This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Secret Compass expedition to Papua New Guinea and the Louisiades Archipelago.
Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your spot on the team with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit.
Arrive: by 1400 on 22 October 2019 to Misima Island.
Depart: leave Misima Island any time from 02 November 2019 onwards.
Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
Balance due: 90 days before departure on 22 July 2019.
Trailing some 160 km off the very southeastern tip of Papua New Guinea, the islands of the Louisiades Archipelago are reminiscent of a bygone era. Preserved by their remote geographical location, these atolls are home to money-free Melanesian communities who rely on trade and exchange to maintain their way of life.
A truly immersive ocean experience, this sea kayaking adventure will coax you far beyond the mainland to connect remote volcanic and coral islands. For spirited adventurers with the energy to paddle through days on the water, this journey promises the ultimate rewards of isolated island existence as you venture among volcanic peaks and tiny atolls and explore the teeming sea life in their surrounding reefs and trenches.
Discover remote islands of the Louisiades Archipelago.
Complete a frontier sea kayak journey.
Explore the rich biodiversity of volcanic and coral islands.
Meet, share stories and trade with local Melanesian families.
Seek out new deserted island campsites every night.
Visit island schools and villages.
Support a sustainable tourism initiative.
Experience the positive effect of low-impact travel.
World-class snorkelling from your kayak or the beach
You need to organise your own international flights to arrive into Misima Island by 1400 on the 22 October. Most flights are routed through Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and there are a limited number of flights out to the island chain so you may require an overnight in Port Moresby ahead of the expedition – please factor this into your timings for this expedition. The expedition officially ends on Misima Island after breakfast on the 02 November, there is a domestic flight out to Port Moresby on the 02 Nov or you can extend your stay.
It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the adventure dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our Terms and Conditions.
Visas & Permits
All visitors to PNG need a visa. These can be applied for in advance from your closest PNG embassy or consulate with processing times regularly taking 1 month – please plan ahead! Some nationalities may be eligible for a visa on arrival in PNG at Port Moresby however we strongly discourage team members from taking this option as it can be suspended at short notice and due to slow processing times requires a significant gap between your international flight landing into Port Moresby and your onwards connection to Misima Island – with domestic flights only every 3 days, missing your connection may mean you are unable to join the expedition team.
All team members should have valid passports. These should have at least six months validity remaining from date of entry to Papua New Guinea. You should have at least four free pages for immigration stamps. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you in a safe, dry place.
Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all SC Expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy.
Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover, so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below):
● Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
● Activities: ensure that any adventure activities are included, these could be trekking, kayaking, rafting, MTB etc.
● Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
● Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an adventure or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site.
● Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
● Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.
Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number.
For full information on travel insurance and links to companies who have covered previous team members, please visit the insurance page on our website.
Note on this expedition itinerary
Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but will not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team may flex and change the plan depending on numerous frictions encountered en route. An adaptable, team-centred approach is required. Please note that all islands and routings in this itinerary are subject to change depending on the conditions at the time of the expedition. There are over 300 islands in the Louisiades Archipelago so there is a lot of choice and flexibility on the exact itinerary of this expedition.
Day 1: Oct 22 – Misima Island
Team arrive into Misima Island and transfer to guesthouse accommodation. Flights are usually only every 3 days so we envisage team members will arrive this morning. The afternoon will begin with a team briefing from the expedition leader, before you start prepping gear for the trip ahead and exploring the small main settlement of Bwagaoia.
Day 2: Oct 23 – Humaun Island
You’ll spend the morning collecting provisions, buying fresh vegetables to supplement supplies for the first few days of the expedition. Setting out from Misima Island on a motor boat, transfer to the eastern end of Calvados Islands (approx. 2.5 hours) to Humaun Island. On arrival, the team will unload gear and set up camp. Using Humaun Island as an introduction to your sea kayak, circumnavigate the island before returning to camp.
Day 3-9: Oct 24-Oct 30 – Louisiades Archipelago
Setting out from Humaun Island, paddle out on your expedition to island hop along the archipelago. There is a vast array of populated and unpopulated islands, hidden coves and beautiful expanses of beach where your nights will be spent wild camping. Whilst the exact route will be dictated by the local conditions, en route you will have plenty of opportunities to engage with the local population as you barter for fresh food, visit villages and remote schools and try your hand at fishing. Most of the paddling days are short enough to accommodate snorkelling stops in areas of high sea-life concentrations and along pristine reefs although there may be at least one longer paddling day.
Day 10: Oct 31 – Panasia Island
Reaching the furthest point of your expedition, Panasia Island is the perfect size to circumnavigate, allowing you to explore the ancient Skull Cave, snorkel straight off the beach or relax in a hammock.
Day 11: Nov 1 – Misima Island
Packing up your kayaks and camping equipment, in favourable wind conditions the team will be collected by a local sailing boat – a Sailou – for the return journey to Utian Island. Travelling like the locals do, this is a great opportunity to reflect on the distances you have covered and the variety of islands you have explored. From Utian, transfer to a motor boat for the final stretch back to Misima Guesthouse and a celebratory final meal as a team.
Day 12: Nov 2 – Expedition ends
The expedition officially ends after breakfast this morning with flights out to Port Moresby usually departing around midday. Spend the morning exploring the island’s forests or simply relaxing. If you decide to extend your stay here, please be aware that flights are usually only every 3 days.
This expedition is achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, you will be covering large distances under man-power that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hungry and quite likely wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that
you train and arrive fit and ready to go.
You will be required to be fit enough for the following:
Daily activity: kayaking for up to 6 hours per day
Paddle: up to 20km a day
Swim: confidently in open water
Climate: a warm, tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 25 – 30˚C
Previous kayaking experience
No previous experience is necessary to join this kayaking adventure but at a basic level, team members should be confident swimmers and be able to paddle approximately 10km per day. We strongly recommend trying kayaking before your expedition to make sure you will enjoy the experience, a local club or watersports centre may be able to help. Your guides will providing you with basic instructions on arrival, and will be happy to help you improve your technique over the course of the expedition. The longest day’s paddle will likely hit the 20km mark.
We ask that all team members are fit and healthy for this adventure with no pre-existing injury or illness that could restrict their involvement in the everyday activity of a sea kayak expedition. With such a remote location, the islands of the Louisiades has a lengthy medevac time to definitive medical care. In serious cases, a helicopter will be dispatched from Australia or Port Moresby but this may take several days and will be highly weather dependent. Please complete our Application and Booking forms honestly and in detail so we can answer your questions and prepare the expedition leader.
Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS Fit For Travel site and Travel Health Pro are both useful. Malaria is present on some of the islands and we recommend travellers take appropriate prophylactic medication precautions.
It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.
This expedition is all-inclusive from arrival to Misima Island on the 23 October to breakfast at Misima Guesthouse on the 2 November. During the expedition there will be very little opportunity to spend money as there are no shops and the island villages maintain a subsistence trading culture (your expedition leader will provide trade goods to barter for supplies en route). Occasionally, the locals will offer woodcarvings or handmade shell jewellery for a price, so it’s worth bringing some spending money incase these sporadic opportunities arise.
Please note that meals, transfers and accommodation en route to and from Misima Island (eg. in Port Moresby), or outside of the stated Secret Compass itinerary are not included in your expedition and remain your responsibility. Alcoholic drinks and expenses of a personal nature are also excluded so we recommend ordering PNG Kina in your home country prior to departing for this expedition. Secret Compass also always suggest carrying an emergency fund of $100-$200 USD in cash.
Home to You: Secret Compass will man an 24/7 Ops Room in the UK throughout your
expedition. If your family needs to get in touch with you because of an EMERGENCY,
they can call the Ops Room on +44 (0) 207 096 8428. The Ops Room will endeavour to pass this message on to the expedition however this cannot be guaranteed. Unfortunately we are unable to pass non urgent or routine messages between your family members and you.
You to Home: Secret Compass will have a satellite phone for emergency use only and these cannot be used for personal messages home unless in extremis. Please reassure your family that we have their contact details (NOK information provided on your Booking Form) and that no news is good news!
Cell Phone: Your mobile roaming may work on Misima Island however you are very unlikely to get signal once in more remote parts of the country. Take advantage of this to unplug and unwind as you embrace island life!
The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2019 expedition to the Louisiades Archipelago in Papua New Guinea. There is a reasonable chance that bags may be delayed when transiting through airports on your outbound flights to Misima Island so we recommend keeping essential items in your hand luggage (check hand baggage restrictions first).
This expedition works best if you plan to live simply and travel lightly. The folding sea kayaks have a very limited amount of space for personal equipment so we ask you pack only the essentials, stick to the packing list and avoid too many bulky or luxury items. Secret Compass will supply waterproof dry bags for your personal equipment. These are approximately 35 litres and designed to work with your kayaks, larger bags are not compatible. Secret Compass will also supply technical kayaking equipment, group camping equipment and robust sleeping mats tried and tested in this environment.
A small bag containing travel clothing and extras can be left at Misima Guesthouse during the expedition.
Secret Compass have arranged discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.
Recommended Personal Kit List – this must all fit into a 35 litre dry bag supplied by Secret Compass
1 x LONG SLEEVE SHIRT: Lightweight bug protection – fast drying
1 x LONG TROUSERS: Lightweight bug protection – fast drying
1 x SLEEP SET; one dry set of clothes for your tent
THIN RAIN JACKET: Lightweight and packable
1 x SHORTS: Please pack for a warm climate and be minimal with clothing, 1-2 changes will suffice
LONG SLEEVE RASH VEST: Or similar UV protective long sleeve tech top to wear under your buoyancy aid
2 x SWIMWEAR
WATERSPORTS FOOTWEAR: Paddling shoes, wetsuit booties, crocs or similar. NOT flipflops
PADDLING GLOVES: Cycling or sailing gloves work well, essential to combat blisters
WIDE BRIMMED SUN HAT
BUFF OR NECK PROTECTION
WATER BOTTLE: 1 litre bottle with sports top (extra water is carried in the kayaks)
TOILETRIES: Look for biodegradeable and PH neutral items
HAND SANITISER: Enough for the whole trip
SMALL TOWEL: Lightweight travel towel
SLEEPING BAG: Sleeping blanket, sarong or lightweight sleeping bag suitable for tropical conditions
COTTON SHEET: Single sized cotton sheet (fitted or flat) to go over the supplied sleeping mat (essential item)
HEAD TORCH: With spare batteries
PERSONAL FIRST AID KIT: Ibuprofen, Paracetamol, Blister plasters etc
PERSONAL MEDICATIONS: Find out the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to source more in-country. Please also check that your medication is legal in your destination. You MUST make Secret Compass aware of any medical conditions before you travel
INSECT REPELLENT: Bug sprays, roll ons, repellent bands etc
SUN CREAM: SPF30 minimum (SPF50 recommended), suncream and zinc sticks. Reef safe where possible. You will need more than you imagine!
SUNGLASSES WITH UV PROTECTION: Polarised lenses for watersports. Consider a sports band.
DRY BAGS: To protect electronics and important documents
SARONG: useful cover up for women when visiting villages
PERSONAL ENTERTAINMENT: Book/kindle/playing cards,inflatable football etc, keep it light!
CAMERA: Bring a waterproof bag
SNACKS: Local snack food is provided but if you have favourites bring them with you
PERSONAL SNORKELING GEAR: Masks and snorkels can be provided
LIGHTWEIGHT FISHING GEAR: Some handlines and lures will be provided among the group
PERSONAL KAYAKING GEAR: This is provided but if you prefer to use your own then please bring it with you
EXTRA GIFTS/TRADING GOODS: Strictly no plastic. Practical items are preferred and there is a list of suggestions below, please remember the space and weight limitations of your kayak. Secret Compass will supply trading goods for all group purchases so these are only if you would like to provide gifts or trade for souvenirs:
small solar lights
small educational books
nails (flat headed)
first aid supplies
knives/ pocket knives/ multi tools
sunglasses or generic prescription reading glasses
boat repair items
Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre who set the stage for an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.
Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.
Local partners and bureaucracy
Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.
Infrastructure and natural events
The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.
In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs).
Part of a team
Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.
There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.
You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable, and teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any expedition and its ultimate success.
Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.
We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.
Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include prolonged immersion in water, heat injuries and coral cut infections. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Incident management and medical
As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.
It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 3 days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long boat or helicopter transfers. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition may rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.
Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.
Once out on the islands, the native people still live in grass huts, relying on a subsistence lifestyle of fishing and farming. Traditional transport by dugout canoe and sailing outriggers still dominates, inspiring our own sea kayak adventure, and there are regions of the Calvados Islands which have yet to be visited by tourists. Travelling as a small, conscientious group, using man-power wherever possible, and committing to the primarily trade-based barter economy throughout the islands, we aim to promote sustainable and sensitive tourism development to minimise our impact on our surroundings and have only a positive influence on the local indigenous culture. In turn, we hope these activities will stimulate the development of community driven aid projects to help supply essential basics like healthcare, reliable drinking water and education to the welcoming and friendly people of the Louisiades. The expedition will operate on a ‘leave no trace’ ethos and whilst plastic is strongly discouraged and will be used only where essential, any plastic waste will be removed from the islands at the end of the expedition.
At the eastern edge of the archipelago, the islands are larger and more volcanic but as you travel west through the chain, the islands shrink to idyllic little atolls surrounded with amazingly vibrant fringing reefs and bordered by deep blue sea
trenches. The Louisiades are rich and teeming with sea life from small colourful reef fish to large pelagic species and marine mammals and this expedition aims to provide ample opportunity for snorkeling to maximise your exposure to the local wildlife.
The volcanic islands such as Misima, the expedition starting point, often catch rain due to the mountainous topography, resulting in a tropical rainforest climate. Much of this expedition is spent among low lying atolls further along the Calvados chain in the Louisiades Archipelago – these islands have their own microclimate which is mostly dry and sunny with temperatures during the day around 25-30C although you should also be prepared for the squalls and rain tropical storms can sweep through. Trade winds and following seas are planned into the expedition itinerary where possible to assist the team.
On this adventure we rely on dry food staples and supplies, and source most of our fresh food and provisions from the local markets on Misima Island. We also fish using hand lines and trade for fresh fruit and vegetables as we paddle through the islands, eating just like the locals do. The traditional Melanesian diet is very healthy and is centred around seafood and root vegetables such as taro, cassava, yams and plantain. There will of course be plenty of coconuts, and at this time of year, pineapples too! To supplement this diet, Secret Compass will also supply some dehydrated meals plus spices and flavourings to keep the meals tasty. Your expedition leaders are well-practiced at whipping up a gourmet meal on a camp stove!
Generally speaking the people of the Calvados Islands refrain from drinking alcohol. Whilst the expedition team may drink together, it is extremely frowned upon to drink in the villages or in local company. Alcoholic drinks are at the team members’ expense.
All flights are your responsibility. When booking your flights, please be aware that you need to be on Misima Island on 23 October 2019. The next flight out to the island is the 26 October which will result in you being unable to join the expedition team. If you are collecting your visa on arrival in PNG, we suggest arriving into Port Moresby on the 22 October to allow plenty of time for processing before catching the morning flight to Misima Island. There will not be sufficient time to process a visa on arrival on the morning of 23 October. The majority of the journey itself will be by kayak, with opportunities for snorkelling and swimming along the way. At the end of the expedition, the team will travel back from Panasia Island to Misima Island by a traditional Sailou sail outrigger, before boarding a motor boat.
On Misima Island we will stay at the Misima Island Guesthouse in twin share rooms or escape to the peace of the garden to camp. During the sea kayaking expedition, the team will be wild camping in tents provided by Secret Compass. Occasionally people on our expeditions are not prepared for camping for multiple days. Living in these conditions can degrade your health and increase fatigue. You need to be highly organised so that your night and morning routine is done efficiently and quickly. If you are inexperienced at camping, it is essential that you get as much practice as possible prior to the expedition.
Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.
Do I need to be an experienced kayaker?
No, you don’t need to have any experience of paddling or sea kayaking. Our guides are fully qualified to instruct you in all the basic paddling strokes and are there to help teach you all the skills you need. Sea kayaking is not a complex skill, so most people pick it up quickly.
How many people join your trips?
Secret Compass work on small group sizes to maximise the experience for everyone and mitigate our impact on the environment and communities we travel through. The maximum size for this specific expedition is 10 team members accompanied by our experienced guide team.
How fit do I have to be?
You don’t have to be an athlete to join our sea kayaking trips; anyone who enjoys some regular exercise can do it. We do however; encourage a reasonable level of fitness, as we find this will add to your enjoyment of the trip and provide opportunities for the team to explore further afield. Please read the Prepare tab for more details.
What marine life will we see when paddling?
Thriving coral reefs host hundreds of colourful fish, and previous expeditions have spotted pilot whales, dolphins, sea turtles, reef sharks, swordfish and manta rays filter feeding off the islands where you’ll be camping. Secret Compass provides snorkelling gear (or you can bring your own) and there will be opportunities throughout the trip.
Can you cater for dietary requirements?
As mentioned in the On Exped tab, this expedition primarily follows the local diet of seafood and root vegetables however through our use of dehydrated ration packs we can usually cater for dietary requirements – please complete our Application Form detailing any dietary requirements and we’ll be in touch with more information or questions.
How can I book flights to Misima Island?
Misima Island is accessible via a scheduled flight from Port Moresby, PNG. This flight can be booked by international flight agents or direct with the airline. We suggest taking the morning flight to arrive into Misima Island on the 23 October.