By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be on my way to Papua New Guinea, a destination I’ve been dreaming of exploring for ages. I’ve flown more than 9,000 miles from Spain to explore this part of the world so you bet I’m excited to see what’s in store.
As a unique archipelago, Papua New Guinea is made up of over 600 islands and 800 indigenous languages, creating an interesting cultural mosaic. It’s also one of the earth’s megadiverse regions, thanks to its topography that range from rugged highlands to tropical lowland jungles. For me, Papua New Guinea epitomizes the primitive island lifestyle and rich, vibrant tribal culture of the South Pacific with its flamboyant sing-sings (festivals or dance) that promise an overload of body decoration, music and atmosphere.
Papua New Guinea is one of the most isolated archipelagos in the region and therefore tourism infrastructure is somewhat non-existent and information is limited. It is also one of the least visited places in the world, largely because of the negative image it’s been portrayed in (in light of unstable political situations and tribal disputes). I’ve heard that travel here can be a challenge, but perhaps that is why I find it so compelling.
Here’s a look at what I will be doing over the next two weeks in PNG. Special thanks to the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority for hosting my trip and Fly & Sea Dive Adventures for helping plan my itinerary!
Flickr photo by ThePaperBoy
Port Moresby and Loloata Island
I will be starting my trip in the country’s capital, Port Moresby. Known to have a rotten reputation, Port Moresby is often described as gritty, confronting and even intimidating. It is after all the largest city in the South Pacific. Most travelers usually skip this capital city when traveling to PNG and fly straight to the provinces without giving it an opportunity. I can’t quite imagine anywhere in the Pacific Ocean to be rowdy and jarring but I’ll just have to see it myself to make my judgment. However, years of traveling have taught me not to judge a country by its capital so I’m definitely giving the city a chance to change my preconceptions.
From Port Moresby, I’m heading to the nearby Loloata Island in Bootless Bay, just 20km east of the capital. They say that it’s the perfect antidote for the chaos of Port Moresby but I’m not there to just relax — I’ll be diving at one of the many dive sites around the island, and I have my fingers crossed on diving the Boston A20 bomber wreck here. The island also has many semi-tame wallabies that graze along the walking paths of the Loloata Island Resort where I’m staying.
Photo by loloata.com
Tufi: Visiting Villages, Canoeing, Diving and Sing-Sings
Lonely Planet declares Tufi to be one of PNG’s best kept secrets. Perched on the beautiful Cape Nelson, Tufi is surrounded by steep-sided rias (fjords). The cape was formed by ancient volcanic eruptions and the lava which flowed down into the sea. Tufi Dive Resort, a mainstay in PNG’s tourism industry, will be my primary base for the trip. I’ll spend five days here exploring the region and trying out all sorts of activities that the resort offers. Some of these include diving WWII wrecks, canoeing on traditional dugouts to see the ria from the water, and going on the Lelioa Trek to soak up the natural environment. What I’m most looking forward to is visiting the villages in the area and staying overnight at one of the rustic village guesthouses.
Meeting the Huli Wigmen in the Highlands
The last part of my trip takes me to the southern highlands where most of the country’s population live. Tari is one of the few towns in PNG where some people still wear traditional dress on a daily basis. It is also home to one of the most immediately recognizable cultures in Papua New Guinea: the “Huli Wigmen”. They are a proud, flamboyant tribe known for their ornate ceremonial wigs. These wigs are made by the wigman’s own hair, grown over many months by unmarried men living together in isolation from the rest of the community. The Huli Wigmen also celebrate with dances and songs fashioned on that of the mating rituals of the Birds of Paradise.
In addition, the Tari Gap and Tari are excellent bird-watching spots as the altitude range of 1,700m to 2,800m results in a myriad of habitats suitably for a large diversity of species. This is arguably the best spot for spotting birds of paradise such as the King of Saxony and the Blue bird of paradise. From my base at Ambua Lodge, I’ll be going out on bird-watching excursions and village visits.
Disclosure: This trip is made possible by Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, but all opinions expressed above are my own.