The True North is unique in providing for both snorkelers and SCUBA divers, and the experienced professional crew is expert at catering to both. This is a rare opportunity for both to visit some of the most pristine locations for underwater exploring anywhere. The water is warm, clear and home to a rich marine environment.
The True North is a beautifully maintained ship with many touches of luxury, although the atmosphere is relaxed - it's an Australian vessel with an all-Australia crew - and we believe it's the nicest vessel traveling in these waters. Cabins are large and spotless; public rooms are comfortable and stylish; and there is a open air bar/barbecue area where you can enjoy the sea breeze and a dining room and bar where you can enjoy an espresso in the morning and excellent wine with dinner in the evening.
Read our Papua New Guinea cruise reviews to learn more about this adventure trip.
We make travel to Papua New Guinea very easy by chartering our own jet from Cairns directly to Madang, which is a pretty little city on PNG's east coast. The flight leaves Cairns in the morning and you'll be on the True North in time for lunch. The ship sets sail in the afternoon and you’ll have time for some excursions ashore starting on Day One.
We highly recommend spending a few nights exploring Cairns before your charter flight. Cairns is a lively tropical port and gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. It has a wide range of good hotels around the city.
Bagabag Island is a white-sand island offering excellent fishing, snorkelling, and diving. In the morning the expedition boats will survey the outer-reef which is teeming with fish, turtles and dolphins. The area is also renowned for its endless walls of sea fans, pristine corals and large pelagic species. The inshore coral will entertain the snorkellers and there will also be relaxed opportunities for swimming and beachcombing on a Bagabag beach.
The ship's helicopter will also be away - to explore the sounding area and nearby KarKar Island. Karkar is a larger oval-shaped volcanic island about 15 miles long and 11 miles wide with a dormant volcano, which last erupted in the 1970's.
After lunch we'll go ashore to meet the Bagabag islanders – there are just 4 villages here and the locals are keen to introduce visitors to their unique culture and way of life. Life on the island can be quite interesting as there are very few people and they all know each other very well. Then, you will not be able to resist the charms of Christmas Bay – here we can position the True North within 10 metres of the beach – all ashore for sunset drinks!
There are very few places in the world we you can experience an undisturbed river environment like the Sepik. It is 700 miles of freshwater meandering through a tropical floodplain with no major urban settlements and no mining or large scale forestry - yet. The people of the Sepik have lived in small villages along the river for many millennia and the river is the source of their food, transport and vibrant culture. They still use wooden canoes for transport and carve fascinating wooden masks, shields, drums and statues. The rich flora and fauna rivals the Amazon. The Sepik River Basin is sometimes called the "soul of Papua New Guinea" and every adventurer should experience it at least once.
The True North reaches the mouth of the river at dawn and cruises 45 miles upstream before anchoring. Then you have the choice of continuing upstream in one of the fast skiffs or traveling by helicopter. Your first stop is at the waterside market at Angoram where there are excellent local carvings to buy. Later you will be greeted at Kambaraumba Village by villagers singing and carrying giant crocodile puppets through crowds of dancers and drummers – a wild welcome ceremony you'll never forget. You then explore the maze of wetlands by skiff, traveling to a village built on stilts above the freshwater Lake Kambaraumba.
Today divers and snorkelers on board have the opportunity to explore among a number of ship wrecks in the bay where the marine life is outstanding at depths from 15 to 75 feet. The wrecks are relatively clear of silt because of cleansing currents and one large freighter, the Shishi Maru is just 1500 feet off the beach.
If you prefer dry land, you can hike on shore and discover the remains of a Japanese "Betty" bomber – still in an overgrown revetment by the old airstrip.
After lunch we visit Laing Island. The island used to be home to the King Leopold III Biological Research Station – the station was recently abandoned but an inspection of the area should still prove interesting. Again, Laing will offer excellent snorkelling and diving around the fringing reefs, especially on the eastern side where the reef drops into deep water. The Encounter Reefs off Laing also provide spectacular dives on a series of sea mounts. Just across the bay there is a highly active volcano on Manum Island – a reminder that we are within the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' where 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes can be found. The ship's helicopter will be the perfect vehicle to explore Manum and the surrounding area.
Divers and snorkelers will encounter some of the most interesting locations in PNG today. The Ninigo Islands are a large open-atoll structure surrounded by several smaller atoll formations. In total there are 7 atolls with around 50 small islets – plenty of opportunity for exploration. The largest component of islands forms a 34 km long by 18 km wide atoll that is open on its western side. The major island within the group is Mal, located at the southern end of the outer reef.
There will also be opportunities to swim in crystal clear lagoons, fish and walk palm-fringed beaches.
This morning you will explore the vast barrier reef formed by the Hermit Islands, a 14 mile wonderland of clear water, soft coral, clam gardens and colorful reef fishes. The snorkeling is some of the best anywhere and is highly rated by underwater explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau. There are also exciting options for divers in channels full of giant sea fans, soft corals, schools of rays and a rich array of fish.
Hikers have the option of going ashore and enjoying the beaches, perhaps catching a glimpse of the deer introduced by German colonists decades ago.
Enjoy lunch on the True North then land on Luf Island in the afternoon to meet local people living on the only inhabited island in this incredibly remote location.
Return to the True North in the evening for a cocktail and dinner after a day of remarkable experiences in a place few westerners ever see.
Beautiful Ponam Island played an important role as it changed hands between the militaries of Japan, the United States and the British Navy. You'll have the opportunity to go ashore and explore the site or snorkel the coral outcrops of the Manus Barrier Reef, where you'll encounter brightly colored butterfly fish and parrotfish. SCUBA diving is available too.
There is the option to fish for yellowfin tuna, trevally, mackeral and snapper today and the ship carries tackle for all the species found in the area.
The helicopter will be available for excursions to get a bird’s eye view of the isolated lagoons.
Today you will be one of the rare visitors to the remote islands of Manus Province, home to the a rich culture assortment of villages scattered over an area of 85,000 square miles.
The area is renowned for scuba diving and features colourful marine life, coral reefs, shipwrecks, and clear water. During the morning we visit the island of Rambutyo – the second largest island (after Manus) in the Admiralty Islands. It lies 25 miles to the southeast of Manus and here we hope to encounter traditional garamut (split drum) dancers. There will also be opportunity for some short walks and, spectacular helicopter flights over the island group. In the afternoon we will move to the northern end of Rambutyo - the fringing reefs here are amongst some of the most spectacular we see anywhere in PNG with very high coral cover and spectacular walls dropping into deep water. The mosaic of small islands in the area offers a wonderful backdrop and provides a wide range of different habitats to explore. Oceanic currents move gently through the passes allowing us a free ride as we observe the amazing biodiversity of these marine communities.
These volcanic islands are part of the "Ring of Fire" that rims the Pacific Ocean from Patagonia to Alaska to Indonesia, and the steep fertile land masses are ringed by equally fertile reefs where you can snorkel, dive or fish. The helicopter will provide a bird’s eye view of the entire island group while the ship's expedition boats will deliver guests ashore for historical and cultural tours.
Later the surrounding reef will lure the fishers, snorkelers and divers. Vitu’s remote coral reefs remain largely unexplored. Few divers have visited this area and many reefs remain un-dived. The visibility is usually superb and pelagic fishes are abundant. Grey reef sharks, silvertip sharks, dog-tooth tuna, rainbow runners and barracuda are seen on most dives. The fish assemblages on these reefs are distinctly oceanic in composition and a number of species that are rare closer inshore are very abundant here. “Krakafat” is a dive site of particular note - a sea of schooling barracuda, dog tooth tuna, trevally and everything in between.
Today anglers will have lots of opportunity to fish when the ship stops at the Baia Sport Fishing Lodge in Open Bay. From there you venture up jungle-lined rivers to fish for black and spot tail bass, mangrove jack and other estuarine species. The snorkelers will venture out of Open Bay on the short tender ride to Shark Reef - a 300m long platform which rises out of deep oceanic water. Here we drift along the reef edge keeping an eager eye out for the friendly white-tip and grey reef sharks which frequent the site, along with schools of trevally, Maori wrasse and masses of colorful fusiliers.
Also explore the Pandi River by skiff - one of the largest and most spectacular waterways on New Britain. The river flows deep and fast around huge log bars formed when giant rainforest trees fall into the water – these are the lairs of the legendary black bass. The river is lined with thick jungle containing an amazing array of bird life and the skyline is dominated by the imposing form of Mount Ulawun (2320m) - an active volcano and, the highest point on New Britain.
Enjoy sunrise as the True North comes into the Port of Kavieng and go for a final excursion after breakfast. You can kayak, swim, stroll around the island or do some last minute shooping. After a delicious seafood lunch you're transferred by boat to Kavieng Airport. There it's a short flight on our charter jet back to Cairns.
We recommend you spend at least the night in Cairns before catching a flight back to the USA, although you can also catch a flight to Sydney this evening, where you may want to spend a few days exploring the cosmopolitan surroundings, which provide quite a contrast from the remote islands of Papua New Guinea.
The True North is uniquely equipped to handle both snorkelers and SCUBA divers on this cruise. A complete equipment list will be provided during the trip planning process, but please note the following important guidelines.
Fishing is available many days on this itinerary and the True North carries a supply of conventional tackle as well as hand lines for bottom fishing. The Australia approach to fishing is a lot of fun and the emphasis is on lures and bait, with many of the fish kept for consumption. Fishing is done from the tenders which are center console skiffs with outboard motors. There will be four or more people on a skiff. This bears no resemblance to saltwater fly fishing North American style, although you are welcome to bring an 8 or 9 weight outfit suitable for saltwater species like jacks. Please note that fly fishing equipment is not available on board and the guides are not trained in its use.
Meeting the people of New Guinea in the remote Sepik River Basin and the far flung islands of the Bismarck Sea is a fascinating part of the activities on this itinerary. You will have many opportunities to meet with villagers, learn about their culture, see and purchase local art, and visit some markets. The True North carries six tenders that can land on beaches and remote village piers where very few westerners visit. Some of your fondest memories from this adventure may be of village visits.
The walks are generally easy and the crew will always explain what to expect in advance. A pair of good walking shoes or sandals are generally all that's needed.
Located on the upper deck – Explorer Class cabins feature a king size double (that can be converted to singles) and a twin basin en-suite. Cabin size is 15 square metres. Other features include large panoramic windows, a complimentary mini-bar, in-cabin entertainment and satellite telephone.
Located on the middle deck – River Class cabins feature a king size double (that can be converted to singles) and en-suite. Cabin size is similar to Explorer Class. Other features include large panoramic windows, in-cabin entertainment and satellite telephone.
Located on the lower deck – Ocean Class cabins feature roomy singles and en-suite. Cabin size is approximately 12 square metres. Other features include 2 portholes, in-cabin entertainment and satellite telephone.
For more details about the True North, visit the ship's website here.
Modern Australian cuisine is featured. Dining is a stylish but casual affair. Seating is not assigned.
Hors d'oeuvres in the ship's lounge is a not to be missed daily event! Keep an eye out for succulent oysters (which you almost certainly helped to collect) and sashimi caught just hours before.
Signature dining includes freshly caught barramundi - a revered sport fish possibly caught with your very own hands, or perhaps aged Angus or delicate Wagyu beef, or exquisite Australian lamb!
Our 'heli-picnics' are an unforgettable way to enjoy the quintessential Aussie barbeque featuring a wide variety of seafood including freshly caught reef fish, local king prawns, squid, pearl meat and smoked salmon.
Cruise Dates: November 22 - December 3, 2014
|2014 Prices - Cabin Class|
Prices are per person, double occupancy from Cairns, Australia.
Prices are in Australian dollars which are approximately on par with US dollars.