New GuineaTravel Tips
The eastern half of the island of New Guinea - second largest in the world - was divided between Germany (north) and the UK (south) in 1885. The latter area was transferred to Australia in 1902, which occupied the northern portion during World War I and continued to administer the combined areas until independence in 1975. A nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville ended in 1997 after claiming some 20,000 lives.
6 00 S, 147 00 E
total: 462,840 sq km
land: 452,860 sq km
water: 9,980 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than California
total: 820 km
border countries: Indonesia 820 km
Visitors are advised against all non-essential travel to the Southern Highland Province and Enga Province. There have been incidents of assaults and robbery in Port Moresby and Lae: caution should be exercised on visiting these areas. For further advice contact a local government travel advice department.
Papua New Guinea consists of over 600 islands and lies in the middle of the long chain of islands stretching from mainland South East Asia. It is situated in the South Pacific, 160km (100 miles) north of Australia. A line of active volcanoes stretches along the north coast of the mainland and continues on the island of New Britain. Port Moresby, the capital, is situated on the magnificent Fairfax Harbour. Its key attractions are the National Parliament and the Catholic Cathedral. Lae is Papua New Guinea's second city and an important commercial center and seaport. The Botanical Gardens are among the best in the country. Around the Chambri Lakes many species of birds for which Papua New Guinea is famous are to be found, including egrets, pied herons and kingfishers. The Eastern Highlands have the longest history of contact with the West. Kainantu is reached from Lae through the Kassim Pass. It has a large cultural center, selling traditional artifacts. Several hotels in Port Moresby have dancing in the evenings and some organize live entertainment.
The tribal diversity of a country with over 700 languages cannot easily be summarised, although in Papua New Guinea it is the tribal life that is most fascinating to the visitor. Some of the excursions in Papua New Guinea are interestingly different from those offered elsewhere; for example, tourists can be taken to one of the many wrecks of World War II aircraft that lie in the jungle. Haus Tambarans (‘Spirit Houses’) are a feature of many towns and villages in the country, especially in the area of the Sepik River, so only a few of them can be given specific mention. Only initiated men of a tribe can enter (though in places this rule is relaxed for foreigners). They are built in a variety of styles, with massive carved wooden supports being a major feature. Other carvings and masks inside represent spirits. The orator’s stools in these places are not used for sitting on; bunches of leaves are slapped down on the stools as the orator makes his points.
Port Moresby, the capital, is situated on the magnificent Fairfax Harbour. It houses the National Parliament, the National Museum, which contains exhibits of pottery from all the provinces, the Botanical Gardens and the Catholic Cathedral (which is built in the Haus Tambaran style). The National Museum contains a historical record stretching back over 50,000 years. There are many sporting facilities in Port Moresby, including scuba diving, windsurfing, sailing, game fishing, water-skiing, golf, tennis and squash.
Major attractions in the Port Moresby area include The Kokoda Trail and Sogeri, 40km (24 miles) from Port Moresby via the Sogeri road, which offers magnificent views and winds through rubber plantations; Village Arts, a government-owned artifacts shop with the best artifact collection in the country situated at Six Mile, near the airport. Other places of interest near Port Moresby include the Wairiata National Park; Moitaka Crocodile Farm; Loloata Island and the Sea Park Oceanarium.
Lae & Morobe
Lae, the capital of Morobe province, is Papua New Guinea’s second city and an important commercial center and seaport. The Botanical Gardens are among the best in the country. Mount Lunaman in the center of the town was used by the Germans and the Japanese as a lookout point. It gives a magnificent view over the Huon Gulf and the Markham Valley.
Outside Lae is Wau, formerly a gold-mining center. The Wau Ecology Institute, a privately funded organization, has a small museum and zoo. Visitors can see cassowaries, tree kangaroos, crocodiles, birds of paradise, native butterflies and rhododendrons. Sights near Wau are McAdam National Park and Mount Kaindi, Finschhafen (a very pretty coastal town) and the Tami Islands, whose people are renowned for their carved wooden bowls. Sialum is an attractive area of coastline known for its coral terraces. White-water rafting on the Watut River is an attraction for the adventurous.
The Sepik River
The Sepik River is the longest river in Papua New Guinea and has been for many centuries the trade route into the interior. It winds down from the mountains near the border with Irian Jaya, draining immense tracts of scarcely explored jungle, swamp and grassland until it meets the sea, where it is more than a mile wide. It abounds with meandering waterways, oxbow lakes, tributaries and backwaters, swamps, lagoons, lakes and artificial channels built to short-cut its looping journey. Unusually for a great river, it has no delta system and its waters spew directly into the sea with enormous force. From the many villages along its banks come highly-prized examples of primitive art. The Haus Tambaran at Angoram possesses a display of art from almost the entire length of the river. At Kambaramba village, and elsewhere, houses are built on stilts as a protection against flooding and the dugout canoe is still the main local means of transport. Tourists have the option of being taken on a cruise. Woodcarving is one of the main local crafts and its architectural use in gables and posts in houses is a noteworthy feature as can be seen, for instance, at the village of Tambanum. Timbunke village is a further example of fine construction techniques, including bridge-building.
The area around the Chambri Lakes is home to the diverse species of birds for which Papua New Guinea is famous. These include egrets, pied herons, brahminee kites, whistling kites, jacanas, darters, cormorants and kingfishers. Islands of tangled vegetation and the debris of fallen trees float down the river to the Bismarck Sea. Salt and freshwater crocodiles abound and come out mostly at night. Nightly or early morning excursions into the jungle can be arranged for tourists wishing to experience the unique cacophony of birds preparing for the day’s hunting. Tours along the river have a flexible itinerary which is adapted to river conditions and set to coincide with the many local customs and events. Also in the Chambri area can be found a unique pottery-making village, Aibom, where clay fireplaces, storage and cooking pots are made by the coil method and fired in the open air by women.
At Kanganaman, a Haus Tambaran of national cultural importance is being rebuilt, providing an excellent example of the carvings on the immense Haus Posts. Korogo is famous for its Mei Masks.
In the upper reaches of the Sepik, clan representation and art is characterized by insect totems using praying mantis, rhinoceros-beetle motifs and distinctive insect eyes. Canoe prows are extremely elaborate, as are the tops of stepladders leading into dwellings. At Waskusk, the drawings on the ceiling of the Haus Tambaran depict a clan leader’s dream, but conditions on the river sometimes make this village inaccessible. At Yigei, Upper Sepik-style Garamut Drums (‘Slit Gongs’) can be seen (and heard); and there are dramatic designs in white and yellow along the waterway in Swagap Village, which also has simple, elegant pottery and fireplaces, and often very fine examples of the canoe-builder’s craft.
AFFORDABLE HOTELS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
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