The Hidden Gem of Bougainville

November 2, 2023

Although I had heard a lot of good things about Bougainville, I was skeptical at best about how good it would be, having already travelled to Papua New Guinea many times.

What I was greeted to though was a land very different from the “mainland” and a place which has enormous potential should it become a new country.

The Bougainville Story

Originally a part of the British colony that would become Papua New Guinea, in fact they hold more in common with the Slalom Islands. In 1975 they even declared independence as the Republic of North Solomons, only to be reintegrated into Papua New Guinea.

What was to follow was a brutal civil war, which only ended with peace talks that would lead to an independence referendum. This was won with 98 percent of people in favour and officially at least the nation will become sovereign between 2025 and 2027, although there is a lot to fix before this, with the infrastructure nowhere near decent enough for full sovereignty.

And there is also the small matter of if Papua New Guinea allow this, or indeed if it will agin lead to war.

How to visit Bougainville?

Whether it becomes independent, or not doe snot currently matter from a touristic point of view, with the fact that it is relatively unknown perhaps making it much more alluring.

Getting here currently thus largely involves flying in internationally from Port Moresby and then onto Buka (the national airport), although it was recently announced that the international border between Bougainville and the Solomon Islands has now been reopened.

This is not only a welcome move from a humanitarian point of view, but could also be a huge game changer when it comes to developing tourism within Bougainville.

What is it like to visit Bougainville?

With a friendly people, amazing scenery and some of the most beautiful beaches sin the world there really is a lot to warrant coming to Bougainville, but it is also fair to also mention the negatives of visiting here.

Fo starters the main way to get here is through Papua New Guinea, which makes it not only expensive, but also means the hell that is Port Moresby Airport. And even when you get to Buka Airport, it is hardly a Metropilis.

And then there is traveling around Bougainville, which has some of the worst roads in the world – at least until China cans how up and do some Belt and Road stuff.

Should you be able to cope with this though there is an awful lot to see, such as the crash site of Yamamoto, which involves a huge hike, as well as jungle scenery, amazing waterfalls and World War Two relics literally everywhere.

The idea gem though is with regards to the beaches and the amazing island hopping that the country offers. The beauty here rivals Palawan, as well as any other island paradise you can mention.

What makes Bougainville different though is that quite simply no one goes here, which from a negative point of view means no tourist infrastructure, but from a positive means no other tourists. During our island hopping ( escapade we were quite literally the only people aside from locals farmers and fishermen as far as the eye could see.

And while Bougainville remains essentially a colony of Papua New Guinea this is unlikely to change making now the perfect time to visit Bougainville, after all unknown gems only remain unknown for so ling, before the hordes eventually descend.

Who knows maybe this article will be the one to change things…..

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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