When visiting a country as rich and exotic in culture as Papua New Guinea, its good to search out a few of he more unusual activities on your non-dive days. Cathy’s Eels, in Kavieng, is a great example. A day trip from Lissenung Island Resort, there really is no other place like it in the world. Photographer Grant Thomas visited in between dives recently.
Cathy’s Eels is definitely one of the more unique tourist attractions I have visited. Located in the New Ireland province of Papua New Guinea and just a short drive from Kavieng town centre, Cathy’s Eels is exactly what is says on the tin. A river of fresh water eels looked after by a retired Air Nuigini air stewardess named Cathy. It’s actually one of the main tourist attractions in the Kavieng area and trips are organised through a local operator, John Knox of Knoxies place.
After a scenic drive down the Boluminski highway we parked up outside a large beach shack surrounded by lush green palm trees and white sand, with children playing in a paddling pool outside. Unfortunately when we visited Cathy was unavailable, so her lovely friend Pauline was looking after the place. Pauline, a quiet little lady greeted us politely, introduced us to the children and then took us down to the river where we would meet the eels. She asked if we had brought the eel food… Luckily Ange and Dietmar, the owners of Lissenung resort, had kindly donated us three tins of mackerel fillets, the eels favourite apparently.
Normal practice for an experience at Cathy’s Eels is to stand in the river and let the eels slither around your legs while Cathy or Pauline sprinkle chunks of mackerel fillet into the water, however, I chose to get a little more personal with the eels. In order to hold my camera and get a good picture I had to lie down and fully submerge myself under the surface. As Pauline began pouring into the river oily juice from the tinned fish, the eels started appearing out of nowhere, slithering up my side and around my head. At over a metre long and with an impressively large sized mouth I can’t say I wasn’t slightly nervous at being so close to my new slimy friends but thankfully they only seemed interested in the tinned fish, which was disappearing at an alarming rate.
I quickly composed myself and snapped a couple of images before the entire three cans of fish were completely consumed by the ravaging eels. Then just as quickly as they had appeared they vanished into the shallow corners of the river bank, no longer interested in us.
Over all, a different way to spend an afternoon in Papua New Guinea but very interesting and a great way to interact with the local people.