The airplane is flying low over the rainforest. A tangled mess of trees, vines, and leaves in every shade of green imaginable are below you. Tropical birds and interesting animals are surely hiding among them. Eventually, you see the Solomon Sea’s bright blue water ahead. Fjord-like fingers seem to dribble into it. Finally, a short runway and a partially hidden resort come into view atop one of the cliffs. You’ve arrived on Cape Nelson.
Cape Nelson is an isolated peninsula in the already remote country of Papua New Guinea. An active volcano, mangrove swamps, coconut groves, and that dense rainforest fill this northeast section of the country. The world’s largest butterfly and grasshopper, as well as the longest beetle, live here. The people have yet to abandon their long-held traditions, which they’re happy to share with visitors. While the Tufi Dive Resort is a comfortable home base to start your exploration.
After a short walk from the airstrip, you’re welcomed to the resort’s main building with a cold towel and juice. A small library, an open-air restaurant, and the pool are in front of you. The deep fjords, which are actually rias, spread out beyond the pool. Your bungalow, where your bags have already been delivered, has a similar view from its veranda. Inside, it’s decorated with polished timber floors and traditional woven walls.
Over a margarita back at the pool, you formulate a plan for the next few days. You want to go scuba diving, since the area is known for having some of the clearest water in the world. Cyclone Reef, Stewarts Reef, and Shark Tip attract schools of barracudas and reef sharks. The SS ‘s Jacob (a Dutch cargo ship) and Blackjack (an intact B17) are lined with soft and hard coral. While you can trade your scuba gear for snorkel gear around the rias, where gobies, nudibrachs, and clams live in the calm water.
You plan to go fishing for Dogtooth tuna and Spanish mackerel. Your catch will become part of a seafood feast on white-sand Komoa Beach. You hope to learn how to paddle a traditional outrigger canoe to explore the coral outcrops and the sandy cays along the coast. Then you’ll probably paddle a sea kayak in the opposite direction as you search for birds-of-paradise and rare black palm cockatoos.
But it’s the visit to a local village about which you’re most excited. You’ll travel by boat and meet friendly, welcoming people. You’ll catch lobsters with a local fisherman and prepare nets to hunt for pigs. You’ll create traditional tapa cloth and harvest sago (a starch grown in palm stems). Along the way, you’ll hear stories that have been passed down through generations.
You may be in one of the most remote parts of the world, where nothing looks or sounds familiar, but you’ll feel right at home by the time you finally leave. Not that you’re thinking about leaving yet. This adventure is just beginning.