Diving Rabaul & the Mask Festival in PNG

Submitted by on Thu, 18 May 2017, 10:54

On the 26th of May, at 7pm, we will be holding an information evening for our upcoming trip to Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

Ian Lockwood, the head of our partner travel agency will be a guest speaker on the night and there to answer any questions you might have about the destination.

Rabaul has a rich military history making it an excellent wreck diving destination with 60+ shipwrecks inside Simpson Harbour alone. These waters are home to outstanding reef formations on which you can find a myriad of underwater creatures. A sharp eye will be sure to spot some incredible macro life. Curious reef sharks and rays are also often spotted!

Rabaul is also known for its unique mask festival.  The National Mask Festival was introduced in 1995 and is staged as an annual national event to promote the mask cultures of Papua New Guinea. The festival takes place along the beautiful volcanic shores of Kokopo.

The festival is opened with the spectacular ‘Kinavai’ in their leaf costumes, who travel across the sea and land on the shores of East New Britain. On dawn you will hear them chanting and drumming as they come across the water from Matupit Island in canoes
towards their landing place at Rabaul. Cultural dancers from all over Papua New Guinea including the Asaro Mudmen, the New Ireland Malagan dancers and many more.

Traditional masks will be on display during the festival – some
decades old.  Many of the masks are sacred and are not meant to be viewed or transported to alien places, hence the ceremonial
‘kinavai’ which acts as a cleansing ritual for the broken taboos.

The highlight of the mask festival is the famous Baining Fire Dance. A dancer wearing a ‘kavat’ mask appears from the darkness into a ring of burning embers. The hypnotic ceremony is performed at night to drums played by tribesmen wearing elaborate masks that are worn only once and destroyed. The dancers move across a stage of fire, kicking up showers of embers to celebrate the natural world, harvests, births, deaths, and rites of passage.

This festival is a ‘must do’ for the traveler who wants to experience something completely unique in the world.