Long, narrow and mountainous, New Ireland boasts undeniable beauty, peaceful people, never ending beaches, the popular Malagan show, the unique annual Shark Calling festival, game fishing and a history of explorers, missionaries, traders and Japanese armed forces. Discovered by Dutch explorers in 1516, it was not until 1877 that the first missionaries arrived. With the development of copra plantations New Ireland Province soon became one of Germany's most profitable colonies. During World War 2, New Ireland fell to the Japanese and many of the island's towns, infrastructure and industry was destroyed.
New Ireland was also the setting for the saga of the Marquis de Ray, who advertised Cape Breton as a thriving settlement and sold hundreds of hectares of land to gullible settlers who were dumped with three weeks supplies, including a mill, note books and bricks, into a tangled jungle, with perpetual rainfall and unfriendly neighbours. Most died of starvation or malaria before being rescued and sent to Australia. Parts of the grinding stone for the never used grain mill can still be found in Kavieng. As for the Marquis de Ray, he ended his days in a lunatic asylum in France.
The provincial centre of Kavieng is situated at the northern tip of the island. This area has often been described as a typical Somerset Maughan south sea island port. The port has a large, beautiful harbour and is a popular destination for game fishing enthusiasts. Along the edge of the harbour is Kavieng's Harbour Drive, a gently curved road, shaded by huge trees, which passes many points of historical interest. A couple of kilometres out of Kavieng, along the Buluminski Highway, a little pathway leads visitors off the road to a limestone cave filled with crystal clear water.
Kavieng: Sea breezes keep Kavieng cool, making it a great place to wander around, exploring the sights. Across the harbour is Nusa Island, where you’ll find the market, port, fishery and hospital along the waterfront.
Artefacts: The island people are skilled canoeists and carvers, and traditional ceremonies remain an important focus of their life. Collections of Malangan carvings can be seen at the Kavieng Hotel and Malagan Malangan Beach Resort and a small shop at the airport has a few pieces. The carvings are usually done for burial ceremonies and rites of passage. Carvers can be seen at Libba Village near Konos. At Utu village, the high school has a small museum with exhibitions of Malagan carvings - carved totem-like poles used in initiation ceremonies and rituals; ancient stone tools and vessels and a shark catching propeller.
Offshore Islands: The many small islands sheltering the harbour can be visited and some have accommodation. Dinghies travel out regularly and you can island hop or arrange to be picked up later. Swimming and snorkelling on the offshore islands is excellent.
Festivals: Held in late June or early July, the Luka Barok Festival celebrates old rituals and includes shark-calling and feasting. Later in the year, the Malangan Show and Independence Day celebrations are both held over four days in mid-September.
Shark-calling: The traditional art of calling sharks is practiced along the coasts of New Ireland but particularly on the west coast around the villages of Kontu and Tabar. New Ireland is the centre for the art of shark calling and certain men have the ability to call up sharks. The unfortunate shark swims up to the caller’s boat, where they can be speared and netted. Alternatively the shark propeller is used and a noose is hung with half coconut shells which make a rattling noise, attracting the shark up through the noose. A rope attached to the noose is connected to a wooden propeller which is spun round to tighten the noose and simultaneously pull in the rope. The shark, unable to keep moving, effectively drowns.
Things to Do
Diving and snorkelling: War wrecks, big fish, coral and sharks are just some of the things to be seen here. Lissenung Island Resort and Archipelago Diving in Kavieng each offer dive gear hire and Archipelago Diving offers dive courses. Mansava Adventure Lodge on Tsoi Island, off Lavongai or New Hanover Island, is an hour and a half by boat and has great diving and snorkelling.
Fishing: Rods and tackle can be hired from the Kavieng Hotel. The hotel can also arrange game fishing tours.
Surfing: There are many good breaks for surfing close to town, which are accessible by boat or vehicle. Nusa Islands Retreat, based on Nusa Lik Island, has accommodation and caters for surfers.
Canoeing: Canoes and paddlers can be hired from the beach front in Kavieng. Spend a leisurly day exploring the islands or hire an outrigger from the Malagan Beach Resort and practice the art of paddling. Nusa Island Retreat also offers traditional canoeing as does Mansava Adventure Lodge (see diving).
Golf: The nine-hole golf course lies between Tabar Terrace and Tanga Street, on Coronation Street. Golf clubs can be hired from the Kavieng Hotel.
Cycling: With vast stretches of flat areas and little motorised traffic, Kavieng is ideal for cycling. Bicycles can be hired from the Kavieng Hotel and Malagan Beach Hotel. The Boluminski Highway on the north-eastern side of the island is flat and sealed for 74 kilometres. Beyond here the crushed coral surface is smooth and easy to ride but very bright. There is guesthouse accommodation at Sali Village (55 kilometres), at Libba and Konos (about 140 kilometres), at Karu (220 kilometres) and at Namatanai (264 kilometres). The road on the south-eastern side also offers good riding, although there are fewer places to stay. For bike tours and hire contact Rainbow Tours in Kavieng or New Ireland Tourism Bureau through Kavieng Hotel.
Lihir Island: Lihir Island is the site of the Lihir gold mine, reputed to have the second largest gold deposit in the world.
Click here to view accommodation listing in New Ireland Province
Air Niugini and other third level airlines provide flights to Kavieng from Port Moresby. They also provide connections to Kavieng from other centres in PNG.