Hermit and Ninigo Islands, PNG

 

The Hermit Island Group has only one village, located on the main island of Luf, and it is the finest village we have visited in Papua New Guinea. The community has only 120 villagers, all Seventh Day Adventist Church members. They have two schools in the village so the children do not need to leave home to get their education.

This is the most prosperous village we have visited in our 4 1/2 months in Papua New Guinea. This island group has an abundant supply of sea cucumber (beche de mer), which the villagers harvest, boil, sun-dry, then smoke over wood fires, before trading it with the supply boat from the mainland, for rice and sugar and other supplies. The beche de mer is sent mainly to China, where it is considered a delicacy. The village is building a church with a cement floor, an insulated tin roof and milled structural timber. It is still under construction: they have been working on it for the last seven years. There are several generators in the village, power tools, solar panels, radios. Their homes are of traditional materials, which last only a few years, but they are able to construct new homes as needed. They do not rely on traditional canoes. They have many fiberglass 'banana boats' with 40 hp Yamahas.

The stunning Hermit Islands, at 1 degree south of the equator, is really an atoll with a complete surrounding barrier reef with several small passes and many islets along the fringe. Inside the huge lagoon are four spectacular, fabulous tropical islands. A more beautiful setting cannot be imagined. Today we are anchored by Leabon Island, the epitome of one's image of an island paradise. This island, about the size of a football field, is fringed in its entirety by a white sand beach, which is surrounded by multi-hued waters, and not another human being in sight. Several thousand birds (noddy terns, boobies, frigates) nest here. They soar and glide in an avian ballet, and squawk out a primeval tale.