Manus Island: The Last Frontier for Adventure Travel in Papua New Guinea.
How to Explore Manus Island in Papua New Guinea
Since 2014, I have visited various remote locations in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for my photography assignments. During my most recent wildlife photography trip to PNG, I had the opportunity to visit Manus Island, an island not normally included in travel itineraries. Manus is a hidden gem in the Pacific Ocean, part of Papua New Guinea, that’s often overlooked by adventure travellers. The island features picturesque landscapes, unspoiled tropical beaches, and an abundance of diverse wildlife that may interest both nature enthusiasts and those seeking adventure. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the infrastructure is basic, which allows nature to flourish. As an outsider, life moves a bit slower here. Don’t we all appreciate a slower pace, correct?
The Forests of Manus Island
Manus Island has a diverse range of forests, each with its own distinct ecological significance. The forest here is home to tall trees, colourful orchids, and a variety of tropical birds, including 8 endemics. Mangrove forests are also present along the coastlines, contributing to coastal protection and hosting various marine life. The island is becoming a destination for birdwatchers who seek to catch a glimpse of the highly sought-after Superb Pitta and other avian species. Additionally, the island is known for the “Emerald Snail,” making it an attractive location for travellers interested in natural treasures.
How to reach Manus Island?
To reach Manus Island, travellers typically have two options. The best option for travelling to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea is to fly into Port Moresby, the capital city, and take a domestic flight to Momote Airport on Manus Island. This is considered a safe and convenient method of travel. The flight duration from Port Moresby to Manus Island is approximately two hours. Alternatively, some adventurous travellers might opt for a scenic sea voyage from the mainland. Regular passenger boats and ferries are available from Wewak or Lae on the mainland of Papua New Guinea, and the journey to Manus Island by sea usually takes around 24 to 48 hours. However, this is not advisable for international travellers.
Watch This Video
Wildlife Watching on Manus Island
Upon arrival at the airport’s arrival terminal on Manus Island, visitors are greeted with a tourism poster promoting the island as the home of the Superb Pitta bird. Superb Pitta is a hard to locate bird. The dense, mosquito-infested forests on the island make capturing decent photographs of the Superb Pitta challenging, which took the author four days to accomplish. There are seven other endemic bird species are on the island, along with various other creatures, such as the emerald snail.
Where to go birding in Manus Island?
You can find avian life in and around the island. Some of the areas I visited were islands inhabited by a few families. Manus Island is different from other parts of Papua New Guinea because the locals are friendly, and crime rates are lower. Here are some key places you can consider for wildlife expeditions on Manus Island:
Bipi Island, Hauwai Village, Nggwal Forest, Baluan Island, and Lorengau Conservation Area are good for birding. You should hire a reliable local guide as the birding industry is in its infancy, and finding a good guide may be challenging. If you need help planning a trip to the island, please email us at [email protected].
Top 5 Natural Beaches and Sights of Manus Island
Tutum Bay is a secluded beach that can be reached by boat. The journey to the beach offers stunning views of the coastline. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from May to October. Visitors can go snorkelling in the clear waters and spot marine life, such as sea turtles and colourful fish.
Lorengau is the capital of Manus Province and offers a blend of nature and culture. The town is surrounded by hills and beaches, making it a good place for strolls. The Manus Festival usually takes place in March and offers traditional dances and rituals.
The Admiralty Islands are a group of islands located near Manus. The islands are known for their biodiversity, including various bird species and marine life. Visitors can take a boat tour to witness stunning landscapes and rare wildlife.
Cape Wom is a cliff offering panoramic ocean views. The best time to visit is sunrise or sunset, when the sky is painted in vibrant colors. The area is also famous for spotting seabirds soaring above the cliffs.
Rambutso Island is a volcanic island with impressive geological features. Visitors can go hiking and explore the volcanic landscapes. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from July to September, when the weather is favourable for outdoor activities.
Trekking in Manus Island
Manus Island offers a variety of trekking routes for adventure enthusiasts. One of the challenging yet rewarding routes is the Mt. Dremsel trek, which starts from Arawa Village and takes about 4-5 hours to reach the summit. This route offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and coastline, and it is best undertaken during the dry season from June to September.
Another moderately tricky trek is the Bipi Village to Bipi Peak, which takes around 3-4 hours to complete. This trek offers encounters with lush rainforests and diverse wildlife, making it suitable for beginners and experienced trekkers. The best time to attempt this trek is during the dry season.
The Naringel to Pam Village trek takes approximately 6 hours and offers encounters with unique flora and fauna. This trek is of moderate difficulty and is best undertaken during the dry season to explore the heart of Manus Island’s wilderness.
The Lorengau to Bui trek is relatively easy and perfect for those seeking a leisurely hike. The journey takes around 2-3 hours, and hikers will be rewarded with stunning coastline views and nearby islands. This trek is best undertaken during the dry season.
For those looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, the Admiralty Islands Trek offers a range of routes of varying lengths and difficulty. Adventurers can explore unique landscapes and encounter rare wildlife, making it a truly unforgettable experience.
Where to stay on Manus Island?
Unfortunately, there aren’t many high-quality accommodations available on Manus Island. However, I did have a pleasant stay at Seedler Bay Hotel, which is a lovely resort located just a 20-minute drive from the airport. They have basic but comfortable cabins ideal for adventure travellers. The views from the resort are breathtaking, and I particularly enjoyed watching the beautiful sunset in the evenings.