Introducing Manus & Los Negros Islands
Bad luck for Manus Island: it was a hot spot for keen divers for many years – the marine environment is world-class – but the local dive shop closed down in 2007. Since then, the number of visitors has dropped. Expensive air fares don’t help. If you want to have an idea of what you’ve missed out on, log on to www.divepngmanus.com.
While divers may whine, twitchers and nature lovers will jubilate: one of the first things you’ll notice about Manus and Los Negros islands is the distinctive call of the chauca bird. These birds are unique to the region, as is a variety of sea snail that has a vivid green shell. Another local you’ll hear is a rokrok (frog) whose bizarre croak sounds like a distant person nailing down a tin roof! There are lots of crocodiles here too.
The provincial capital, Lorengau, is the only town, which is stretched along Seeadler Harbour. This very casual place livens up on weekends when ‘baptism of fire’ sermons are preached to an enthusiastic crowd. It has a Bank South Pacific, a post office and a hospital.
If you head to Los Negros Island, east of Lorengau, check out the remains of the US airbase at Lombrum. There’s a fine anti-aircraft gun as you enter, and rows of old hangers. General MacArthur’s headquarters is still in use by the PNG Navy. The former Australian refugee detention centre, where asylum seekers who were arriving in Australia were processed during Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’ days, is located here too. Near Loniu Passage is Loniu Cave (admission K5), where people hid during the war. Take a torch, dodge the bats and don’t slip.
You can swim with kids on both sides of the bridge or take a boat to Salamei Beach on Rarah Island, about 2km from Lorengau. A waterfall and swimming hole is in the Lorengau River, 5km upstream from town.
For daredevil surfing fiends, there are wicked waves to catch all through the islands. The best season runs from November to March. The merciless reef off Ahus Island is terrific. It gets up to 3.6m at times, so take care.
Lorengau is famous for its high-quality basketware. Look for the souvenirs of your dreams in the main stores on the main drag.