Photo Essay: The Colors of Papua New Guinea

Posted on January 27, 2014 by

Known as the Land of the Unexpected, Papua New Guinea is indeed shrouded in mystery and packed full of surprises for those curious enough to see beyond the headlines.

As a remote and largely unexplored country, Papua New Guinea is a hodgepodge of impenetrable jungles, ancient mangrove swamps, wide savanna grasslands. In the midst of all these unspoiled nature are unique creatures like the tree kangaroo, cus cus, cassowaries, and the national emblem, birds of paradise. Forming part of the famous Coral Triangle, the waters surrounding PNG are also blanketed with thousands of coral atolls, massive reef systems and pristine waters that abound with a wide variety of marine life and WWII wrecks.

The people of Papua New Guinea are often what draws visitors, myself included, to the country. I’ve long been intrigued by the rich and vibrant tribal culture here, as displayed by their spectacular singsings (festivals or dances). Of the six million people who lives here, there are over 800+ tribes and cultures, each of them speaking their own language.

I spent the past two weeks exploring different aspects of the country, from debunking the myths surrounding PNG’s bad-ass capital Port Moresby, to scuba diving and hiking the fjords of Tufi and meeting the famous Huli tribesmen of Tari in the Highlands. I know it’s cliché but I can’t help saying this — Papua New Guinea truly blew my mind away with its raw, rugged wilderness and tribal living.

As a prelude to the stories I’ll be sharing shortly, here’s a look at some of my best photos from PNG.


Flying over the fjords of Tufi

This is a view of the fjords of Tufi from the air. These fjords, known as rias, were formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. From above, the ever-green ridges and steep-sided rias that plunge into the spearmint waters of the Solomon Sea resemble claws of a dragon.

View from Tufi Dive Resort

At Tufi Dive Resort, I feasted on this panorama of the fjord from the comfort of my thatched bungalow.

The gorgeous Ambuan Lodge in Tari

Wispy clouds hang low over the temperate forests of the Tari Highlands, as seen from the gorgeous Ambuan Lodge. This area reminds me a lot of Tasmania, yet its tribal culture makes it distinctive and unique.


A Huli wigman with face painting


The Huli is the largest ethnic group in the Highlands, and are best known for their custom of wearing decorative woven wigs worn especially during singsings (celebratory festivals). These wigs are specially made by a unique clan known as the Huli Wigmen, who attend wig schools and live together in isolation from the rest of the community.

Face painting


A Huli man uses face painting to look good for a sing-sing (festival).

A student from the Huli wig school


This is the oldest student at the Poroiba Akau wig school. He is growing his last wig, before graduating from school and finding a woman to marry.

A Huli wigman


Spotting face painting, a wig and a cassowary quill in his nasal septa, this Huli man is dressed to the nines in tribal terms. Smoking is also a common habit among the Hulis — most of them grow their own tobacco.

A Korafe woman with facial tattoo


The Korafe tribe in Tufi are well known for their traditional facial tattoo. It may be a painful process that takes a whole month to complete, but these women would go to all length to look pretty at the age of 18.

A Korafe tribesman

A Korafe young man sports a headdress covered in feathers from the bird of paradise.

A singsing by the Korafe tribe

sing-sing is a gathering of people from a tribe to celebrate major events like weddings, the ascension of a chief, or the initiation of a young boy or girl through dance and music. The Korafe tribe put up a sing-sing at McLaren Fjord for us, impressing us with their hypnotic singing and vibrant dressing.


An Electus parrot/

Papua New Guinea boasts over 646 species of birds, out of which 86 are endemic species and 83 are threatened or near threatened.  One of the best places to see these birds is the Port Moresby Nature Park, where the electus parrot (shown above) and other birds call home.

A Papuan hornbill at Port Moresby Nature Park

The Papuan hornbill is a spectacular creature with a gorgeous beak that’s often used by the Hulis to decorate their bodies.

A cus cus at Tufi


The cus cus is a subspecies of possum and a marscupila. Its large sparkling eyes are so gorgeous they make my heart melt. This particular spotted cus cus is a resident pet at Tufi Dive Resort.


Disclosure: Special thanks to PNG Tourism Promotion Authority and Fly and Sea Dive for making my trip possible, but as always, all opinions expressed above are my own.

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

8 Responses to “Photo Essay: The Colors of Papua New Guinea”

  1. Ian January 28, 2014 4:52 am #

    Wow – great taster for what’s to come, Nellie! Already get the feeling PNG will be on my hit list very soon…

  2. Andi Perullo de Ledesma January 28, 2014 8:45 am #

    These photos are absolutely spectacular! WOW!!!

  3. Rebecca February 23, 2014 2:28 am #

    Thanks for visiting! The photos are a great summary of the fascinating parts of PNG – now off to read the rests of your posts :-)

  4. Nancie August 25, 2015 2:04 am #

    Gorgeous photos. Never in my wildest dreams would it cross my mind that wig makers would actually attend wig making school. I love that shade of yellow on their faces.

    • Nellie Huang September 15, 2015 8:01 am #

      Thanks Nancie! Yes this tribe has such fascinating traditions – I loved learning about their culture.

  5. Anna L June 3, 2016 1:11 pm #

    I’m dying to see cus cus! :D

  6. Rob July 6, 2017 4:04 pm #

    Wow, great photos. The culture and ruggedness of PNG looks amazing.

  7. linda sue stein July 18, 2017 2:46 am #

    let me kno when its safe 2 travel w/ u 2 papau new guines!! cant wait 2 go!! thinkin of nagaland dec.2019..this oct. i m doin morrocco w/ gate 1 and uganda august 2018. i ove tribes that are still intact…i visited the falashas of ethiopia before they left for israel in operation moses..i visited the cuna in panama before the arrival of cruise ships, the puerpecho of patzcuaro in the 70’s,mexico..the mayans in the chiapas biosphere preserve…so like a kindred soul..keep me up-2-date on what u think howard n i would ur news on fb.
    linda stein

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