The Bismarck Archipelago is a group of 200 islands belonging to Papua New Guinea and located just off its coastline in the South West Pacific. Once a German protectorate, they were named in honour of the German chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck. Mostly volcanic in origin, they form several island groups, namely the Admiralty Islands, Duke of York Islands, Mussau Islands, New Britain, New Hanover, New Ireland and the Vitu Islands.
Temperatures for the islands vary little throughout the year, reaching daily highs of 30-32°C and falling to 20-24°C at night. Average annual rainfall can be as much as 20 feet in parts of West New Britain, with June, July and August being the wettest months, although much of the rain falls at night.
How to get there
All international flights to Papau New Guinea arrive at Jacksons International Airport in the capital, Port Moresby. Direct flights aboard the national carrier, Air Nuigini, are available from Australia, Singapore, Japan and The Philippines. Tourists require a visa to enter the country, and for British passport holders one can be bought on arrival for 100 Kina (about £20).
Port Moresby itself is a city rife with crime, including carjackings and robberies at gunpoint and knifepoint. Caution is advised, particularly after dark, and it is recommended that you do not use punblic buses (known as PMVs) as attacks can occur on them and most are unroadworthy.
There are no road or rail links to other parts of Papua New Guinea so the rest of the country is reachable only by internal flights. Daily flights to the likes of New Britain are available from Port Moresby.
Cruise ships also visit the Bismarck Archipelago. Port Simpson harbour in East New Britain province for example is one of the deepest in Papau New Guinea and can accomodate the world's largest cruise ships.
Where to stay
Accommodation from luxury and exclusive island retreats to humble guest houses are available in New Britain and New Ireland. The Duke Of York islands lie between New Britain and New Ireland and New Hanover is close to New Ireland too.
What to see and do
Papua New Guinea is renowned as a world class location for diving and the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago provide ample evidence as to why. The crystal clear waters and an abundance of coral reefs are home to a myriad of sealife including turtles, dolphins, sharks and all manner of tropical fish.
An abundance of wrecks, many of which are casulaties of World War II, are also popular dive sites.
Other water based activities available include wind-sailing, canoeing, water-skiing and game fishing. And of course there are the mile upon mile of beautiful beaches to explore.
The capital of West New Britain, Rabaul, was half buried by the volcanic eruptions that took place in 1994. Today parts of the town remain untouched, while other areas spring back to life. But there's no escaping the presence of Tavurvur, the volcano that lies across the harbour, grumbling and bellowing out great clouds of smoke.
New Ireland's capital is the beautiful harbour town of
Kavieng, best described as a "typical Somerset Maughan south sea island port". It also has a nine hole golf course for any golfers among you.
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