The water surrounding the resort Tawali lures divers from around the world and, right, the ship docks in Papua New Guinea.
The water surrounding the resort Tawali lures divers from around the world and, right, the ship docks in Papua New Guinea. mihtiander

The perfect end to a bumpy tropical road

OUR shore excursion in Alotau from a P&O cruise on board Pacific Eden in Papua New Guinea promised much: a resort visit, snorkelling, lunch, a waterfall, a skull cave.

We were up for it. What we weren't up for was the getting there bit.

We knew there would be discomfort when 11 of us crammed into a small and battered minivan and saw the cracked windscreen held together with paper and blue-tack. With our knees against our chests we set off with a mix of anticipation and jitters. When our guide said "we will drive to the resort, it is one and a half hours, the road is not good” the anticipation fled, the jitters stepped up.

Off we bumped over a potholed and rutted track flanked by thick green jungle for what seemed like the rest of our lives.


We shuddered our way over holes, corrugations and rickety bridges, dodging bouncy piglets and sprinting chickens, passing barefoot locals as they walked to goodness knows where. Through tiny villages, past a small school and a modest hospital we juddered, passing a number of conked-out vehicles, their owners happily repairing tyres and sticking paper on windscreens.

One of the bridges had collapsed and our intrepid driver ordered us out (big combined weight) while he inched the van through the river (stream if I'm honest) to the other side.

After two hours and three minutes (I counted) we arrived at the sea just as our spare wheel fell off. We then had to do relays in a small wooden boat out to a bigger boat which eventually took us to our destination. At last. The resort. The relief.

It was straight into snorkels and the water for some of the best snorkelling in the world.

"Worth it, worth it,” we shouted as we surfaced after looking down on giant coral gardens and schools of iridescent fish.

The resort, Tawali, in Milne Bay, is only accessible by that "road'' and then sea but sits in the middle of renowned diving sites that attract devotees from all over the world.


After a lunch of local fish, it was off to the waterfall which involved another boat ride and a robust hike through thick jungle where local boys brandished machetes (not at us, fortunately, the jungle) and women in huts put out a few forlorn trinkets to sell.

Having no use for small animal skins or large shells, we proffered money to the women instead, and tramped through more dense foliage and over mud and rivers until we were rewarded with a gushing waterfall. We leapt into its cooling cascade and then took selfies.

Another jungle trek back, another boat, one more jungle incursion and we came to the caves where the skulls of local inhabitants are kept. Ghoulish, but the history and mysticism had to be respected.

After this exceptional day, and light-headed with the bone-jarring adventure of it, we fell back into the soothing arms of Pacific Eden and its lovely welcome of martinis, massages and endless comfort - a sight never to forget.

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