Tunung was meant to be an overnight stop on the way to Hermits but proved to be a gem so we stayed a while. It’s a small island just off New Hanover with a locally owned surfing resort. It’s worth noting that it incorrectly shows up as Dunung on various maps. The surf on the reef looked amazing and that’s coming from a surfing ignoramus. Graham and Chris hit the surf a couple of times and Graham earned himself his first reef cut here.
Lara and Jake were a lot more relaxed on our village visit here since we have joined the flotilla with Zig Zag and Family Circus. It’s amazing to see the difference other boat kids make, plus puppies.
Tunung is the first place we got to see how they make the famous shell necklaces.
All the kids gave it a go one day, with a very patient local teaching them how to drill tiny holes. The whole processes is very intricate using purpose built tools. Once each piece is strung, the necklace is sanded to achieve a round shape and desired thickness. Brilliant!
We spent the next 48 hours sailing to Hermit Islands and were welcomed firstly by a huge pod of spinner dolphins, then pygmy killer whales swimming at the bow and smiling at us.
Now the advantages of travelling with other boats and being the slowest boat in the group start to pay dividends in scenarios exactly like this one. Chris and George from Family Circus / Zig Zag dingied out to us just outside the reef and lead us in by torch and memory. There was a track but as Murphy’s law would have it, their iPad restarted itself just as they boarded Toc, then promptly deleted the track. Not to worry. We made it in with Chris’s guidance and with only a couple of ‘reverse, reverse’ moments.
Hermit islands are unbelievably beautiful.
I personally didn’t know much about it other than that you could swim with manta rays. We spent a few days just swimming, eating and hanging out.
Minutes after we anchored in the Manta Ray pass, Bob paddled out to inform us about the manta charge, 20 Kina per person. A bit steep but ok. Next morning he is there snorkelling with us, earning his keep I suppose. Swimming with manta rays is amazing and just a little bit terrifying as they seem to show up out of nowhere. The spot where we wait for them just off Bob’s hut is marked by a couple of huge rocks in roughly 4 metres of water, where they come to get cleaned by various fish.
When Bob does the collection round afterwards, we pay the charge for one of us and donate some other goods. To be fair to Bob, he also gives us bananas and sweet potatoes after I ask for some. The next morning, after we snorkel with mantas again, Bob paddles out to Family Circus and Zig Zag, demanding to be paid again. This seems excessive and they tell him as much so he paddles back to the beach without coming to see us.
I am not sure what the right answer is here as opportunities to make money are limited out there so it’s understandable our boats would be seen as one possibility. We also don't have an issue with paying something for the privilege but Bob's execution left an unfavourable impression. I think he was just trying his luck but it doesn’t exactly encourage future visitors. We left soon after as the wind was in our favour, Ninigo bound.
If you are a cruiser, I’d try anchoring elsewhere (although this is difficult in Hermits) or at least swim in the channel well away from Bob’s house to see the mantas - we did this as well and saw quite a few. The local village people who came to say hi were very friendly and even invited us for dinner. Definitely don’t avoid the Hermits, they are stunning - just be prepared for Bob.