Kitava is a small island off Trobriand Island which forms part of the Kiriwina chain of islands in Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay Province. Most visitors to Kitava Papua New Guinea are passengers from one of the cruise ships that regularly visit this part of PNG. Here are some tips for cruise ship passengers who want to make the most of their time on Kitava Island.
1. What to bring to Kitava
Kitava Island is not developed by western standards which is part of it charm. However, if you’re expecting a resort experience with all its associated facilities, this is not the place to find them. Kitava tours are pretty much non existent apart from some locals showing you around or taking you snorkelling in their rafts. There are basic amenities such as pit toilets and you can buy water and canned drinks but it is best to arrive on the island prepared. Bring essentials such as bottled water, sunscreen, and insect repellent. Tissues also come in handy if you need to use the toilets.
2. Get off the ship early at Kitava
Try to be first off the ship at Kitava, especially if you’re an avid snorkeller. Just a few hundred metres off Kitava Island is tiny Nuratu Island, an uninhabited atoll which resembles a picture postcard. It is a highlight for snorkellers and surrounded by abundant reef and fish life. Getting there is part of the fun as canoes offer visitors a ‘taxi service’ to and from the island at $2.50 kina per person each way or AU$5.00 each way. Use kina and you get the trip for around half price, plus the locals do not have to exchange your AU$ for kina after you leave.
The trip over to Nuratu Island is a lot of fun due to the friendly rivalry between the captains of each raft who race each other. Expect plenty of whooping, hollering, shouting and conch shell fanfares as you complete the five minute trip. It is best to pay for each journey separately as the canoe you take over might not be the one that is there to take you back as there are lots of different ones. The snorkelling around Nuratu Island is excellent but snorkel gear is not available to buy or hire on the island so bring your own from home. For the best experience, snorkel to the sticks poking out of the water as these are markers for large coral bommies.
3. Kitava tours
There aren’t really any formal tours on Kitava but islanders put on performances, with the school children’s show being a highlight. These take place numerous times throughout the day so it is unlikely you will miss out. The performances are free but donations to the community are greatly appreciated and help with basic needs for the village. Photographing or videoing throughout the performances is fine.
If you would like a photo with the traditionally costumed islanders, do ask politely and seek permission first. Village tours with local guides will show you how the islanders live and provide great insight into their culture. There is also the ubiquitous skull cave to experience (each island seems to have one) and a walk to King Cameron’s grave and lookout for around 10 kina or AU$5.00.
4. Purchase souvenirs responsibly
Selling handicrafts is a key part of the emerging tourism economy in Papua New Guinea. However, while you will probably see beautiful shells and coral for sale, harvesting these is very damaging to the local reefs. Don’t perpetuate the problem by buying these items. Instead limit your Kitava souvenirs to hand carved wooden artworks for which the islands are famous. The craftsmanship is stunning and the environment will thank you for it.
5. Get your coral cuts treated
Cruise ships offer a first aid station on the island to treat minor injuries such as coral cuts, a common occurrence as the beaches are made of broken coral rather than sand. Coral cuts can turn nasty quickly in the tropics so, even if the cut seems very small, you should definitely drop by and get it cleaned and sprayed with disinfectant. If you wait until you get back on the ship, you will likely be up for a hefty fee to visit the ship’s medical centre. It’s best to play it safe and get treated on the beach for free.
If you are cruising in Papua New Guinea, check out our other Papua New Guinea posts with tips for cruising in Papua New Guinea, cruising in Papua New Guinea with kids, and our suggestions for Alotau, Rabaul and Kiriwina.