via Papua New Guinea
A brief history of Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
Milne Bay Province takes in the land at the extreme eastern end of Papua New Guinea together with seven groups of islands, the Trobriand, Woodlark, Laughlan, Louisiade archipelago, the Conflict Group, the Samarai Group and the D'Entrecasteaux Group. The names come from a variety of explorers from as early as 1660 when D'Entrecasteaux sailed through and left his name behind.
Over the years Milne Bay Province has been visited by missionaries, miners, traders in pearls and people, scientists, Japanese and American warships. During the war (WWII) Milne Bay became a huge naval base that hundreds of thousands of servicemen passed through.
Today thousands of tourists arrive to enjoy diving around the wreckage left behind from the war. There are 160 named islands and 500 cays and atolls scattered over 250,000 square kilometres of ocean. In many parts of Milne Bay, the reefs are characterised by dramatic drop-offs, clefts and overhangs.
There are about 40 local languages spoken in the province. English is widely spoken throughout the Province conveyed through electronic, audio-visual and print media. Modern technology is catching on fast.
Economy: The economy of the province is largely depended on primary produce. Most of the people are subsistence farmers and fisher folk. Less than 10 per cent of the population enjoy formal employment, however, remittance to families to satisfy customary obligations ensure wider cash distribution.
Until 1975, when the price of copra dropped on the world market, it was the main source of revenue. The other major exports include: logging, gold and copper, fish and other marine products. Tourism is one of the potential sources of revenue that is yet to be fully developed.
Health facilities in the province are also limited to primary health care with 137 aid posts, one public and two district hospitals, 30 health sub-centres and six health centres. One health officer each mostly staffs the aid posts, whilst district hospitals have a doctor each. Alotau Provincial Hospital has ten doctors where all major cases are referred to for specialist care. Malaria is a major health problem in Milne Bay (although, it is controlled) amongst the young. Malnutrition is also another case especially among the young children in vastly populated areas of the province.
The weather can be very unpredictable at times with sudden and heavy torrential rainstorms. Expect variations in weather patterns between the mainland and the islands. October to December generally has the best and most consistent weather while January to March strong south-easterly winds are experienced. It is also the cyclone season in which lying between 15 to 30 degrees south of the equator experience strong winds and rough seas July to August is normally the rainy season of the year. Alotau and the bay areas usually record the high rainfalls annually.
Administratively, there are four Districts also called Open Electorates by the PNG Electoral Commission.
Alotau - comprising Alotau town and mainland areas,
Esa'ala - comprising Normanby, Fergusson , Dobu, Sanaroa and other islands
Kiriwina/Goodenough - comprising Goodenough island and the Trobriand group of islands
Samarai/Murua - Samarai, Engineer, Louisiade, Calvados and Woodlark islands.
The provincial capital is located on the edge of the bay (Milne Bay), named by Captain Moresby in 1873 after the Lord of the British Navy. The Bay is 36 metres long and 16km wide and has the depth to cater for ships of more than 5000 tons, and come as close as 40ft off shore. Locally, Alotau means Bay in the Suau language. Prior to the establishment of the tow in 1968, the provincial headquarters was located on the 54-acre- island of Samarai, 46km to the East of the China Strait. It was then relocated due to a lack of space for any expansion work. Alotau also had the added advantage of a WW2 airfield (Gurney), then known as the No.1 Strip.
In Alotau you can choose from: Alotau International Hotel, Masurina Lodge, Napatana Lodge, Veawai Melanesian Resort, Bay View Apartments, Saugere Guest House, Jayes Plan Transit House and Beto Guest House. Other guesthouse are at Esaala, Salamo, Goodenough, Cape Vogel, Wedau (Dogura), Misima, Samarai, Duau coast, Kiriwina (Trobriands) and Wagawaga. Village stays may be organised through the Milne Bay Tourism Bureau.
Seven taxis service town and more than twenty hire cars including the Government PTB vehicles, Avis, Budget and Walters vehicles. PMV buses and trucks are also available for sightseeing. The main bus stop is located at the Alotau fresh vegetable market. However, there is no bus service. From Alotau roads, lead north and over-range to Taupota, Modewa on the eastern Suau and Gadaisu on the western Suau coast, south coast, south end of the mainland. Boats and motorised dinghies are also available for travel to places accessible by sea and can be found at Sanderson Bay.
Seven main supermarkets and other small outlets sell general merchandise ranging from groceries, frozen foods, fresh vegetables, hardware, drapery, liquor etc. Of the four artifact dealers in Alotau, two are located at the SPTE yard, opposite Mobil and artifact shop is at Masurina Lodge at Cameron plateau above the town centre and sells PNG books as well. The fourth artifact shop is at the Alotau International Hotel.
Diving & Tourism
Milne Bay has a variety of dive attractions. There are plane shipwrecks, pristine coral reefs of interesting shapes and sizes, underwater volcanic vents, caves and various species of fish including manta rays and whales. Milne Bay has some of the best dive spots in the world. Alotau-based dive operators, Marlin 1 and Milne Bay Marine Charters, and other visiting dive vessels e.g. MV Paradise Sport, Golden Dawn, Barbarian and Tiata all can organise dive tours. The Marlin 1 also does individual and group dive tours.
One of the most comfortable way to enjoy Milne Bay diving is aboard one of the live-aboard dive boats based out of Alotau, the provincial headquarters. The 60 foot MV "Chertan" can comfortably accommodate up to 14 divers. Built in 1992, it is equipped with the latest electronic equipment, video and stereo systems. The MV "Telita" was Papua New Guinea's first live-aboard dive boat and it was designed specifically as a live-aboard diving vessel. It has five twin-berth cabins, sophisticated electronic equipment, a bar, video, stereo, a well-equipped library and a charging console for photographers.
Game fishing is also a viable activity that is yet to be fully established. For corporate game fishing tours and organised groups, contact the Cameron Club at PO Box 28, Alotau. Other game fishing can be organised through local boat operators e.g. Walters Workshop, Bay Cabs.
Island hopping can also be organised from Alotau to neighbouring islands of Samarai and the Engineer Group or to Goodenough, Fergusson and Normanby.
There are regular small boats servicing these islands from Alotau and carry passengers.
Check with Airlines of PNG for regular fights to rural airstrips within and out of the province.
Napatana Lodge also offers the Milne Bay Magic Tours worth checking out.
Cameron Cultural Show & Arts and Crafts Exhibition - July,, Hagita Cultural Show (usually in August or September), Yam Festival in Kiriwina - July and the Canoe Festival in November.
The road from Alotau follows the coastline to East Cape, the eastern tip of the mainland of PNG. Enjoy the picturesque beauty of nature, and environment as you cross may creeks emptying run-off from the Owen Stanley ranges in to the Bay. Share a smile and wave as you pass by friendly people who live in hamlets of local traditional thatched huts. Witness the merging of the tides of the Solomon and Coral Seas in the narrow straits between the mainland East Cape and Bonabona Hebiga. Several good treks from Alotau across the range to the north coast e.g. Halowia, Ahioma to Taupota, Goilanai to Garuahi and from Wedau and into the mountains of Gadovisu, Bobola, across the Mainawa and down to the Kapurika. There is the magic of Milne Bay, the charm and beauty of its people blessed in abundance and coexisting with their natural environment.
There is so much to see, do and tell you about Milne Bay.
For further detailed information please contact:
Milne Bay Tourism Bureau
Masurina Business Centre (Ground Floor)
P.O. Box 337, ALOTAU.
Milne Bay Province
Papua New Guinea
Ph: (675) 6411503 Fax: (675) 6410132
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