Bougainville Island is the main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea. This region is also known as Bougainville Province or the North Solomons. Its land area is 9,300 km2. It includes the adjacent island of Buka and assorted outlying islands including the Carterets. Mount Balbi at 2,700m is the highest point. Although Bougainville Island is geographically part of the Solomon Islands archipelago, the state of Solomon Islands is not a part of Papua New Guinea.
Bougainville is the largest island in the Solomon Islands archipelago. It is part of the Solomon Islands rain forests ecoregion. Bougainville and the nearby island of Buka are a single landmass separated by a deep 300-metre-wide strait. The island is 9,000 square kilometres, and there are several active, dormant or inactive volcanoes which rise to 2400 metres. Mount Bagana in the north central part of Bougainville is conspicuously active, spewing out smoke that is visible many kilometres distant. Earthquakes are frequent, but cause little damage.
The climate is very similar to that of the neighbouring Solomon Islands. It is extremely humid throughout the year, with a mean temperature of 27 °C. Although seasons are not pronounced, June through August is the cooler period, and northwesterly winds from November until April bring more frequent rainfall, and occasional squalls or cyclones.
Air Nugini has four flights a week from Port Moresby to Buka Island, from where a short water taxi ride ride gets you to the main island of Bougainville. The flight takes about two hours, and like all travel within Papua New Guinea, is expensive.
Truly adventurous types might want to try securing passage on a weekly ship which departs from Rabaul on New Britain island. Try Star Ships (tel: +675 97 9821070). It is unlikely that you would be able to make a formal booking; rather just turn up in Rabaul and have plenty of time on your hands.
There are reports of travellers arriving by boat at Buin from Korovou in the northern Solomon Islands. The immigration situation is complex though, and this route is not encouraged by officials from either nation.
There are no sealed roads in Bougainville. A gravel track connects Arawa and Buin in the southeastern quarter on the main island, and there is circular road around the perimeter of Buka Island which is graveled in part. Otherwise "roads" are primarily rough dirt tracks. The southwest of the main island is especially remote and cannot be reached even in 4WD vehicles. Troop carriers left over from the war as well as Land Cruisers are used as public transit vehicles, and are widespread.
Boats ply the strait between Buka Island and main Bougainville on a regular basis. To get to the outer islands, ask around in Buka to find a boat charter.
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