Ninigo Islands, Papua New Guinea

Pihon Island and Canoe Racing

Click here for an MP4 slideshow...


Photos are thumbnails.  Double click to bring up full sized photo.


Pihon's Village

sits on a breezy spit of land at the far north end of the island. Bill helped us to get settled into a beautiful anchorage just to the its northwest.

That Evening

we were thrilled by the stream of canoes and teams practicing for the racing.

Our Evenings

aboard were idyllic as the tradewinds blew over the reef immediately to the east.

The Following

day we went ashore and were greeted by kids and women alike. It was Friday so everyone was busy preparing for the SDA sabbath that would begin at sunset. The men were out fishing.

Many Homes

at Pihon were built on stilts. This one was newly sided with sago palm.

The Village

homes were tightly packed.


is the only "store" and it is not open because there is no stock. No supply boat comes to Ninigo.

This Handsome

boy is typical of the Ninigo people. He is busy cleaning up the already-clean village byway.

Even the Children

were busy gathering food for the sabbath when no food preparation is done in the village.

We Had

a giggle over the unique way the children had devised for carrying drinking coconuts.

This is Elvis

and his sister.

At Each

home we were greeted warmly.

This Woman

was proud of her baby turtles which unfortunately she planned to raise and eat. We asked someone to ask her if we could buy them but that didn't happen. Food is more important than cash here.

This is

Silas Luni's guesthouse which you can rent for 50 kina per night (about $15). This price includes island food.

This Little

girl followed us out to Silas's house.


is dried to make hats, baskets and sleeping mats.

We Found

this pretty girl at Silas's canoe shed.

This Vessel

washed up on the shore of the lagoon, its engine was not operational. There were no men aboard. The locals plan to use the wood for canoes.


is Bill's wife, grating cassava to make patties or cake.

And Here

another relative is grating coconut to make coconut milk.

Our Entourage

finally came back to the dinghy at Hanit and Richard's house.

This is Wendy

she was very kind to us and took the the time to guide us around the village.

A Thunderstorm

at sea to our west made for a dramatic sunset.


came to Carina one day with a DVD player that was not functioning. This was the only one we saw in the lagoon which tells you just how simply the islanders live.


is Gaele. She is the wife of Murry Benny, the ward councilor.

This is

Hanit and Max.


daughter who was afraid of us.




Benny and Philip are reviewing lists of canoes for the upcoming races. Forty seven canoes had signed up in four classes.

The Health

center which we never saw open.

The Only

telephone on the island.


from Longen Island on the first day of the races. Racers came from Longen, Amik and Pihon.

The Littlest

sailors seemed the most excited.

The Man

on the right is Inum. His back was broken when he was a child and it went untreated. He gets around but with some difficulty. You can also see here that obtaining clothing is a problem for these isolated people.


meeting before one of the races.

Most Men

chew betel nut which makes their lips and gums red.

At Pihon

the races started off the beach. Masts were erected just before race time. This is the SeaMate

One Eye

eventually finished third in the 9 meter division. The captain was Jerry.

Sea Blade

hit the reef at the turnaround point and finished fifth.


the Amik and Longen canoes, captains, crews and sails were selected by the canoe committee. Sails and rigging were checked before every race.


sits just offshore


the call, crews of canoes on the starting begin to raise sails and take off for a turning point about eight nautical miles to the south.


are made of polytarps. In the past they were made of pandanus.


off they go.


quickly jockeyed for position, considering hazards they have to avoid such as reefs within the lagoon.


enjoyed being teased...

The Boys

dreamed of when they would race.


boys looked for a better view of the racing boats.

Kelly Lui

is the Deputy President of the local level government of Ninigo and Hermit Islands. Here he is having captain's draw numbers for starting line position.


canoes are unique and each family has design secrets.


on the storm to pass before racing.


are stepped on the canoe gunnel and the rigging and halyard are a single line.

This Boy

was only one of dozens who took the chance to watch the canoes through our binoculars.

Ready to Go


number one almost lost their rig but was able to recover.

The Glare

of the brilliant white sand affects everyone on the islands. Everyone needs sunglasses but few people have them.


waiting for the racing boats to return, the women often took advantage of the time to fish.


the smallest of children help to care for their younger siblings.


raced back beyond the island, and turned towards the beach.


took refuge under the shade of the tree and the shade of his western islands hat.

This is Mark

Samakat. He had been blind but was cured when impacted ear wax was removed from his ears. He was a few months older than Philip. We gave him some reading glasses - and were immediately overwhelmed with requests for more. We gave away absolutely every pair we had aboard...about two dozen in all.


to the starting line.


day after the first day of the races, Hanit ("sweet honey") made us lunch.


cute little house is really a storage shed.


become adept at swimming and padding at a young age.


day a change in wind dictated that the races go north from Pihon.


Lui and his son Leroy Masel.


children melt your heart.


little beauty fell in love with Philip and talked and talked at him.


could never figure out what she wanted.


watching the progress of the races.

In This

race, watch the #2 canoe

A Rigging



their hopes

But the

other canoes were oblivious.


took the time one day to tell us of the origin of the Ninigo canoe that he believed began with his family. His great grandfather Saul had a canoe called Hamanoman which was believed to be the first of the current style. It means amazing in the Seimat language.


50' canoe was documented about sixty years ago. We are still trying to track down this photo (courtesy of Kelly Lui).

The Glare

of the sun on the sand and the sea means that all men and most women have eye irritation. Everyone wanted to try our drops.

The Knot

on the yard which forms the aft sheet.


was going to build a canoe and name it Carina, so we gave him our last cap. This is his brother.

The Competition

was intense and everyone had an opinion as to the progress of each race. Unfortunately we didn't understand most of what was being said.

The Sailors

confering on what sails were available. Sails and rigs were shared amongst the Longen/Amik teams.

This is Lemky

and his daughter Doreena and her daughter Alev who is named for a Turkish lady aboard the German yacht Muggerl.


meeting just prior to the open class race. Kelly is officiating.

Double Sail

canoes are particulary easy to sail. The rig is better balanced. Double sail canoes are usually longer than nine meters.

This is

Sawai Sumiha which is Lemky's new canoe.


and his captain


is Helmet Masel being goofy.


winner of the double sail canoe race with Oscar as captain. The canoe belongs to Jerry of Amik Island and is called St. Sabastian.

The Last

day of racing it was raining. When we came ashore "our" table and chairs had been placed under a sail so we would stay dry. This is an example of how well we were treated.

The Prize

ceremony took place in a common area in the village...that is until it rained and was moved under a nearby house. The prizes were selected from our donations.


Lui was quite thankful to us and gave a nice speech. We promised to continue to try to help preserve their important canoe culture.


Lui going back to Pellehuhn Islands with his young sons after the conclusion of the races.

This is

Ferolyn Micah. A little beauty we met through her grandparents Lamach and Lynette.


makes virgin coconut oil and also coconut soap.

He and Lynette

were very generous to us and insisted they give us one of their young roosters.


later visited us aboard Carina.

Our Photos

- these and others plus video - we made into an MP4 which we brought back to the village.


wanted to see it. We left a copy with Murry who promised a showing at the school.


before we left Pihon we had a wonderful visit from Micheal Tahalam and his beautiful family of Mal Island, including the handsome and now well Halokeni.


moving Carina to Longen, we returned with Oscar and Keren aboard Sea Mate to visit Jamie Jeremiah and to get more contact information for him.


is blind. We hope to get help for him. He is a very bright boy and he asked Philip to take him home with him.

During our

visit we were pulled into Elvis's hut to see if we had any suggestions for repairing a broken electrode on his GPS.

We Also

visited Lemky with yet another email letter from Muggerl. They had been very close when Muggerl was at Heina atoll where Lemky's family has a home.