Manus is Papua New Guinea's smallest province, both in terms of land mass and population, but has a vast sea area rich with marine life and beautiful coral reefs. The province consists of a group of islands, known as the Admiralty Islands and a scattering of low lying mostly uninhabited atolls, with the northern border reaching the equator.
The reefs near the atolls are accessible by outboard motor or canoe and provide superb Papua New Guinea diving and fishing. The adventurous and athletic can enjoy sea kayaking, a sport fast becoming popular among the seafaring community of Manus. Sea kayaking tours can range anything from day trips to a seven day tour, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy the marine life, the water ways and the scenery of Manus.
Manus, the largest of the islands, is rugged and heavily timbered, with central hills rising to over 700 metres and many sharp ridges and streams. The airport is in Momote on Los Negros Island. Manus and Los Negros are connected by a bridge crossing the Loniu Passage.
During World War 2, Manus was occupied by the Japanese and later by American and Australian armed forces, whom spent millions of dollars constructing a huge base, airport and dock facilities at Seeadler Harbour. The rusting remains of the base can still be seen nearby. During wartime activity, up to 600 ships anchored in the harbour, yet today the harbour is a peaceful place ringed by small islets and a magnificent reef.
Things to See
Lorengau: Most of the town’s main services and the market are near the wharf, while the provincial government buildings and main accommodation are a kilometre east, along the edge of the harbour.
Loniu Passage and Cave: One great experience is climbing through the large caverns of the Loniu cave. The cave is just 30 seconds of the main road at Loniu, Los Negros Island, about 10 minutes by vehicle from Lorengau Town. It is a limestone cave system there has several large chambers. It is very dark inside so bring a torch. Also wear good climbing shoes, as it is slippery in places. Small bats and crabs call the cave home. During World War II it was used as a bomb shelter by locals to avoid the worst of Allied bomb strikes against the Japanese forces who had occupied this area. To locate the cave and passage, ask your hotel hosts or local villagers.
War relics: Manus was the site of a huge Allied Naval base during World War II. Rusting war vehicles, old wharves, old airstrips, bomb shelters, pontoons, bullets, old guns, helmets and World War II boats, can be found scattered on the various islands of Manus. Places to visit include the Lombrum Naval Base where you can find anti-aircraft guns, old hangers and General MacArthur’s Head Quarters and more in the surrounding areas. Momote Airport and the bushes of the Los Negros Island are littered with war surplus. Lorengau town, Pityiluh Island, Hawaii Island, Two Island and nearby islands also contain many war relics including unexploded ordinances. There are sunken wrecks in the Seeadler Harbor and there are other wrecks around Manus, but you would need to seek local assistance to locate these wrecks. Some have been destroyed or submerged by the sea and the recent king tides that have swept through the Pacific.
Culture: The Manus Provincial Show is held over three days in late August. Alternatively, you may be able to watch traditional dancing at Buyang, a village at the centre of the island.
Things to Do
Diving and snorkelling: Most of the north coast is bordered with a reef and the excellent visibility allows great Papua New Guinea diving and snorkelling. A huge variety of corals and fish, and wartime wrecks can be seen, including whales between January and March. The islands of Andra and Ahus, off the north coast are excellent for diving and snorkelling and also offer accommodation in guesthouses.
Swimming: For a freshwater dip during your Papua New Guinea holiday, the best place is the waterfall and swimming hole, about 5 kilometres up the Lorengau River from town. Stunning swimming beaches can be found at Salamei on Rarah Island and Tulu on the north coast west of Lorengau. You will need a boat to get to each of these swimming spots.
Fishing: Hire a boat and head out from the harbour for excellent Papua New Guinea fishing. Anywhere along the coast should be rewarding.
Hiking: The rugged and beautiful interior of Manus Island is perfect for hiking. There are no ‘hiking trails’ but with local assistance you can cross the island along traditional walking routes. There is much to see here. The island consists of hard black volcanic granite and clay like red soil, all evidence of its volcanic formation. Manus experiences high rainfall which created large river systems and waterfalls through the island. The largest in volume is at Liap village, a good two hour hike down from the Kari village, at the end of the East West Highway. The jungle scenery and the abundant birdlife will also impress you. Near the Kari Village is Mt Dremsel, the highest point in Manus. You can also travel to the nearby island of Baluan and hike to the top of the large extinct crater here.
Island hopping: All the islands of Manus are interesting. Some are large and have large populations living on them. Some have nobody but birds. Many have reefs that surround them while a few have none. I am just going to mention a few of these islands.
Ahus & Onetta Island: About 30 minutes by boat, along the West Coast of Manus, you will come to the island of Ahus. Ahus and nearby Onetta Island have extensive reef lagoon systems that make them great for snorkeling and diving. The people of these islands also have an ancient custom of not hunting in several sections of the reef. Thus you will find some very large and undisturbed aquatic life here. The locals also replant dead reef to keep the reefs healthy. During November through to March, surf on these reefs can get quite high, up to 3 meters so if you are surfer, one place to put down on your map.
Andra Island: A few kilometers passed Ahus and Onetta is Andra Island. It’s a good island retreat and has a guest house and reef system for snorkeling.
Hawaii Island, Pityiluh Island & Two Islands: Just off the coast of Lorengau are three islands you should visit. Pityliuh is the site of an old allied airstrip. It is a long island and is littered with War Surplus material.
Hawaii Island is an island of with a bloody history. It’s not very big, but here the Japanese and Allied forces fought a long and hard battle in close quarters. The island is littered with bullets. Hawaii also has a great reef lagoon and is one of the main suppliers of fresh lobster to the town of Lorengau. Many snorkelers and divers frequent Hawaii.
Nearby Two Island also is great for diving and has a guest house and a bar, so you can have a function with friends and family.
All three islands are less than 5 minutes from each other and less than 10 minutes from Lorengau. They are all within the Seadler Harbour.
Rarar Island: Less than two minutes from Lorengau is the Rarar Island. This island has a great swimming beach. You can get there by swimming across or paddling a canoe or getting dropped off by a market boat
Lou Island: Lou Island is a large volcanic island with three extinct craters. The island lies about 20Km south east of the Manus Island. You catch the boat at Loniu Bridge; it costs around K30 per passenger on way. Lou Island is one of the few sites in the South Pacific where volcanic glass, obsidian, was mined and fashioned into weapons and tools for trade. Lou obsidian weapons have been found all over the Pacific and parts of Asia. You can still find the obsidian pits in various locations on the island. There are a few thermal springs here on Lou, including one that feeds a small lake at Boun, on the northern coast of the island.
Baluan Island: About 38km Southeast of Manus and up to a maximum of 3hrs in total travelling time by motorised dingy from the Loniu Bridge lies the mysterious volcanic island of Baluan. It lies just past Lou Island. A place of historic importance to Manus and to Papua New Guinea, the island is home to the giant extinct Malsu Volcano with its huge crater. You will find the rock walls of the mysterious and ancient Mapo people, old cannibalism sites and also learn about the neo-Melanesian movement, the Paliau Movement that started here and still continues today. At night go for a dip in the hot geothermal springs that seep out of the islands shoreline into rock pools or go fishing with islands expert fishermen.You get there on a Market boat that departs from the Loniu Bridge. There are no guest houses out there, so find a friendly local from Baluan.
Tuluan Island: Tuluan is a small island created in the 1950’s by an underwater eruption. Rapidly cooled lava formed the island. Local schools sometimes bring students out here for science lessons. There are also a lot of geothermal activity underwater so would be great for diving, though you do so at your own risk. Tuluan lies between Lou and Baluan.
Cycling in Manus: The roads in Manus, by local standards, are in great condition and are sealed mainly in town and along the way to Momote airport, though there are portions that are just plain gravel or ‘karanas’ in pidgin. You can cycle East along the main highway to the Loniu caves or onwards to Momote airport. You can also cycle West on the highway, up into the hilly interior of the island. It is a great way to see the province.
Accommodation: A variety of hotels, lodge style accommodation and village guest houses are available, including the Lorengau Kohai Lodge, the Andra Guest House, Lukuni Guest House, John Akau Lodge, Tharapiyap Transit House and the Harbour Side Hotel, all of which provide comfortable facilities for visitors.
Flights: Air Nuigini operates two flights to Manus per week. Visit the Air Nuigini website www.airnuigini.com.pg and book online. By plane, you will land at the Momote Airport, a good 45-minute drive west of Lorengau town. From Momote Airport, you can catch a shuttle service that runs between the Airport and Lorengau. You can also catch a PMV bus to head into Lorengau Town, or you can hitch a ride to town or hire a car.