The Mortlock Islands, actual paradise found!
Sometimes you stumble across a hidden gem, a paradise yet untouched by the rest of the world. Hidden in the middle of the ocean, its cultures and people barely changed in lifestyle and daily life over the time since the people arrived at this tiny group of islands, blown or sailing in from the wide blue Pacific.
A place where the sand sparkles like gold and the water is like looking through glass at the pristine ocean below you.
This for us was the Mortlock Islands.
We made a stop here to break up the trip from the Solomon Islands to Papua New Guinea. It was going to be a 4-day passage and we wanted a break.
We did wonder if we should go out of the way of our direction, with the limited time that we would potentially have due to weather on this passage and also knowing that the winds were changing and the later we left it to get over the top of PNG and West Papua into Indonesia the more of a challenge it could be. (Didn’t it end up to be one…!!!)
We had read about the Mortlock group of Islands from another cruising families’ blog that we had been following, who took the same path as us, just over a year ago. They rated it as one of the best places they had been and so the desire to see this paradise was high.
We were not disappointed!
Arrival was made at daybreak and the collection of islands are surrounded by a huge reef, with only 3 passes to get it. We had satellite imagery of the passes, but being a new location we hung around the outside of the reef, doing some fishing while driving up and down, waiting for the sun to rise so that we would have some light to be able to see in the water on our chosen pass.
No fish were caught and as soon as we had some good light we headed to the largest of the 3 passes and started to make our way in.
I stand at the bow, watching in the water for any bombies that may be boat eaters, and Chae follows the satellite images, picking the clearest looking path through the reef.
Usually I can tell how deep the water is by what I can see below me, but this threw us.
On asking the depth, as I could see the bottom very clearly, thinking he would reply telling me around 10 or 15m, he said 35m. “35m, are you sure?” was my shocked reply, as I watched numerous tiny fish, darting in between the coral heads and starfish lying on the ocean floor.
“Yes, 100% sure” came the reply.
Never had I seen such clear water. We thought Vanuatu had been pretty amazing in regards to clarity, but this was next level.
The kids and I spent the next 5 minutes watching the marine life go about their business as we crossed the barrier from outside to inside.
This place was already exceeding expectations.
Anchoring was a piece of cake, in front of the island where the village was, and we were welcomed with canoes paddling out within minutes and children cheering from the beach.
Everyone was very friendly, welcoming us to their home, asking us to come ashore to say hello and meet with their families.
Shortly after the first canoes came, another larger longboat came out, with the acting chief on board.
He wanted to come and meet with us. We welcomed him and his 2 aids on board and spent a lovely 30 minutes meeting with him, with the help of one guy who was our translator.
The language is very similar to Maori, which was surprising as we were well into Micronesia now. Apparently, their people had come from the more Eastern Islands of the Pacific rather than the Micronesian or Melanesian islands. They looked more like Maori people from home and were delighted that we could understand some of their language!
A gift of food and t shirts was given to the chief, permissions were granted for us to anchor and explore their paradise of a home and we all then left to go and meet with the village.
We were welcomed by the entire village at the beach!!
This village was immaculate, we have never seen a more organized or beautiful island. It was laid out like a town, with wide ‘streets’ the houses were built on, in a grid like pattern that extended right the way through the island.
The school was toward the back and it was large, all the children seemed well educated considering the remote place they were living. The headmaster was at the garden island across from this one where they grow all their food, so we did not get to meet with him unfortunately.
The children were delightful, happy and funny! We were followed by them all as we made our way around in our guided tour from our new friends.
The welcome was exceptional!
We stayed, playing with the children and talking with the people for a long time, learning about their culture, their houses and how they are made, the food that the ladies were preparing at various houses and the way their beautiful houses were made when we came across some ladies weaving new walls, before we headed back to the boat for dinner, and a promise that we would come back in the morning.
A restful sleep was had before we climbed into Bob for an explore of the islands.
Inside the reef there are a cluster of tiny islands, along with the big one the village is on, and a larger one again that was used as their kitchen garden.
We wanted to explore the smaller islands that fringed off the larger ones. White sand beaches, palm trees swaying, tropical jungle inside with birds lazily circling above. You get the idea…
This place was more than we could have expected. The water was crystal clear and delightful to swim in. There were no crocodiles!! Which had been a nuscience in the Solomons as it had really restricted the amount of swimming we could do.
There were new shells to find and baby sharks to watch swim in the shallows as we hopped from island to island, exploring the most incredible paradise we have seen yet.
Eventually it was time for our return visit to the village.
Again, we were mobbed by the gorgeous smiling children and friendly welcoming adults.
The weather was looking like it was changing and we needed to take advantage of the favourable winds before the bad stuff kicked in. We explained to the village that we wouldn’t be staying another night unfortunately. As much as we hated to leave, we had to.
We took in gifts of books, we had been asked several times for books, both for adults and children. Libby had finished with a bunch of her school readers and those were given to the school along with some of Emelia’s books and a couple we had both read that we had on board.
We had one last request to visit their bird sanctuary island at the other end of the inner reef.
‘Of course’, was the answer, ‘please do on your way out.’
With heavy hearts on having to leave so soon, we motored back to Waterhorse and pulled up the anchor to a chorus of cheers from the beach!
Bird Island was a 1 hour motor away, it was a huge lagoon!
On approach, we were stunned at the amount of birds flying over the island, big frigate birds, small white terns and many more than I can name. Hundreds of them!
We anchored in 2m of water, in sparkling turquoise water where Chae and the kids could give the hulls a scrub and we could go to the beach for a swim and explore.
To be honest, no words that I could try and use would properly explain what we found when we went ashore to the tiny sand spit to the side of Bird Island.
I’m just going to leave you with these pictures instead….