Bougainville Island is the most eastern part of Papua New Guinea and is located just north from its closest neighbours the Solomon Islands. Bougainville was closed to visitors for many years due to political unrest. The island is rugged, basic in terms of development, yet rich in a natural, untouched beauty. It is the perfect destination for anyone wanting a true off-the-beaten track adventure. As you embark on a Bougainville tour you will find yourself surrounded by untouched nature – thick rainforest, countless rivers, pristine reefs, turquoise lagoons and even three volcanoes. It is also worth mentioning that you will be met with big smiles by the locals everywhere you go!
We recently did a Bougainville tour that started in Buka located in the north of Bougainville. Buka Town is only a short banana boat ride across the channel from the main island. From there you have the following choices of transport – 4WD Troop Carriers or open back trucks, packed to the rim with people traveling between Buka, Arawa and Buin. The road is rough, unsealed and follows along the coast most of the way… but that is part of the fun. Although the drive takes a few hours time flies as you pass many villages, river crossings, the odd WWII wreck on the side of the road and the untouched nature.
Whilst in the Arawa area we traveled to a nearby island called Pok Pok. Pok Pok island is a short boat ride south from Arawa and a haven for giant clams. The reef surrounding the island and the rainforest are amazing and once you get out to the outer shelf of the reef it is a heaven for snorkeling and potentially scuba diving. It is also an as yet undiscovered surf location with a number of reef breaks in the area.
A Bougainville tour would not be complete without visiting Panguna Mine. Panguna Mine used to be a gold mine and the centre of where the conflict started. The mine is now closed, however you can still envision what it must have been like whilst there. It is actually the largest artificial hole in the world and used to be one of the biggest open mines. Panguna certainly makes an impression!
Today Bougainville is ready to welcome visitors. There is no sign of any conflict and the locals are friendly and eager to share their culture with visitors. Travel to Bougainville and discover new snorkeling spots, surf uncrowded breaks, trek some volcanoes, find some WWII wrecks scattered in the jungle or just soak in the atmosphere that awaits you there. What are you waiting for? Bougainville awaits…