Island Memories

Welcome to our life style, our history, and memories of glory and war

Rabaul Scenic Tours principal, Judith Samuel, greeting cruise passenger tourists at Rabaul’s main wharf.

If you arrive on a cruise ship, our Islands Memories tour is a great cruise extension. If you are traveling independently, this tour is a great introduction to the place and our people.

The tour in our air conditioned minibus focuses on islands life today with a strong underpinning of how the present grew out of a turbulent past of conquest, missionaries, traders, planters, and war.

Islands Memories starts where the Rabaul & Volcanoes tour leaves off, at the Hospital and Barge tunnels, then moves to Kokopo, the capital of the islands today. You will see how we live and eat at the market, see some of the history of the area at the Museum, the influence of the Missions at the Catholic Cathedral, and everywhere the evidence of war.

But even focusing on Kokopo, we can't let you leave our land without a look at the magnificent vista from the Volcanological Observatory (pictured in the banner above) before we return you to your cruise ship or hotel.

Cruiser Tour 2: Island Memories - a cruise through our way of life, our culture, and the history that made island life today

Map of tour destinations for Islands Memories tours. Volcanological Observatory, Hospital tunnel, Barge tunnel, Queen Emma’s steps, the War & Cultural Museum in Kokopo, the Kokopo Market, Vunapope Cathedral, and the Bitapaka War Cemetery.


Touring around this area, have your camera ready for pictures like these (click on  the pictures to make them bigger):

NATIONAL MASK FESTIVAL - KOKOPO
Held annually in July in Kokopo, this festival brings out a spectacular show of Tolai and other New Britain traditional costume and dance talent to compete against outstanding performers from other parts of the nation. No cruise ships coordinate with the Festival so you need to travel here independently to see it. Call us and be assured of the best seats and ancillary tours.MANUS ISLANDERS CELEBRATE
People from Manus Island living in Rabaul and Kokopo celebrate their heritage with a show at the Kokopo Festival grounds on the annual “Manus Day”. Their unique “jump” style dancing means they always draw an appreciative audience. We at Rabaul Scenic Tours keep an eye on such special events and make sure we give our cruise ship and independent travelers the best chance to participate in them.BITAPAKA WAR CEMETERY
There is a small section near the entrance devoted to World War I listing Australians who died in 1914 when they invaded to neutralize a German wireless station near this location. Most of the cemetery is devoted to World War II however. Australian, Indian, Fijian, Malaysian, and a handful of Papua New Guinean dead are buried here. Many are unidentified. The lists on the walls shown are those who came here, never returned, and whose bodies were never found or identified.BITAPAKA WAR CEMETERY
Lines of tablets set in concrete mark the graves of known and unknown Commonwealth servicemen who died in the islands in WW II.KOKOPO CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL
The “new” Cathedral at the long time Catholic HQ in the Islands, Vunapope (initially known as Mioko), in Kokopo, is architecturally unusual and is known for its variety of art styles in the depictions of various elements of the faith. The site gained its name through a fusion of the Tolai language and English: “Vuna” means “Place of” so Vunapope  (pronounced as “Voonah-pope-ee”) means the place of the Pope. Cruise visitors will be impressed with a quick look; independent tourists can examine the Cathedral and its art at their leisure.BARGE TUNNEL
In a remarkable feat of engineering, the Japanese army dug tunnels into the cliffside then ran tram rails from the beach so they could haul the barges, vital to their contact with outposts up throughout New Britain and New Ireland, to safety from the Allied bombs. Seventy years on, the barges are rusting hulks but the tunnels endure.KOKOPO MUSEUM
A relic of WW II - a Japanese field gun and search light. Apart from a few downed aircraft, all WW II relics are Japanese since “Fortress Rabaul” with its magnificent harbor which is now a magnet for cruise ships, was never taken but bypassed to surrender at the end of the war.KOKOPO MUSEUM - IGNIAT FIGURE
An original stone carving of an Igniat society figure. The Igniat society is a very secret men’s society among the Tolai people. Like a number of other all male elements in Tolai and related societies, it has its roots in women’s culture. Cruise passengers won’t have time to follow this up on the spot, but those staying longer can learn a lot at the museum.QUEEN EMMA’S STEPS
In the 1890s through the 1900s, the social elite of the islands tripped down these steps to the beach from the mansion of the Samoan/American copra grower, trader, and beauty, Queen Emma. The Ralum Club and the Gazelle International Hotel occupy the site today and golfers clatter down the steps to the first tee of the links below.ON THE ROAD - A LAD CLIMBS FOR KULAU
The lad is climbing for “kulau”, the young coconuts above him which provide a cool, refreshing drink on even the hottest day. You can buy kulaus ready-husked for a kina or so at roadside stalls and the markets. Your guide has straws so you can conveniently try a kulau.KOKOPO BOAT HARBOR
A fleet of “banana boats” beaches here to pick up passengers and cargo, private and commercial, for New Ireland (2 hours), the Duke of York Islands (45 mins), and the south coast of New Britain (up to several hours). Not cruise ship travel, but they there!KOKOPO MARKET
A young mother with sleeping child in hand peddles her tapiok (cassava) cake for the few kina she needs to buy necessities and diet variations beyond her family subsistence agriculture. Cruise visitors might have little time to chat, but meeting people like this lady is a pleasure.KOKOPO MARKET
A town resident shopping for staples (here, cooking bananas) and other food items. While those who have moved into the cash economy spend at local supermarkets, the open market is still the place to go for fresh grown produce of all kinds -- including many kinds not found in the supermarkets. Cruise passengers get 15 minutes at the market; independent travelers can have longer.KOKOPO MARKET
The fresh food at Kokopo market shows the tropical islands’ largely subsistence diet. Giant yams seen here at seven kina each (about $3) provide multiple meals for a family. Other staples in the picture include one of the many varieties of bananas, sweet potato (kaukau), and the recently introduced corn. Mostly not cruise ship or hotel fare, but very sustaining.KOKOPO ORCHID GARDEN
Papua New Guinea is famous for its orchids. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, men of many nations came orchid hunting here -- some in search of knowledge, others in search of wealth -- they would steal orchids then ship them in ice to the western world’s high society centers where they sold for a fortune to the ultra rich. Yet new species or sub-species are still being discovered. This garden comprises local and foreign orchids.KOKOPO MARKET	
Tropical fruits abound at the Kokopo market. Pawpaws (papaya), pineapples, sugar cane, and more are native to New Guinea but are now claimed and grown world-wide.




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