Getaway in the Duke of York Islands

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There is an aura of tranquillity that is found in the isles of Duke of York and I suppose one can already feel this, as I have, the moment you leave Kokopo beach.

By Pauline Mago-King | Pictures by Agnes Wright

Agnes + kids at Pigeon Island

While East New Britain Province may be renowned for the rumbling Mt. Tavurvur and Vulcan volcanoes, it does have a few hidden gems tucked away and they are a group of islands called Duke of York.

Located in the St George’s Channel between East New Britain and New Ireland Provinces, the Duke of York Islands comprise of thirteen coral islands – the largest islands being Duke of York, Mioko, Makada, Karavar, Utuwan and Kabakon.

On a map, their size seems so infinitesimal especially against the yawning Bismarck Sea which is notorious for being the centre of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in World War Two.

But for a group of islands that are tiny in size, their exuberance, immaculate beauty and hospitality is unmatched.

There is an aura of tranquillity that is found in the isles of Duke of York and I suppose one can already feel this, as I have, the moment you leave Kokopo beach.

Transportation to the islands is not a problem as there are countless numbers of banana boats waiting to take passengers to the little piece of heaven looming beyond the beach.

On a good sunny day when the sea is calm, it should take about 45 minutes on a banana boat to get to the islands.

The boat ride may be abit bumpy and you may get wet from the salt sprays but that is part of the experience.


And just when you may tire of seeing nothing but stretches of blue water, you will be happily surprised by a pod of playful dolphins and schools of flying fish that usually swim alongside boats.

A popular sight at Mioko Island

What makes the journey even more worthwhile is that you get to see another picturesque island known as Pigeon Island.

Altogether, Pigeon and the Duke of York islands scream the “perfect island getaway” with their trademark of flawless white sandy beaches and turquoise-blue waters.

Whether it is snorkelling or a good day out at the beach, these atolls have an abundance of surf, sun and sand.

Duke of York child

And if you are a war relic enthusiast, you will be happy to know that the islands are a sanctuary of World War Two plane wrecks and tanks.

With the help of locals, you can visit sunken tanks at Makada; an airstrip at Rakanda Plantation on Duke of York; and maybe even find yourself exploring Mioko’s two open-pit caves which the islanders used as refuge from the Japanese.

You can also go on a crazy island-hopping spree which will give you the chance to appreciate the natural surroundings of each island.

And if you do work up an appetite while island-hopping, the islands offer a buffet of seafood.

From lobsters, diverse shellfish to tantalizing sea urchins (mind you the edible ones) and mouth-watering fish like the Red Emperor, your palate will be satisfied.

Not to mention, the hospitable slanders also cook local cuisines if you would like to have a taste.

Smoked/fried seafood, valual (tapioca cake), gam (banana/tapioca and galip or nut cake) and coo (ground-ovened sweet potato with coconut cream dressing) are just among many of the traditional foods you can try.

So if you are dreaming of a perfect island getaway, make sure to put the Duke of York Islands on your bucket list.

Note: If you would like to visit the Duke of York Islands and need a guide, contact the Gatgolo Eruel (President of Mioko Island) on 7271 8306.