New Britain is the largest of Papua New Guinea's many islands, about equal in size to Taiwan. The island forms the southern boundary of the Bismarck Sea, with waters whose coral reefs are some of the most diverse on our planet.
Of particular interest for both marine life, rainforest and scenery is Kimbe, which lies in the central northern coast of the island. A band of rainforest clad volcanoes here stretch north out into the Bismarck Sea, creating a bay where patches of coral reefs enjoy year round protection from any significant wave action. The result is pristine reefs with huge sea fans, large coral specimens and reef flats which are often completely exposed at low tide. The fish life is excellent ranging from minute Pygmy Seahorses to black tip reef sharks, grey sharks and sometimes scalloped hammerheads. Diving and snorkelling here is excellent and perfectly suited to day boat trips from a land base.
Being land based is also ideal for exploring a narrow band of plantation, small holdings and eventually primary rainforest which climbs to the edge of several active volcanoes. For the more adventurous we can arrange a guided trek to within about 400 metres of an active volcano. The volcano sometimes makes the earth rumble and always spews forth sulphurous gases, billowing into the sky. The walk can be quite steep in places, but it is a very rewarding one, taking you amongst some huge buttress rooted trees.
Birdlife is colourful and noisy above you, including shrieking blue-eyed cockatoos, loud wing flaps of passing Blyth's hornbills and Eclectus Parrots whose females are a rich scarlet and purple whilst the males are classic parrot green. Even if you don't want to trek the full distance, this trail provides an excellent transect through the rainforests of a New Guinean island. Other locations provide opportunities to see the endemic New Britain Buzzard, Golden Masked-Owl, Buff-faced Pygmy Parrots and far more besides, all in the company of an expert guide.
For the avid diver and birdwatcher, happy to put up with rather basic liveaboard boat conditions, the rewards are pristine distant reefs of the Watu Islands and rare pelagic birds including Beck's Petrel and Heinroth's Shearwater.
Photographs kindly provided by Ralph Pannell, Franco Banfi, Nat Sumanatameya, Marcelo Krause, Peter Lange, Jergen Freunde, Cheyne Benjamin,Nate Lovas and Darek Sepiolo
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