Local Surrounds

Kabaira Beach Hideaway is built on customary land surrounded by rural “villages”. The local Tolai people live in family groups scattered throughout the area, some close to the coastal road, others in amongst dense bushland nearby. Each family group has land on which they grow cocoa trees, vegetables and fruit.
We have close ties with the local clan, going back over 60 years. Guests are encouraged to take a stroll along the coastal road and will be warmly greeted by our neighbours.

Volcanic Activity

The Gazelle Peninsula on the north-eastern end of New Britain Island sits upon the South Bismark Tectonic Plate, which is bordered by four other tectonic plates – the Solomon Sea Plate, the North Bismark Plate, the Manus Plate and the Woodlark Plate. The earthquake and volcanic activity of the Gazelle Peninsula are tied to the movements of these plates.

Rabaul Town is built on the shores of Simpson Harbour which is also a volcanic caldera. There are six peaks discernible around Rabaul - Mt. Kabiu (The Mother), Mt. Tovanumbatir (North Daughter), Mt. Turagunan (South Daughter), Mt. Tavurvur (Matupit Crater), Mt. Rabalanakai (literally The Heart of the Volcano) and Mt. Kalamanagunan (Vulcan Crater).

In 1994 there was a major twin eruption of Mt. Tavurvur (Matupit Crater) and Mt. Kalamanagunan (Vulcan Crater). While this event devastated Rabaul and its surrounds, displacing over 40,000 people, there were minimal casualties due to high community awareness.

The most recent eruption of note was on 29th August – 12th September 2014, when Mt. Tavurvur (Matupit) erupted.

Local History

Rabaul and the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain has a long and eventful history.
One of the earliest records of New Britain Island and the Gazelle Peninsula was in 1700, when William Dampier sailed by on the HMAS Roebuck. Not recognising that the body of water they sailed was a channel, he named it St. George's Bay. In 1767, Captain Philip Carteret renamed it St George's Channel when he was forced into the 'bay' by strong currents and the prevailing southeast winds. He also named the mountains of Rabaul as the Mother and Daughters. The Mother being the highest peak with the North Daughter and South Daughter on either side.

In 1873, J.C. Godeffroy and Sons and Hernsheim Traders established trading posts in the Bismarck Archipelago, of which New Britain Island was a part of. Dr George Brown, a Methodist missionary, landed on the nearby Duke of York Islands in 1875. Soon after “Queen” Emma Forsayth, a Samoan of part American heritage sailed to Duke of York Islands and established a trading station with her partner Thomas Farrell. Queen Emma is credited with establishing the cocoa plantation industry in the Gazelle Peninsula.
On 3rd November 1884, the area officially became part of Germany when it annexed the Bismarck Archipelago and northeast New Guinea. In 1904 Herbertshöhe (which is now the township of Kokopo) became the headquarters of the German Empire in the Pacific Islands. Dr Albert Hahl, the Governor of German New Guinea recognised the natural harbour that Rabaul harbour presented, and moved the administration centre to the shores of Simpson Harbour and thus the township of Rabaul was born. A period of prosperity continued until the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914.

During the years preceding World War 1 the German administration had built a chain of wireless stations throughout the Pacific. Following the declaration of war, Britain wanted these wireless stations to be neutralised and asked the Australian Government to assist. The Australians sent their newly formed "Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) to East New Britain and on the 11th September 1914, successfully captured the station. It was also on this day that the first Australian fatality of World War 1 occurred. Able Seaman W.G.V. Williams was killed near Kabakaul during the taking of the wireless station. At the end of World War 1, the Mandated Territory of New Guinea was administrated by the Commonwealth of Australia with its headquarters in Rabaul. Following the 1937 eruptions the administration centre was moved to Lae in 1941.
On 23rd January, 1942 the Imperial Japanese fleet sailed into Simpson Harbour, bringing World War II to the New Guinea Islands. Rabaul became the Japanese fleet headquarters from which Commander-in-Chief Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto commanded the Combined Fleet of sea and land operations in New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland and the Solomon Islands. During this time Tavuvur continued to erupt till 1943. On 6th September 1945, General Imamura surrendered to the Australian Army on board HMS Glory in Kabanga Bay outside Rabaul.

After 1945, New Guinea was again administrated by the Commonwealth of Australia. In 1974 Papua and New Guinea were given self-governance by Australia and became the independent nation of Papua New Guinea in 1975.

Local Customs

East New Britain is the home of two distinct cultural groups. The Tolai people live in the area immediately surrounding Rabaul and Kokopo towns whilst the Baining people live further away from the towns in the Baining Mountains. The Tolai's are thought to have migrated from New Ireland approximately 300 years ago, pushing the Bainings people up into the mountains.

The Tolais are famous for their Tumbuwan culture. Representing male spirits from the dense bushland, initiated members dressed in large masks fringed in leaves can sometimes be seen by visitors at special events or on roads nearby. If there is a traditional event being held nearby our guests are usually granted permission to attend and observe.

Further afield, the Baining people are world renown for their Bainings Fire Dance. Featuring large elaborate masks and held exclusively at night, the initiated dance around and across a bonfire. The dance is said to be a re-telling of the formation of the Gazelle Peninsula during a major volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Witnessing the Fire Dance is special but rare event as it is still very much protected by tradition. The best opportunity to witness a Fire Dance it to attend the Warwagira and Mask Festival held every year in July in Kokopo, or attendance Independence Day celebrations around the 16th September.