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Holidays in Papua New Guinea

Understanding Papua New Guinea

There is evidence of human settlement as long ago as 35,000 years in what is now Papua New Guinea This comes from an archaeological site at Matenkupkum, just south of Namatanai in New Ireland province Other archaeological digs at several locations in New Ireland have discovered tools and food residue dating back 20,000 years

In more modern times, Papua New Guinea known popularly as 'PNG' - the eastern half of the island of New Guinea which is the second largest island in the world - was divided between Germany 'German New Guinea' and Great Britain 'British Papua' in 1884 The Dutch had West Papua, now the Indonesian territory of Papua The southeast part of the island, also known as Papua, was owned by the UK but administered by Australia - and thus a colony of a colony - until Australian independence in 1901, when it became an Australian colony In 1914 the Australians did their part in the Allied war effort and took control of German New Guinea, and continued to administer it as a Trust Territory under the League of Nations and later the United Nations This was not just disinterested colonialism Gold had been discovered in several places and was rapidly exploited Remnants of vast gold dredges can still be seen in the Bulolo and Wau area

During World War II New Guinea was the site of fierce fighting on land at Buin and on the Kokoda Track and sea at the Battle of the Coral Sea It was the first place in the war where the Japanese advance was checked and then reversed After the war, both New Guinea and Papua were administered from the government center of Port Moresby on the south coast, in Papua In 1975, the country - now united as 'Papua New Guinea' - achieved independence from Australia Today Papua New Guinea continues to be the foremost country in Melanesia The country struggles to fulfill the dreams of independence as economic stagnation, corruption, law and order problems, and a nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville all conspire to make the country somewhat less than a tropical paradise

The attempts by Bouganville to break away at the time of Independence led to a decision to offer the regions of the country a certain amount of political autonomy Decentralization led to the establishment of nineteen provincial governments and the process of dividing up the country into unviable administrative units seems to be continuing, with a decision in 2009 to split both Southern Higlands and Western Highlands provinces into three new provinces

In 2009 Papua New Guinea received 125,000 visitors, but only around 20% of these declared themselves as tourists The country offers the traveler a true paradox With little tourist infrastructure outside the main tourist areas, getting around can be tough But Papua New Guineans themselves are wonderfully welcoming people who will go to great lengths to accommodate strangers Tourism is well developed and growing in a handful of locations Beyond these PNG is 120% adventure travel and not for the inexperienced or faint of heart

For people who can make it out to PNG, the experience is unforgettable PNG's incredible natural beauty is simply indescribable Its unique flora and fauna includes enormous radiations of marsupials and birds, including the Raggiana bird-of-paradise PNG's national symbol and several species of tree kangaroos Untouched coral reefs compete with spectacular WWII wrecks for the attention of divers, and the hiking is out of this world

With rugged terrain and constant tribal wars, intermarriage between the peoples of PNG has, until recently, been very limited Physical and facial appearance varies significantly throughout the country; from those who look almost Polynesian in some coastal areas, through the short, stocky Highlanders, to the tall and statuesque people of the area around Rabaul in New Britain and the dark-skinned inhabitants of Bouganville, who could almost come from Africa

The central highlands of Papua New Guinea were not mapped until the 1930s and not effectively brought under government control until the late 1960s As a result, the people of PNG are even more interesting than the countryside Papua New Guinea is a place that often markets itself as 'the Last Unknown' or a place where you can still find 'Stone Age People' Of course, telling a Papua New Guinean that you consider them a stone age savage is incredibly rude And while you can - if you try hard enough - find old men who remember the first time they or anyone in their society saw metal, you'll also have trouble finding anyone who hasn't seen Titanic Indeed, what makes Papua New Guinea so interesting today is not the fact that it is some sort of living museum, but its incredible dynamism In the hundred-year shift from stone to steel to silicon, Papua New Guineans have turned the shortest learning curve in human history into one of the most colorful - and often idiosyncratic - experiments in modernity ever produced by human beings Featuring ritual garb made of human hair and rolled up Instant Noodle wrappers, rap in Pidgin English, or tribal warriors named 'Rambo' for their valor in combat, Papua New Guinea's collision with global culture has been intense and fascinating So don't worry about the fate of 'traditional culture' -- in the bar-room brawl between PNG and the global culture industry the biggest worry is keeping PNG from pummeling global culture to a pulp


Papua New Guinea is just to the south of the equator and has a tropical climate In the highlands, though, temperatures are distinctly cool The very wet season runs from about December to March The best months for trekking are June to September


The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision of several tectonic plates There are a number of active volcanoes, and eruptions are frequent Earthquakes are relatively common, sometimes accompanied by tsunamis

The country's geography is diverse and, in places, extremely rugged A spine of mountains, the New Guinea Highlands, runs the length of the island of New Guinea, forming a populous highlands region mostly covered with tropical rainforest Dense rainforests can be found in the lowland and coastal areas as well as very large wetland areas surrounding the Sepik and Fly rivers This terrain has made it difficult for the country to develop transportation infrastructure In some areas, airplanes are the only mode of transport The highest peak is Mount Wilhelm at 4,509 metres 14,793 ft Papua New Guinea is surrounded by coral reefs which are under close watch to preserve them


There are many great books about Papua New Guinea, including great fiction as well as non-fiction An excellent book for the general reader about Papua New Guinea is Sean Dorney's Papua New Guinea: People, Politics, and History Since 1975 The third edition is the best, but it is pretty hard to find outside of Australia and is not that easy to find there

John Laurel Ryan, a former employee of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ABC, also wrote an excellent book, "The Hot Land" which was published about 1970 Among other fascinating historical information it contains accounts of various manifestations of cargo cult, John Teosin's "baby garden" on Buka Island, and eye-witness reports that have been rigidly suppressed in other media about the Indonesian takeover of what was formerly Dutch West Papua This excellent and at times disturbing book will also be hard to find, and sadly its author even harder!

Talking in Papua New Guinea

With over 800 languages, it was pretty difficult to get everyone talking to each other Two pidgins grew up in this area; Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu, and when the Anglophones married the Hulis and the babies learned the only language they had in common, Tok Pisin became a creole Tok Pisin sometimes looks like it is English written phonetically "Yu dring; yu draiv; yu dai" means "You drink; you drive; you die", but it is not; it has more personal pronouns than English and its own quite different syntax

Tok Pisin is spoken in most of the country Hiri Motu is spoken in Port Moresby and other parts of Papua, though since Port Moresby is the capital, you're likely to find Tok Pisin speakers in the airport, banks, or government When approaching locals, try to speak English first; using Tok Pisin or another language can make it look like you are assuming they don't know English

You might sometimes have trouble hearing what the locals are saying because they speak very quietly It is considered rude by some of the local groups to look people in the eyes and to speak loudly

What to see in Papua New Guinea

South New Guinea

The Kokoda Trail is a 60-mile trail, beginning in the Port Moresby area and leading up into the Owen Stanley Range This trail was first used by gold miners in the 1890s and is most known as a historical World War II site as the Japanese tried to reach Port Moresby along it It takes about five days to hike this track, which includes plenty of ups and downs between mountain ridges and streams

The Highlands

The Highland region is made of long string of fertile valleys, each separated by mountains, that mean the Highlands are composed of many distinct regions

In the Eastern Highlands is Mount Wilhelm, Papua New Guinea's highest mountain 14,880 feet Climbing Wilhelm is relatively easy; but three or four days are recommended to allow for sightseeing There are views of both the north and south coasts of New Guinea from the peak The Wahgi River in this area is considered one of the best whitewater rafting destinations in the world

The Northern Coast

  • Madang is good for scuba diving of all levels,and the coral reefs are home to a variety of rare species of colorful fish There are also underwater wrecks of Japanese fighter planes, with weapons and cargo intact There are still-active volcanos for trekkers to hike up not far from Madang Further west you come to the Sepik river with a fascinating culture to explore and an abundance of crocodiles to avoid

The Islands

  • New Britain This island offers excellent swimming and snorkeling Trails in the area are perfect for day hikes and treks through the rainforest There are also hot thermal springs and bubbling mud holes in this region of the island The Baining people who inhabit the northeastern area of New Britain are famous for creating ephemeral art-forms, perhaps no better demonstrated than by their firedance A dramatic and beautifully made mask is constructed from bark for this ceremony and thrown away as worthless immediately afterwards
  • Bougainville Well off-the-beaten-path in the far east of the country, with great untapped tourism potential World-class diving, dramatic treks and World War II Japanese relics are the key attractions
  • Trobriand Islands The so called Islands of Love are well known for their unique culture

What to do in Papua New Guinea

Go scuba diving, using one of more than a dozen local scuba diving operators The national Scuba Diving industry body 8 is a good starting point Papua New Guinea has some of the very best tropical reef diving anywhere in the word

Birdwatching PNG is a birdwatching mecca with over 700 species of birds including many birds of paradise http://enwikipediaorg/wiki/List_of_birds_of_Papua_New_Guinea As a budget traveler, you will need to bring your own binoculars and ask in the villages for a volunteer to act as your guide

Surfing is another great way to spend the days in PNG Information through the Surfing Association of PNG 9

Another popular attraction here is trekking through the mountains, coastal lowlands and rolling foothills of the Kokoda and other trails The Kokoda Track attracts many hundreds of walkers a year

The most popular activities for tourists here are festivals such as the The Sing-Sing performances at the annual Goroka and Mt Hagen shows During these shows, there are usually more than fifty ensembles that turn up The festivals are competitive and the winning ensemble is rewarded by being invited to give concerts at many restaurants and hotels during the following year This beauty and colorfulness of New Guinea’s festivals is both pleasing to watch for tourists and helps the locals financially

Fishing is becoming increasingly popular in PNG Species include Black Marlin, Blue Marlin, Sailfish, Yellow Fin, Skipjack and Dogtooth Tuna and the Giant Trevally Mahi Mahi Dolphin Fish, Mackerel and Wahoo A particularly challenging fish is the black bass, which, pound for pound, is considered to be the toughest fighting fish in the world

Flightseeing is a word that should have been coined in PNG If you can afford it, just flying around some of PNG's remote airstrips is an adventure in itself There are strips that seem impossibly short, strips that seem to end with a mountain, strips where if you don't take off in time you will plunge into a ravine, and airstrips surrounded on three sides by water From Port Moresby you don't have to fly far to get the experience There are flights to villages on the Kokoda trail and others in the Owen Stanley mountain range in Central Province and you can fly a scheduled circuit or "milk run" in one morning, although you will have to be at the airpiort by 5am Check with Airlines PNG10 for schedules Fane, Ononge and Tapini strips are particularly scary Don't forget your life insurance!

Buying stuff in Papua New Guinea

There is not so much shopping in the regular sense to be had in PNG In the major cities there are a few malls and supermarkets Otherwise most of the shopping is done in small markets that are held at irregular intervals A great place to visit is the craft market which is held once per month in Port Moresby opposite Ela beach in the car park of the IEA TAFE College There it is possible to buy handicrafts from every part of the country Although it is slightly more expensive than out in the villages, the prices are very reasonable Haggling is not really an accepted custom, one can haggle a bit but to do it excessively could annoy the locals

Food and eating in Papua New Guinea

PNG food is largely devoid of spices A typical way of cooking is a Mumu, an underground oven in which meat and vegetables, such as Kaukau sweet potatoes, are cooked In just about every meal that PNG's inhabitants eat there is rice and another form of starch

In the lodges that tourists stay in there is usually a blend between this type of food and a more westernized menu

Drinking in Papua New Guinea

There are brands of local beer in PNG The local brew, SP short for South Pacific Lager, is owned by Heineken Excessive alcohol consumption, primarily of beer, is a major social problem Beers and wines are often served fairly warm due to a lack of refrigeration in certain areas Also, while the water quality varies from place to place and in some cases from day to day, it is generally best to stick to bottled water, even in the upper-market hotels

Accommodation in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea offers a wide choice of accommodation for tourists Port Moresby has international hotels including the Crown Plaza and Airways International, mid range hotels such as Lamana and guest houses The regional areas offer International and budget hotels depending on the size of the town and some provinces have guest houses There is a new eco-tourist lodge in Alotau called Ulumani Treetops Lodge, the place is beautiful overlooking the Milne Bay and offers a new bungalow or backpacker options

The most popular lodging accommodation there now is the Ambua Lodge This lodge is "an inspired mixture of local architecture, spectacular views and modest luxury off the beaten track" It is in the Tari Gap 2100 metres in the PNG Southern Highlands, which is the homeland of the Huli clan with their human hair wigs adorned with colourful flowers It borders on the mid-montane rain forest and grasslands which gives a spring feeling all year round This lodge won the 1991 Pacific Asia Travel Association's Pacific Heritage Award which sighted due to it's "superb example of culturally sensitive and ecological responsible tourism"

The lodge contains 40 individual units set in a sea of flowers, each unit features 180 degree picture windows, modern bathrooms, and electric blankets and continental quilts for the cool highland evenings Ambua generates electricity from its own mini hydroelectric power plant

Working in Papua New Guinea

PNG has a workforce of close to two million people in a few different industries Thre is high demand for skilled people but it is still difficult for women and men that are considered to be "unskilled" to find work Many people have informal small businesses to make money

Cities in Papua New Guinea

aitape  alotau  ambunti  angoram  arawa  balimo  buin  bulolo  daru  finschhafen  goroka  ialibu  kainantu  kandrian  kavieng  kerema  kieta  kimbe  kiunga  kokoda  kokopo  kundiawa  lae  laiagam  lorengau  madang  mendi  morehead  mount hagen  namatanai  panguna  popondetta  porgera  port moresby  rabaul  samarai  tari  vanimo  wabag  wau  wewak  

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