Explore: Papua New Guinea


Buka, Bougainville and Carteret


Join us aboard a research vessel on expedition to the Eastern Lobe of the Coral Triangle, the apex of marine biodiversity. We will circumnavigate the rarely visited, pristine, and biologically rich waters around the remote islands of Buka, Bougainville, and Carteret, which form the largest atoll of the North Solomon’s Province of Papua New Guinea. With 17,000 km of coastline, and seas containing 45,000 sq km of reef systems, crowds in the water column won’t be an issue. 

The immense diversity of sites include barrier reefs, coral walls, coral gardens, patch reef, fringing reefs, seagrass beds, coral atolls and wrecks. This region is the least visited province of PNG and in many ways the most elusive, last frontier.


October 2020




(airfare not included)


Guidelines for Participation

While not a requirement to fully participate in the program, a SCUBA certification is strongly recommended.


Trip Highlights

Our expedition begins off the culturally rich Buka island, one of the hallmarks of the undiscovered Papua New Guinea experience. These ancient coral reefs were formed by the seismic tectonic forces dominating this region of PNG. Buka is separated from Bougainville by Buka Passage, a tidal channel only 200-300m wide and a kilometer long that produces swift currents running in excess of 6 knots. Flat and covered in copra and cocoa plantations, Buka has much to offer both land and sea explorers alike. There is evidence of human occupation found in caves along the southwest coast that date back 30,000 years as well as more recent pottery remains from the Lapita culture dating back 3,000 years.

Bougainville is a rugged, volcanic island that has seen little development. This island has lush tropical forests, towering volcanoes, rushing rivers, azure lagoons, plunging waterfalls, and giant caves. At just over 200km long, the central spine made of the Crown Prince, Emperor, and Deuro ranges is an awe-inspiring sight. Mount Balbi, a dormant volcano, is the islands’ highest peak (2685m), and Mount Bagana, an active volcano (1730m) is most often seen spewing great plumes of steam and ash. The island is even home to the largest cave in the southern hemisphere, Benua Cave, which could quite possibly be the largest in the world , with a single cavernous chamber measuring an astounding 4.5 million cubic meters, enough space to accommodate 15 football fields.

Buka and Bougainville islands contain some of the last great, unexplored reefs and wrecks within the Greater Tropical Southwest Pacific Basin. The diversity of marine life is unmatched anywhere else on the planet. 

Carteret, an atoll situated some 50 nautical miles northeast of Buka, consists of a small low-lying islands arrayed in a 30km horseshoe along its north-south axis with a maximum elevation 1.5m above sea level. This atoll lies on the western edge of the Ontong Java Plateau (OJP), the largest single topographic feature yet discovered covering a contiguous 1% of the earth’s surface and a volume of 80,000,000 cubic kilometers.


Sample Itinerary

Day 1 – Expedition members should plan to arrive at Buka airport (BUA) PNG in the afternoon of Day 1. Here you will be picked up and transferred to the expedition’s research vessel. Once on board, the ship will get under way while the expedition team holds team introductions and provides the scientific and diving guidelines for the expedition. 

Day 2 – After breakfast the expedition team will assemble for a pre-dive briefing prior to our familiarization dive to orient everyone to the conditions of this extraordinary ecosystem that is the Eastern Lobe of the Coral Triangle. Later that afternoon, there will be more opportunities to dive as well as an on-land trip to explore the terrain. That evening everyone can relax while the expedition team provides research guidance so everyone can log all information recorded. 

Days 3-10 – Over 7 days, the research vessel will circumnavigate the islands of Buka and Bougainville allowing passengers the chance to dive on environmentally, ecologically, or geologically significant locations for study and data collection. It is during this time that we will also head to the Cartaret Island for a two-day visit. This atoll is one of the most remote locations on the planet, and the location where the world’s first environmental refugees were forced to evacuate in 2007 due to global warming when sea levels rose enough to swallow much of the land, rendering the remainder almost uninhabitable. 

Day 11 – On the expedition’s final day, we will spend time in the towns of Buka and Kokopau, Bougainville, giving everyone the opportunity to relax ahead of your departure the next morning.

Terms of Payment

We will reserve a space on a particular program upon receipt of the $500 Deposit, processed as a donation through the Givvor fundraising platform, through the link above. Note that a portion of your trip is tax deductible, as a donation to the non-profit partner associated with the expedition.

For reservations received after March 15, final payment is due within five business days after the initial payment is made. 

Payment Includes:

Meals, lodging, activities, excursions, ground transportation, taxes, and gratuities. 

Payment Excludes:

Airfare, costs associated with passports or visas, baggage charges, trip cancellation/travel insurance and personal expenses. 

Travel Fees: If your arrival in Papua falls outside of the designated window(s) indicated in pre-trip materials, you will be charged a minimum of $200 to cover the cost of logistics. 

Transportation Details

International and domestic airfare and any internal flights during the expedition are not included in the cost of the trip. We have a travel agent that will assist you.

A $500 Reservation Deposit is required. The deposit is credited to your trip. Payment must be made via the provided link, on the Givvor platform. 

Final Payment: Final payment of the full tuition is due on March 15, 2020. For reservations submitted after March 15, final payment is due within five (5) business days after the initial $500 payment is made. Final payment must be made to the expedition for Terra Conservation Initiative via the provided Givvor link. 

If space is not available, the full $500 Reservation Deposit amount will be refunded, or if full payment has been made, the amount of the full payment will be refunded.

Waiting List: Wait-listed participants must include the $500 Tuition Deposit, which will be fully refunded if space does not become available. 

Withdrawal: If a participant withdraws from a program for any reason, the following terms will govern any refunds. For a withdrawal on or before March 15, all payments will be refunded, less the Reservaton Deposit. For a withdrawal after March 15, no refunds of the $500 payment, payment in full, or (if applicable) group flight airline tickets will be made.

Cancellation: Terra Explore Expeditions further reserves the right to revoke a reservation when payment is past due. No refund of the payments made to date is provided in this circumstance. If Terra Explore Expeditions cancels a reservation on or before March 15, all payments will be refunded, less the Reservation Fee. If Terra Explore Expeditions revokes a reservation after March 15, the $500 payment and, if applicable, any non-refundable airline tickets, will be forfeited. If Terra Explore Expeditions cancels or revokes a reservation, written notification will be sent to the address provided on the application form. Leaving a program in progress, for any reason, will not result in a refund, and no refunds will be made for any unused portion of a program. Terra Explore Expeditions reserves the right to cancel any program because of inadequate enrollment that makes the program economically unfeasible to operate or because of good faith concerns with respect to the safety, health, or welfare of the participants. If Terra Explore Expeditions cancels a trip prior to departure, a full refund of monies paid, except in the event the cancellation is due to a significant event that makes it infeasible to operate the trip as planned, in which case Terra Explore Expeditions will provide a refund and/or trip credit equivalent to monies paid. If Terra Explore Expeditions cancels the trip in progress, TEE will provide a prorated refund based on the number of days not completed on the trip. Terra Explore Expeditions will not be responsible for any refund for any expenses related to nonrefundable airline tickets.

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