Bougainville may be familiar to World War II veterans as the place where Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor and Midway) was shot down while on an inspection tour in 1943. Today, it's a troubled island in northern Solomons Province. Bougainville has been a center of civil unrest for more than a decade. In 1990, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) declared the independence of the Republic of Bougainville. Despite a truce signed late in 1997, the Republic of Bougainville still exists—at least in the minds of some of the rebels. PNG government services have been restored to the northern districts, including the small island of Buka. A small contingent of the PNG Defense Force remains on Buka to enforce the restoration of these services to the people. The only visitors traveling to Bougainville in recent years have been other PNG residents, relief workers and government officials. Until the ongoing negotiations have been settled, we cannot recommend Bougainville to travelers.
Bougainville's major city, Kieta, is on the east coast, 13 mi/21 km from the airport. The drive into town offers classic South Pacific scenery: palm trees and lovely ocean views. With its old wooden structures, the town is reminiscent of Fiji 30 years ago. When conditions improve, visit the New Guinea Biological Foundation (a wide variety of banana and cocoa plants). The Bougainville Copper Mine, closed since 1989, can be seen during the 25-mi/40-km drive to its headquarters. Reed Buka baskets are woven in the town of Buin, south of Kieta, and on the small island of Buka (separated from Bougainville by the Buka Passage). The island is beautiful and rustic, with great fishing. 600 mi/965 km northeast of Port Moresby.
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