Papua New Guinea

World Dive Adventures is Your PNG Specialist







Many phrases have been used to describe Papua New Guinea: Land of the unexpected;
Land of a Thousand Cultures; the Last Unknown, but none of these can quite prepare visitors for the stunning diversity of this breath-taking country. Papua New Guinea is a land of amazing variety; nowhere else will you find lush tropical rainforest, pure white sandy beaches, cool misty highlands, balmy desert islands, traditional culture unchanged
for thousands of years and modern recreational facilities in such close proximity and all so easily accessible from Australia, the South Pacific, Asia and the rest of the world.

Located just south of the Equator, mainland Papua New Guinea is divided by the rugged Owen Stanley Mountain Range, with peaks over 4000 m high. These mountains provide the source for mighty rivers - among them the Fly and the Sepik which wind their way through spectacular fertile landscapes on their journey to the sea, where the coastline is scattered with islands, atolls and coral reefs. With every different landscape you will discover many different cultures, which in many cases have remained unchanged for thousands of years. It is quite surprising how the artefacts, traditional dress, styles of living, music and dance are so specific to particular areas, with very little overlap from one region to another. And for the budding linguist, Papua New Guinea has over 700 distinct languages to choose from.

No two provinces are alike, perhaps their only common bond being the unrivalled hospitality and friendly smiles of the local people.Papua New Guinea provides the ideal location for the active tourist. There is an extensive network of walking tracks covering most mountainous areas; some of the most spectacular and challenging are to be found only just outside the nation's capital, Port Moresby, such as the famous Kokoda Trail. There are, of course, other less strenuous walks to suit the less experienced bushwalker, but all offer the opportunity to get a closer look at some of the hidden beauty of the country. New Guineaâs diverse landscape plays host to an impressive array of flora and fauna; it has more species of orchid than any other country in the world; it is home to 38 of the 43 known species of birds of paradise, along with the largest pigeon, the smallest parrot, the largest butterfly, the largest tree kangaroo, not to mention the only documented poisonous birds in the world and 100 species of snake!

The underwater world of Papua New Guinea is certainly no less spectacular; the warm, clear waters all around the coast offering some of the best dive locations in the world. Stunning reefs, sunken wrecks, and brilliantly coloured coral and marine life leave even the most experienced diver in awe.

For those who prefer to stay in shallow water, there is no need to miss out either; snorkelling around the shoreline is equally amazing. And for the water-lovers who enjoy that rush of adrenaline, white-water rafting trips are conducted on several of the river systems.

But you don't necessarily have to like water or walking to make the most of a visit to Papua New Guinea: you will find it easy to relax and immerse in your surroundings, wherever and however you choose to explore the country. Transportation is mostly by air on account of the rugged nature of the terrain, but the comprehensive domestic air network, makes it easy to get around and there is no doubt that what you discover will be more than ample reward for any effort you make.

As Papua New Guinea is largely and certainly unspoiled, the potential for small-scale or specialised tourism - in particular ecotourism and adventure tourism - is immense. Government and the people of Papua New Guinea alike recognise the value of tourism, and are extremely keen to encourage its development; the necessary foundations are already in place, along with the enthusiasm, and any interest from experts or potential developers is encouraged. At the same time however, they are aware of the damage tourism can cause and has caused to similar nations, and for that reason their primary aim is to preserve what is so unique about Papua New Guinea, by encouraging the type of visitor who will appreciate the country as it is, rather than to develop the type of 'sun-sea-and-sand' resorts that can be found all over the world. The following articles will provide a small insight into the way tourism has developed so far, but of course in a country as diverse as Papua New Guinea, the possibilities are endless.


The Southern Highlands is an area of Papua New Guinea that was described in 1935 as the 'Papuan Wonderland' by explorer and patrol leader J. G. Hides, one of the first 'outsiders' to have contact with the main groups living in the area. The description fits; the geography of the area ranges from steaming lowland rain forest to alpine tundra; classical volcanic cones, alluvial fans, gorges, glacial land forms and magnificent lakes.

One such lake is Kutubu, the unspoiled location of the major on-stream oil and gas fields operated by Chevron Niugini. Much of Mendi's development has been as a result of the comparatively recent mineral activity in the area, but in fact the first patrol station was set up in 1937 on Lake Kutubu, serviced by seaplanes, and it was the base from which almost all exploration of the Southern Highlands took place before World War II.

However, economic development of the area only became possible in the 1970's when the Highlands Highway was extended into the province, reaching Mendi in 1974 and Tari not until 1977. Until this time the entire area was cut-off from the outside world so it is one of the least developed and culturally rich areas in the country.

As a tourist destination it offers jaded 'westerners' the unique opportunity to step back in time and develop an understanding of the culture which is attuned to the land and its fauna. Mendi, the Provincial administration centre, is little more than a small town surrounding a large airstrip, where, if an uninitiated tourist had been a fellow passenger on board the 19 seater aircraft when we landed, it would not have been a surprise if he suggested an immediate return flight. Even before the plane came to a standstill we were surrounded by thousands of people, many men waving bows and arrows and covered in mud, shouting and screaming; while one lone policeman looked helplessly on. This frightening scene as described was actually nothing to worry about - unless you happened to be the body in the coffin on the plane! Papua New Guineans do not hide their emotions when a wantok (literal translation 'one talk' or member of the same clan) dies, and none more so than the people of the Highlands areas, where a death precipitates the wearing of 'mourning mud' and much use of the vocal cords. Each area has many individual customs concerning death, but the body must always be buried in the traditional way on traditional land and on this occasion a young university student had died and was being brought home.

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