Louisiade Archipelago is in Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea. It is a beautiful, peaceful area in the south eastern tip of Papua New Guinea and is renowned for its beautiful coral reefs, a diver's paradise. Apart from passing yachties it receives very few tourists.
The people of the Louisiade Islands predominately live a subsistance lifestyle. Most families have a garden - a reclaimed section of jungle where they grow fruit and vegetables, a few chickens and pigs, and each village has at least one fisherman with a sailing canoe. In these communities, almost everything is privately owned - including firewood, fruit and vegetables, and even the fish in the lagoon. More importantly, these resources are the only resources and property that these communities have, and they depend on them for survival. Please obtain permission from the locals before fishing or taking anything from the islands. If what you ask for is abundant, they will most likely give it to you, otherwise it would be appropriate to offer to buy or trade for it. The only exception is trolling for pelagic fish such as tuna and mackerel, which are too big and fast for the local fishermen to catch. Pelagic fish are abundant in the islands, and it is appropriate to catch more than you need and donate it to the local villages. For most communities, a trip to the nearest shop is at least a one to two day journey by sailing canoe each way. Although the need for money is increasing in these remote communities (they need money for school fees or to buy fuel for the long boats to reach islands with medical facilities), most trading consists of bartering for goods.
Upon arrival at most islands, be prepared for several canoes to paddle over and offer to trade their local fruit and seafood in exchange for goods such as:
Mostly, traders are happy to exchange for second-hand items if they are still fit for their purpose. For advice about the current needs of individual communities, refer to www.louisiades.net which provides up-to-date information about the type of tradegoods sought by various communities.
The indigenous language of the Louisiade Archipelago is Language Misima, however children also learn English at elementary school.
Milne Bay encompasses some of the most isolated island communities in the world. This isolation contributes significantly to the character and charm of the place, however it comes with the downside of a conspicuous lack of infrastructure. Nevertheless, there is an airfield on Misima Island at the town of Bwagoia. It is serviced regularly by small passenger aircraft run by a local PNG carrier between the mainland and Misima.
Most visitors to the Louisiade Islands arrive by private yacht. The passage to the islands across the Coral Sea from Cairns, Australia is approximately 510 nautical miles. The average cruising yacht can complete this journey in about 4 days under favourable conditions.
Every year, dozens of Australian yachts make the journey to the Louisiade Islands, either independently, or as part of the annual Louisiades Rally. Additional information for and about getting to the Louisiades by yacht can be found at www.louisiades.net
Throughout the islands, the locals have three modes of transport:
Misima also has some cars and trucks, however you are unlikely to see any motor vehicles other than the occasional long boat on the other islands of the Louisiade group.
There are also a couple of old fishing boats which dock at Bwagoia Harbour, and appear to serve as ferries and tramp freighters for the region. Nevertheless, most locals from the remote islands make long distance journeys by sailing canoe.
Whilst all of these options would most likely be available to a foreign visitor, they can only be recommended to the extremely adventurous! Canoes and long boats are not subject to the kind of maritime safety regulations you might expect in more developed regions, and the journey from Misima to any other island involves crossing open ocean with no possibility of signalling distress or obtaining help if something goes wrong.
For visitors, the most common and most practical approach is to bring your own transport - i.e. sail your own boat from Australia.