Kiriwina Island, Papua New Guinea
At 40 kilometres long and 9 kilometres wide, Kiriwina is the largest of the Trobriand Islands located in Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay province. Situated off the eastern coast of the mainland, it’s a picturesque island steeped in history and famous to many as the site of American occupation during the Second World War.
With most of the 12,000 indigenous inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands living on Kiriwina Island, until recently it’s been an area that has seen few tourists. Since cruises have made Kiriwina Island a port of call as part of their itineraries around PNG and the Solomon Islands, it has led to a massive boost in visitors and interest in Kiriwina Island, and fortunately, a renewed understanding of the importance of protecting the fragile rainforest eco-region of the Trobriand Islands.
Famous for yams, and with authentic cultural experiences, mesmerising island backdrops, and some of the friendliest locals you’ll ever meet, visiting Kiriwina is likely to be both an eye opening and humbling experience.
Cruise ships anchor in Milne Bay off the western coast off Kiriwina Island. The port is located in the centre of the island’s main town of Losuia, which is also the location of the island’s government station. Tender boats complete a short journey to shore, transferring passengers to the jetty in Losuia. Princess Cruises and P&O are among the international cruise liners that call at Kiriwina Island.
Tourist infrastructure is limited in the traditional township of Losuia; however, next to the pier is the is the Kiriwina Island Visitor Information Centre, which offers information regarding burial cave tours, snorkelling excursions and village tours. The Loquia Lodge near the jetty offers homestay style accommodation in bungalows facing the beach.
How to Get Around
Vans, PMVs (public motor vehicles) and small boats transport visitors to villages around the island and to some of the neighbouring Trobriand Islands. These modes of transport can be taken from town close to the tender pier. Getting transport out of villages can be difficult, especially if not arranged beforehand since most transport is tied in with local accommodation providers.
Expect to pay around 150 PGK each way for a van ride to and from the airport, or from one side of the island to the other. Van rides include a complimentary guided tour of some of the island’s major sights, including the expansive yam farms or Japanese warplane wrecks.
Travel times from the port:
- It is a 2 minute journey to the Losuia town centre.
- It is a 20 minute journey between Losuia and Kiabola
- It is a 7 minute journey between Losuia and Kiriwina Airport, which has three scheduled flights to Alotau per week.
- Currency - Papua New Guinea uses the Papua New Guinean kina (PGK), which is available in 5, 10,20 50 toea and 1PGK coins, and 2PGK, 5PGK, 10PGK, 20PGK, 50PGK, and 100PGK banknotes. Between locals, yams are also accepted as currency, seeing the vegetable as a sign of wealth and power.
- Time Zone - Papua New Guinea operates on Papua New Guinea (PNG) time, which is 10 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
- Weather – Much of Papua New Guinea, particularly the Milne Bay area, experiences warm temperatures and higher rates of humidity. The cyclone season is recognised as being between January and April. The yearly average for the area is 28 degrees Celsius.
- Trobriand Cricket - Played in the middle of town with what seems like half the village taking part, observe the cultural spectacle of the Trobriand form of cricket. With play stopped intermittently for singing, ceremonial dancing and whistleblowing, expect to wait hours if not days for your turn to bat – it’s all part of the fun of enjoying the organised chaos.
- Losuia Village Tours - Receive a guided tour of the humble homes of the local villagers, many of which are surrounded by taro, yam and banana plots. Visit the Paramount Chief’s large house in the centre of town, bringing gifts including postcards from home, fish hooks or candy, while asking to see the sought after kula objects that have been traded. Tours cost 20 PGK (around $4) and leave from the visitor information centre next to the jetty.
- Kapola Burial Cave - Near Mattawa village at the northern tip of the island is the Kapola Caves, where deep limestone caverns hide the skeletons and burial artefacts of local giant Donkanikani, who is said to be buried here with his victims.