities for diving, snorkelling and fishing around the lagoon.
A big underwater attraction is that several Japanese fighter planes were ditched in the lagoon in World War II, as the islands were used as a seaplane outpost by the Japanese Navy, providing exciting and easily accessible snorkelling in the shallows.
Days five and six are spent in the Conflict Islands, to the west, back in the direction of the mainland. The Conflict Islands are a little-known group of 21 uninhabited coral islands surrounding an astoundingly beautiful lagoon.
The sheer remoteness of this pristine location begs exploration within the numerous reefs, cays and islands, all ideal for swimming, snorkelling, diving and fishing. A good spot for a beach barbecue with your freshly caught fish.
Spirit then heads west to the D’Entracasteaux Islands, north of Milne Bay, for days seven and eight, with guests able to enjoy a diverse array of attractions on and around these volcanic islands.
The beautifully named Goodenough, Fergusson and Normanby are the three biggest islands and run northwest to southeast. The Dei Dei hot springs on Ferguson are accessed via a short jungle walk, while there are fantastic opportunities to see rare birds of paradise to the east.
The tiny island of Dobu, between Fergusson and Normanby, offers great reefs for diving and snorkelling as well as nice walks through the villages, where you can immerse yourself in an island lifestyle that has changed little over time.
The final passage is northwest to Tufi on the mainland, where the spectacular fjords are a highlight, along with the rainforest mountains, crystal clear waters and coral reefs.
With a maze of cliff faces descending vertically into the ocean surrounding Cape Nelson, incredible displays of local culture, plus some of the region’s best and most spectacular diving and fishing locations, Tufi is a truly magnificent location to round out your PNG experience.
ALWAYS READY AND PREPARED
And Spirit’s the right yacht for this amazing venture as her water toys and facilities really bring her into a league of her own, with 12 full sets of scuba diving equipment on board, including a compressor and Blade Fish 5000 underwater scooters. There’s even the option of a Dive Master as an optional crew member who’s able to issue qualification certificates.
Spirit also has a 7m fishing tender fully equipped for trolling, bottom fishing, topwater and spear fishing. Alternatively, you can explore the reefs and coves from the comfort of a kayak or stand-up paddle board, while kiteboarding equipment and/or lessons can be arranged in advance.
There’s also a 5.2m RIB, ideal for waterskiing, wakeboarding or towing the various inflatables, all toys easily accessed from the yacht’s high-low swim platform.
Another great thing about PNG is that it’s always a good time to visit as the temperature remains about 30 degree Celsius, with water temperature around the same, and the area can be dived, fished and cruised year-round, even if January to March is the wet season.
Papua New Guinea has incredible, diverse local culture and some of the best fishing and diving the world has to offer, while Spirit offers everything you’ll need to get the most out of this hidden paradise.
Contact: Sytske Kimman: [email protected]
The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 48. Email [email protected] for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at: www.magzter.com/SG/Lux-Inc-Media/Yacht-Style/Fashion/