Ninigo Island group – Admiralty Islands

18 September 2011
Ninigo Island group, Admiralty Islands, Papua New Guinea

Published 12 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Anchorage position: o1 23.660S, 144 11.663 E

The Ninigo Island group is 225 nautical miles North East of Jayapura in West Papua and is 60 nautical miles West of the Hermit Islands. We visited Ninigo en route to Kavieng in New Ireland. We spent 10 days anchored off the island of Mal in the Southern end of the lagoon and found Ninigo to be the highlight of a year exploring the South East Asia region.

We entered the lagoon at sunrise through the Western channel, with the reef clearly visible and the entry straightforward in good light. We anchored in sand in 8-10 metres with two other vessels.

We were welcomed later that day by father and son Thomas and Richard Ailis from Puhipi village, who brought fresh coconuts as a gift and expressed their willingness to assist us during our stay. They spoke excellent English, were warm and courteous and in the days that followed became both our guides and friends. They introduced us to their extended family and the Mal islanders, who must be the loveliest people on earth.

Mal was planted as a coconut plantation by the Germans in 1930s and coconuts continue to be a primary source of income and food. Ninigo is very isolated, only receiving supplies by boat 2-3 times a year. Their nearest town is Lorengau, some 200 nautical miles away. Only a handful of people in Ninigo have outboard motors, with most traveling between the islands by traditional sailing canoe. There is a primary school of 70 students, a clinic (well organized but low in supplies) and a Government station (an HF radio and satellite phone). Mal also has an airstrip, which is occasionally used to collect critically ill people or to bring in Government officials.

Mal is a series of small villages dotted along the length of the horse-shoe shaped island and linked by walking tracks. It has an excellent reef, full of fish and crays, which locals will catch if requested. The Islanders have their own gardens where they grow papaya, oranges, pumpkins & bananas and community gardens of cassava and taro. Locals do not come to yachts to trade, being naturally reticent and unused to visiting boats but are very happy to trade any of their produce, as they are often without essential supplies such as rice, soap, sugar, flour, washing powder, fish hooks.

The Ninigo people are very resourceful and will try to maintain and repair what they have, but are often using tools and equipment that are beyond repair. They are badly in need of many self-reliance aids, especially tools, 12V batteries, navigational aids, copper/ brass screws, and nails. During our visit, the crew members of Anui and Red Boomer II with electrical and mechanical skills worked with the locals on a range of broken items – the satellite dish and phone, inverters, solar panels, DVD players, the community lawnmower and a series of outboard motors. The locals are very keen to learn new skills.

The school would appreciate storybooks and any encyclopedia/ magazines. They welcome visitors and hold the newly established visitors’ book.

The people of Ninigo are courteous, warm and honest. They are visited by few yachts and are keen to encourage more of us to visit. The delightful Thomas and Richard Ailis are willing to act as guides and are seeking to organize other islanders to take visitors to the best snorkeling/ dive spots. We were adopted by this lovely family during our stay and spent time with them and their neighbours in their homes and on our boat. We left very reluctantly.

Ninigo is a safe, beautiful and unblemished cruising ground. Its Catholic population have strong community values and are looking to their future, both through the education of their children and through finding ways of sustaining their natural resources. The would welcome visiting yachts and hope that this will benefit their community in small ways. The people are kindness itself; they demand nothing and are modest in any requests. When it came time for us to leave, the school and the community threw a party to thank us for helping them, with songs, speeches, and a feast.

We encourage cruising yachts to take the time to visit Ninigo, enjoy its beauty and come to know its wonderful people. We look forward to hearing from our friends there of the small ways in which other visiting yachts have benefited their community and helped them sustain Ninigo for future generations.

Sarah Armstrong

SV Anui

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