MAINLAND PNG’s eastern tip and the surrounding islands was once referred to as Massim.
Now it is Milne Bay; named for an English lord or some such; the name Milne Bay has now become iconic.
The terrible battle between 2 foreign forces in the heart of Milne Bay in 1942 put the name on the world map.
The wonderful history and relationship with Australian centres like Cookstown also helped.
Being on the end of a huge landmass (New Guinea), it has always been a hub or a place of trade. It has certainly been visited by travellers of all kinds over many generations.
Not only ships with huge white sails that explored , traded, restocked and sailed on in search for new lands, gold, ebony, or shell or other commodities. It was also a hub for canoes with sails of woven pandanus leaves and a crew of hardy travellers looking for much the same thing. Trade between neighbours and those further afield brought the people to Milne Bay.
New lands for settlement, clay for pots, obsidian for tools, shell for trade, and decoration and intermarriage and it's many cultural obligations. They all played a part in the settlement of this Paradise.
Then came the Missionaries, the Miners, the Merchants and the Misfits.
Milne Bay is widely known for its friendly people.
It is a popular theory that the Missionaries, many of whom were fellow Pacific Islanders, were the ones responsible for "friendly" tag.
But others will argue that the Massim’s with their history of trading and large ocean going canoes were already treating visitors of good intent with equally good fashion.
But what of the Miners, Merchants and Misfits? Many from this group married into Milne Bay and indeed contributed to the tag.
So the melting pot scenario was brewing even before the beginning of the 20th century.
Indeed the people of Massim have had a big hand in stirring it.
Culture and Tradition.
The people of Milne Bay had a vibrant and very colourful culture back in the dark days before the arrival of the missionaries.
The missionaries had an objective in coming to these waters, and to reach that, they needed to remove the darkness of sorcery, cannibalism and of course the fighting
As a result, Culture took a turn; a tangent.
It is certainly a living thing. It is always alive and changing all the time.
The Lifestyle of the people of this beautiful province is the Culture of the day.
Many visitors to Milne Bay want to learn more about a society emerging from the traditional Milne Bay way of life to a modern one.
Tradition is the stories, the legends, the clans, the taboos, the bloodlines, the chants of war and happiness; a part of the culture.
Both culture and Tradition are the pride of place that underlays that Friendly Tag.
Milne Bay boasts so many attractions; cultural, traditional, natural and historical.
Each year a show case of Milne Bay’s Culture and Tradition heads the Milne Bay visitors bucket list.
The National Kenu and Kundu Festival (NKKF) is held on the first full weekend in November each year. The festival attracts more participants than it does visitors. But that's not a problem because it is a chance to display the many traditions and the culture.
The NKKF promotes the pride and the weekend of singing, sailing, dancing, and cultural exchange is the best experience ever for participants and visitors alike. The majority of people still live in traditional houses in small clan and family based hamlets and villages.
Subsistence farming and hunting and fishing are the ordinary daily activities around which the people build their lives.
Add to this the occasional feast, family customary obligations and community based sports and church activities that make up the lifestyle that is the culture of Milne Bay.
Milne Bay is unique in so many ways; one such way is the fact that everybody in Milne Bay speaks English.
A myriad of natural attractions, hot springs, coral reefs, marine drop offs, water fall islands, fishing, flora and fauna make it difficult to choose what do when in Milne Bay.
But a visit is not really a visit until you venture beyond the mark that is the boundary of your comfort zone.
Milne Bay is an adventure smorgasbord just waiting to be laid out on the table.
Samarai is a Historical town.
Once the provincial headquarters and the centre of trade, Samarai is now just a quiet laid back community.
Its citizens are proud to show you around their unique town and will invite you into their homes for a cup of tea and a scone with an equally unique brand of English.
From Samarai you can hop over to Nuli Sapi Eco resort at Logeia, and Kwato Island Mission and Church which is an architectural highlight. Kwato has a wonderful history and offers great accommodation.
There is a resort at Doini and on neighbouring Gonubalabala Island where you can watch the Giant Manta Rays that visit the cleaning station there.
Lei Lei on the mainland has a forest of soft coral and sea fans teeming with fish for a great snorkel.
Fishing trips and short trips to spots where you can dive or have a picnic on a white sandy beach can be arranged to suit your budget.
Esa’ala District which has an array of attractions has a Tourism Initiative Office in the Alotau International Hotel where you can arrange incidental tours and charters.
They suggest packages and network with small operators to give the visitor a real glimpse of the Milne Bay culture.
You can also visit hot springs, geysers, blow holes, mud pools and hot water springs where you can take a relaxing dip.
Birds of Paradise unique to one island in the Esa’ala group, Ferguson Island can be seen.
A church built almost a hundred years ago is the centre of attraction St Dobu Island and the locals will show and tell with great pride and of course a wonderful humour that this is what they are famous for.
For a day trip by road, one can visit Treetops Eco Lodge in beautiful Bisimaka Bay or drive to East Cape the most easterly tip of mainland PNG.
East n Sea at Topa has skull caves, snorkelling, sport fishing charter boat. It is also a step off point to visit the Esa’ala district.
From East n Sea you can also arrange fishing adventures to the Engineer Group of Islands where you can build a bonfire on the beach and have a cold drink after a hot day of fishing, spend a night at a village and listen to locals sing and play guitars.
There are literally a thousand things you could do or see in Milne Bay where tourism is very much in its infancy.
None of the activities or attractions described above are available as a set package or tour; they have to be tailor made.
Destination Milne Bay is a non-profit organisation that has seen the need to network all the small operators in nature based tourism.
A website to support those small operators is being established and packaging of the various products into set tours is a short term target for the association.
As I said before, Milne Bay is unique. It has enormous potential, but the Tourism Industry here has not yet developed beyond the Hotels and Bars and the occasional tailor made adventure.
Destination Milne Bay can be reached at email@example.com
Check out the Senisim Pasin trailer on their website: http://senisimpasin.org