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Papua New Guinea’s Island Provinces — New Britain and New Ireland

If the Raja Ampat regency marks the western front of Melanesia sitting off the west coast of the great island of New Guinea, the island provinces of E. New Britain and New Ireland lie right across off the east coast of New Guinea.  New Guinea itself is the world’s second largest island, smaller only than Greenland – if, of course, mainland Australia is classified as a continent and not an island.  The island of New Guinea is divided between the nations of Indonesia in the west and Papua New Guinea in the east.  This Destination visits the island province of East New Britain which occupies the eastern side of the island of New Britain, PNG’s largest offshore island, and the province of New Ireland, whose largest island also bears the same name.

Kokopo became the capital of E. New Britain after the still active Mt. Tavurvur laid waste to most of Rabaul, its former capital, covering it in a thick blanket of ash.  The story goes that the eruption so choked the bay with pumice that a grasshopper could have hopped its way from Rabaul across the bay all the way to Kokopo.  Visiting Rabaul is like walking into an apocalyptic scene – roads and buildings buried with walls and the remnants of roofs poking out of the gray ash.  All-in-all it’s quite an otherworldly experience with dramatic views unfolding every which way you look.  Further north on the tip of the island of New Ireland lies Kavieng, the capital of the province.  Kavieng is the jumping-off point to the islands of Nusa and Nago, lushly blanketed and fringed by powder-soft glittering strands of sand.

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