Updated: Dec 9, 2021
You may or may not have heard of Doini Island.
For those who haven’t, I hadn’t either before my husband told me we were going there – yes he likes to plan trips to the less travelled places. To give you a quick geography lesson, Doini Island is in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea in the Solomon Sea. For those who that means nothing to, think top of Queensland then head north to Papua New Guinea then go the bottom right of the country and there is a tiny weeny island just there called Doini. You with me? Nice!
Doini Island is that kind of Island that makes you think castaway or deserted island. It’s tiny, apparently just over 4 square kilometres, and surrounded by some of the most beautiful water you have ever seen (unless you have been to the Caribbean, or Tahiti, or Vanuatu…). It is also home to the famous skull cave, a small open crevice of rock with around 25 skulls belonging to the heads of deceased village leaders. The skulls were placed there as a sign of respect and you can take a walk there to see the skulls if you so desire. Now on that subject, let me fill you in on our day in Doini.
We came to visit Doini during a three week cruise on the Pacific Jewel after it was refurbished, leaving Singapore headed for Queensland. The day we arrived at the Doini, we were one of the first tenders off the ship, enthusiastic and excited to see this little gem of an island.
Upon arrival to shore we were greeted by some locals and decided we wanted to hear more about the skull cave, which sounded mysterious and slightly creepy, hence even more appealing. Asking how far away it was, a very pleasant local informed us it was an easy 45 minute walk and handed us a hand drawn map. We had two small children with us (our daughters were 2 and 4) but we decided that we could easily manage an easy 45 minute walk. The girls both loved to explore and we planned for them to walk as much as they could. So off we set….
Our first obstacle was when we rounded a corner and found ourselves almost right in the middle of a herd of cows and bulls. The girls were quite concerned about the animals and rightly so, as they began to make a noise and head towards us. We ended up having to leave the path for a bit, carrying the girls and headed down towards the shore to get past the animals. We then moved back on the path further ahead.
About an hour into our “easy 45 minute” walk we came across a spilt in the road. The little map didn’t give us a clue as to which way to head so deciding to wing it, we headed right. Now this was around the time the terrain changed. And when I say changed, I mean it went from an easy walk to a “we needed mountain ropes” climb. It was hard! My plan of having the children walk most of the way had failed pretty early in the trek. Our eldest Caitlin had managed most of the walk until now but our youngest hadn’t left my arms since the encounter with the cows. Now that we had been hiking for over an hour and a half, I was quite worn out and had moved the position of my 2 year old from my arms to my back so I could hold onto the ropes at the sides of the rocks to climb up to the skull cave. Every time I had planned on giving up, I kept telling myself that it was probably around the next corner and I would be angry with myself if I gave up too soon.
Finally we reached the top! The crowd roared as the head tribesman placed a gold medal around my neck and applauded my extreme effort, sweat stinging my eyes as I humbly received my prize and took my place next to him for a photo that will always be remembered in history… yep, I can dream.
In all reality we arrived at the top and saw the skulls sitting there in front of us. The girls looked at them, then at us. We took a couple of photos then headed back down the steep rocks with Bri perched on my back and Caitlin on her father’s.
Fortunately the walk back around the other side of the island wasn’t quite as bad but still not on the level of what I would call an “easy 45 minute” walk, especially with two small children. To make our story even more interesting I started to have an asthma attack upon arriving at the top of yet another large hill we had to climb. This was perfect timing for my husband’s stress levels and the fact that I had no medication with me. Fortunately my asthma settled after resting for a bit and we were able to make it all the way back to where the tender ships were docking.
When we were almost back to the dock we came across many other fellow travellers who were heading out to see the skull caves. By this time we had been gone for hours and felt our duty to unravel the myth of the “easy” walk and inform the other travellers that it took us over 3 hours to do the round trip skull cave hike. Being that our boat left for the next island is less than 2 hours, we felt they should at least know.
The remaining time on the island was well spent with me floating in the tranquil waters with my toddler, while my husband chilled on the beach with our eldest.
All in all, it was a gorgeous island and a beautiful day but had I had my time over, I would have maximised my beach time and left the skull cave hike for a time when I didn’t have small children to carry.
Have been to Doini or are planning too? Send me an email or leave a comment on your thoughts.