Gone With The Wynd Expedition #5 to Papua New Guinea’s New Britain, Duke of York Isles and New Ireland To Witness Three Spectacular Tribal Ceremonies, Climb An Active Volcano, Meet Megapode Egg Hunters and Snorkel on Some of the World’s Most Pristine Coral Reefs and Swim with Dolphins.
Join our Third Expedition to Papua New Guinea
This expedition takes you to three of Papua New Guinea’s most interesting islands to witness three dramatic tribal ceremonies; the Baining Fire Dancers initiation ceremony on New Britain Island, a Tabuan dance with Duk Duk spirits on the Duke of York Isles and a Malagan mask ceremony on New Ireland.
All three ceremonies are spectacular and very different from one another, but the elaborate and sacred initiation ceremony of the young men of the Baining tribe of New Britain as Fire Dancers (see summary overleaf), and their performances jumping through fire and clouds of embers in bark-cloth Kavat masks, is sight that very few, if any, outsiders have been allowed to witness – on our visit in 2019, the village Chief invited us to come back in 2020 to help celebrate his son’s three day initiation ceremony.
This incredibly rich itinerary takes in bird watching, orchids, relaxing on pristine beaches, climbing a steaming active volcano, visiting jungle waterfalls, joining megapode egg hunters, exploring many World War II relics and countless opportunities for purchasing artefacts, carvings and traditional shell money (tambu)!
Throughout this trip, there will be many opportunities to snorkel or dive in the coral triangle on some of the worlds richest reefs in The Bismarck & Soloman Seas (we recommend that you bring your own snorkel, mask and flippers!). Diving trips at extra cost paid directly to operators.
COST: US $3,950 per person.
START POINT: Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.
END POINT: Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.
DATES: Monday November 2nd to Friday November 13th, 2020 (note this expedition is deliberately planned to start on a Monday and finish on a Friday, allowing you to travel to/from PNG over weekends. Only 10 work days are required to take part on this trip!)
GROUP SIZE: 6–12.
Email [email protected] for more information and to make bookings.
Optional pre- expedition extensions: we will start and finish this trip with accommodation at the luxurious Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort on New Britain. There are countless excellent dive and snorkelling sites for coral reefs, WW2 wrecks, night dives and even dugongs near to the resort. If you wish to relax before or after this trip (or do a Padi diving course), a convenient option is to spend a few extra days at the Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort. We can introduce you to the management team to negotiate special rates and package options.
FIRE DANCE INITIATION CEREMONY (NEW BRITAIN): while many visitors briefly visit the villages of the Baining fire-dancers and watch their famous tradition of jumping through flames, very few outsiders have ever witnessed an initiation ceremony.
During a 2019 Gone With The Wynd Expedition, the village Chief of the fire dancers invited us to return in 2020 to witness and take part in a Fire Dance Initiation Ceremony involving his son and many other young men from his village and villages nearby. During this ceremony, dozens of fire dancers congregate in the Gaulib Valley from neighbouring villages to initiate new young dancers into the secrets of fire dancing. Day dances, night dances, and a massive community feast begins several evenings of spectacular fire dances!
During the night dances, several sacred, spiritual characters are invoked and it is believed that each dancers become part-spirit and part-human for the duration of the ceremony. To the sound of bamboo drums and tribal chanting, dramatic Kavat dancers wearing enormous and spectacular bark masks and bodies adorned with leaves, jump through the flames kicking up clouds of embers and continue long into the night! The Kavat masks represent the Spirits of the forest, the dances refer to male activities such as hunting, warfare, chopping trees etc.
The culmination of the three day initiation ceremony will be a dance that will last from 6pm – 6am. A male orchestra/choir will sing and drum rhythmically all night, as the mask-wearing dancers approach one by one, appearing from their secret places in the forest. As the night progresses they will dance more and more wildly, some of them breaking of from the group to dance, in the middle of the enormous fire, protected from burning by spirits of the snakes who have entered them.
At certain points villagers (and indeed ourselves) will be invited to join in the dance (though at our last visit the elders seemed to disapprove of some of the licentious dancing of their younger family members). The dance represents a battle between the wild Spirits of the forest and the inhabitants of the village, who at dawn should win the battle, chasing the Spirits (in their masks) back into the forest.
During the day, the villagers will show us secret places where the kavat masks are made, communes with snakes and spirits which the dancers believe allow them to dance through the fire (immune to flames and embers), (optional) shopping for several pigs in preparation for a mumu feast, and daytime singing and dancing in unique day masks. The day dances should involve women, both with the music and the masks and be connected to the Spirits who are involved with women’s work such as gardening. We may not be allowed to photograph many of the more sacred aspects of the ceremonies (such as visits to the sacred “secret places” in the forest.
TUBUAN CEREMONY (DUKE OF YORK ISLANDS): The Duk Duk are a secret society of initiates under the control of certain big men who may use it to bolster their prestige and enforce societal norms. The masks are enormous but unlike most masks only go down just below the waist. The masks are possessed by Spirits, both male and female and appear in the villages seemingly at random, though especially during times of feasting and celebration and are the source of much mirth, chasing sinners and often small children around. Local women and children are forbidden to look at the dancers (although foreign men and women are invited to watch the ceremony).
MALAGAN CEREMONY (NEW IRELAND): Following the death of important figures in some traditional New Ireland societies a great celebration is called for to show that the clan has over come the evil/sorcery/magic that has taken one of their members and that they are still rich and powerful. As the society is matrilineal the Malagan is organised by the deceased female relatives. The celebration is extremely expensive and time consuming and can happen many years after the death (or in some cases before the death). The Tatanua masks are some of the most spectacular and beautiful made anywhere in the world, and the ceremony is accompanied with music telling of the trials and tribulations of life, and often of problems with sorcery.
It was traditionally believed that during each Malagan ceremony, the family of the deceased can communicate with their loved ones and become linked to the spirit world. Malagan ceremonies involves other-worldly dancing and singing!